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Hooniverse What The Truck Weekend – The Dodge Rampage, and Plymouth Scamp

Jim Brennan November 19, 2011 Weekend Edition 32 Comments

Welcome to another Hooniverse Weekend Edition, and since this is the last weekend before the official start to the Holiday Season, I thought I would explore the world of strange smaller trucks by calling it “What the Truck” Weekend. A few weeks back i was doing a Chrysler Economy Car Weekend Edition that was cut short because of an unusual October Nor’easter that cut off my power and internet access for over a week. So this is the perfect time to re-introduce you to the very unusual Dodge Rampage and its twin the Plymouth Scamp.

The Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon hot the market in 1978, but Chrysler wanted more from the platform. In 1979, they launched hatchback coupes called Dodge Omni O24 and Plymouth Horizon TC3. They would later be renamed Charger and Turismo, respectively. It has been written that these vehicles were designed at the instigation of then Chrysler Chairman, Lee Iacocca. These cars were styled in-house with no development help from the discarded Chrysler Europe divisions that had an input on the original Omni and Horizon cars.

The story on how the Rampage was created is nearly the same as any of the other projects that Chrysler developed during this time period. Hank Carlini, who was Lee Iacocca’s special assignment man on product, and came with Iacocca from Ford. Hank created a model of a small truck based on the Omni 024, and when Iacocca saw the model he said build it. The prototype Rampage was built with a Turismo/O24 windshield and the Omni 4-door sedan front doors. They did not fit together which meant fabricating new door glass, door seals and glass drop mechanism to make it all work.

The design used as much of the Omni architecture as possible, including the front suspension, engine, transmission, and most of the interior components. The bed, rear glass, and rear suspension were all new. Because this was a load carrying truck, Chrysler used a solid “Live” axle, suspended by leaf springs, and “sea-leg” shocks. The rear bumper was taken directly from the Omni sedan.

Power came from a 2.2L four cylinder, producing 84HP at that time with a two-barrel carburetor. Transmission choices include a 4-speed manual (later upgraded to a 5-speed manual), or a 3-speed automatic. The Dodge Rampage was introduced for the 1982 model year, with an introductory price of around $6,700. As with any Detroit based vehicle, you could option this trucklette with a myriad of options including Air Conditioning, intermittent wipers, heavy duty cooling, road wheels, dual remote mirrors, and various radios. Standard equipment included power disc brakes, tinted glass, bright moldings, remote driver’s mirror, color-keyed steering wheel, dual horns, radio, day/night mirror, and vinyl high-back bucket seats.

In 1983, Plymouth received their own version of the Rampage names the Scamp, and was offered for only a single model year. It was basically a badge engineered Rampage, and sold in minuscule numbers. Speaking or production, the Rampage sold 17,636 of these trucks for 1982, another 8,033 in 1983, and a further 11,732 for its final season of 1984. Plymouth sold 3,564 Scamps for 1983.

In 1983 Carroll Shelby wanted to produce a Shelby Street-Fighter version of the Rampage, similar to what he did for the Omni and the Omni based Charger. It did not appear until 1986, three years later, and two years after the last Dodge Rampage had been produced. There were just 218 California Shelby Rampages made, and they looked like Shelby Chargers in front.

So are these trucks anything to really get excited about? Remember, a little under 41,000 were produced in various guises, and those 218 Shelby Versions are particularly lustworthy. Tell me what you think.

Lead Image courtesy of Alden Jewel’s Flickr Photo Stream

  • mnm4ever

    I've always liked these, better than an El Camino. Sure they are rare, but not valuable, I remember not too long ago finding one of those "covered and stored for 20 yrs" Rampages with IIRC 15k miles or so in showroom condition… asking price?? $6k or so, and it had been advertised a while when I saw it. No idea what happened to it. If you can find one in decent shape, it would make a perfect platform to turn into a crazy boosted 80s turbo performance car, ala the turbo drag racing minivans.

  • tonyola

    I think Chrysler was a little too late on these. By 1982, Fuel Crisis II was just a memory and the price of gas had dropped and stabilized, plus the L-body cars were beginning to look a little old compared to the competition. Also, Ford and GM were bringing out their inexpensive Ranger and S-10/S-15 mini-trucks, and those had the virtue of being real body-on-frame pickups suitable for work. Also, let's face it – Rampage is kind of a dumb name. Had the L-body trucklets been introduced in 1979-1980, the story might have been far different.

    Although the Rampage/Scamp are still pretty much period curios more than collectors cars, they're starting to get some notice especially as the number of survivors shrinks. Asking prices for nice ones are going north of $5k now. I wouldn't try to restore a basket case, but if you stumble on a good one for cheap, it might be worth considering.

  • sport_wagon

    This is one of the goofiest-lookin vehicles ever designed. And generally pretty crappy, even by '80s standards. I don't think it's old enough to be endearing yet. Will it be a classic? I bet not. On the lawn at the LeMons? Yep.

    • tonyola

      You're going to have a very hard time finding a running or even near-running example at LeMons prices these days. They're already being scooped up.

      • "On the lawn at the LeMons" sounds like it instead refers to the LeMons event which doesn't have a price cap:


        I think they'd be more than welcome.

        • tonyola

          Ah, OK – I didn't know about the "lawn" bit. Yes, they would be welcome there.

          • Come to think of it, the Concours d'LeMons lawn is the green stuff at the bottom of my IntenseDebate avatar. Or was, rather, as last time they changed the venue from Toro Park to downtown Seaside, on the grounds in front of City Hall. As described on the CdL website:

            "Bring a chair or two and a picnic and enjoy the green grass that only a government facility can provide."

