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by John Wayne Yakimyshyn
I was born in 1957 in a small prairie town called Vegreville, Alberta; its population, at the time, was around three or four thousand, roughly half French and half Ukranian.
My parents had an International Harvestor business, then Massey-Ferguson; installing combine headers wasn’t as much fun for a teen as burning rubber, and as my dad had five sons, I guess he felt it also. The tables finally turned one day when he installed Thrush mufflers on his 1966 Pontiac Parissiene; soon after, the wheels began turning on making us a Chrysler/Plymouth and Dodge Truck dealer — N. Yakimyshyn Sales and Service, Ltd (both my parents’ names started with N).
In 1978, Dodge sent us a small pile of Li’l Red Express Truck brochures. No one in our small farming town could afford such a truck — nor wanted one, as it was step side and short box, why would a farmer buy that? It couldn’t haul hay or grain or anything, it was a city boys’ truck.
A kid I went to school with, from Ranfurly, went to Edmonton and bought one; most every day, he would drive slowly past our dealership, in low gear torquing the engine as he roared by. That got me to thinking, — why couldn’t I order cheaper versions of that short bed truck and make the Express myself?
The factory version came with a chromed air cleaner, high performance 360, big tires, and the Adventurer package; in 1979, I ordered red rear-wheel-drive short-box custom trucks with vinyl interiors, 318 four-barrel engines, and a radio. It was a lot less money.
I was 22 years old; I hand-made side oak boards from our local lumber yard. At the local parts store, they could order side pipes used on Corvettes, which were not expensive; and I could order two complete mufflers and then just put the screen together to make an exhaust stack. It was a bit less wide than the factory Express, but for the price no one was complaining.
One problem was the graphics — how do we get the tape stripe correct? I drove to Edmonton late at night, to Crosstown Motor City, which had a Li’l Red Express Truck on their lot. I had brought about 20 pieces of see-through white paper; at 2 am, I taped them over the door of the truck and traced every letter. At home, we had a store called McLoeds that happened to carry rolls of gold tape stripe; I traced all my letters onto the tape stripe, cut it all by hand, and installed it all by hand.
I called my creation The Little Express Truck, with its hand-made exhaust, hand-made oak wood, and hand-made graphics all for the low price of C$4,500. I don’t remember how many I made, but it was between two and ten — all red, except for a single brown one. That was my last personal truck, and it had the 360 engine. The photos were taken after it was used for herding cattle, for forty years.
Chrysler 1904-2018 •
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