  • C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

    Wrong Rampage from the 80's to be fun.

    This one, OTOH….

    <img src="http://spawnkill.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/rampage.jpg&quot; width="400">

    • chrystlubitshi

      that game was epic.

      • My buddy and I spent many weekends at the bowling alley playing Rampage and Rampart.

  • I. Borgward

    My brother had a Rampage back in the day, triple black with the big spoiler front bumper treatment. It moved out just fine, got respectable gas mileage, was comfortable and reliable and you could haul a fair amount of stuff in the bed. Overall, a pretty practical rig for a single guy. I wouldn't turn up my nose at one if I found it!

  • I've always thought that these were kinda neat. Of course you can't haul anything heavier than a dirtbike with one, and back in the day it would make more sense to just get a Japanese pickup, but I agree with the above comment that sticking a sick turbocharger on one of these would be amusing.

  • Bah. I'd rather have a Brat.

  • P. Frere

    We had a Charger in the family back in the '80's. It is easy to see how the mini pickup idea came about. As I remember it, the hatchback area was quite large and pickup bed square with the rear seat folded. As concerns the Rampage itself, I've always thought that it was a design that begs for a t-top or maybe a convertible roof.

  • Paul_y

    I don't think I'd ever kick one of these out of my driveway.

  • M600

    What would it cost you to spell check before publishing? I know it's nothing but a car blog, but come on guy: write well, you'll feel good.

    • tonyola

      What would it cost you to learn proper written grammar before posting? There should be a comma between "come on" and "guy". Also, you should have used a dash instead of a colon.

    • UDman

      Alright, I just took the whole article through the Spell Checker. These are the words that came back as "errors":
      – Turismo; Can't help that because this is exactly how Plymouth used the name.
      – Hank Carlini; So what if the Spell Check doesn't recognize Hank's name…
      – Trucklette: This was used intentionally… Would you have preferred Truckette, Little Truck, or something else?
      – lustworthy; I have used this one time and time again… actually I should have use Hooniversalustworthy, or is that a bit of a stretch for you?

      Just sit back, read , and enjoy. This is not the world news, the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, or even the Huffington Post. (You will notice that Huffington is also not in the Spell Check, but we all know Arianna Huffington exists)

      • FuzzyPlushroom

        I skimmed back over it using my 'proofreader's eye' and found a few minor grammatical mistakes, but so what? Given the quality of the underlying writing, and that nothing stood out too boldly on my first read, I'm hardly concerned.

        Thing is, it doesn't matter much. I'd hardly hold Jim – or anyone else here, for that matter – to a standard of grammatical perfection. I'm personally somewhat of a perfectionist on certain aspects of grammar and style, but it's not my place to expect that of anyone else here. We're not attempting to cover our mortgage payments with our earnings from a blog post, but rather shooting the shit in a virtual garage; likewise, the sidebar adverts aren't meant to earn the Hoons in charge any money beyond paying the rent.

        • chrystlubitshi

          And the Church of the Hooniversal Hoonitarians said "Amen."

          there are little typos here and there in nearly every article on this site–who cares, we know what you meant to type (most of the time).

          I like to think that we, in general, do not listen to the grammar-nazis that police some *other* sites, only correcting false statements/facts that were not fully known to the writer at the time of post.

          Keep on keepin' on Jim,

          and of course:

          All praise be to Murilee

          (that saucy minx)

      • BlackIce_GTS

        My only nitpick is technical; an unpowered beam axle is a 'dead axle'.

        Anyway, what a wonder of parts binnery and questionable decision making. "Is this a segment and can we exploit it?" "Uh, no? Maybe?" "Project approved!"
        I like them, for some reason. Maybe those reasons. An ex-neighbour had one just like in the lead image, but in not-as-good condition. I don't think it ran.
        One of the weirder chemistry teachers at my high school had one too. The engine caught fire, which I thought was a hilarious and absurd thing to happen at the time. The recent problems with flaming exotics have given engine fires an exclusive cachet. Electrical issues are so last century, engine fires are how all the cool cars break nowdays.

        • chrystlubitshi

          I had a chemistry teacher who's mustang II caught fire in the parking lot (in '98). Our next week was spent on finding out what could have caused the backfire through the carburetor/color of flames she saw–this was high school AP Chem II (so we had a lot of time to waste…??) it was fun though. Along with the mechanical shop class and physics class that were held at the same time, we worked out what caused it as well as a probable solution—which worked. However, that solution was promptly thrown out for emissions reasons (I don't remember all the details, but she said her 'stang drove better in those two weeks before she had it inspected than it ever had before (or after the inspection).)

    • This olelongrooffan is glad M600 doesn't read my "pseudo folksy" postings here in the Hooniverse. Murilee only knows what kind of responses those would bring.

      • jeepjeff

        I think his -13 downding is a communal 'eh, screw him [M600].'

        FWIW, I really like your posts, and I've got an editor's eye. I noticed a couple things askew in the article, but my only response to it in the comments was to contribute to M600's negative score. I find the writing around here to be generally of high quality, and the editors do fix politely/humorously pointed out mistakes. Also, heavy stylization is a perfectly acceptable reason to break all sorts of rules (see: Mark Twain).

        I'm with mdharrell. Keep it coming.

        • Mr. Clemens and e.e. cummings rock! Thanks jeepjeff and md.

  • FuzzyPlushroom

    We actually have a local Rampage, of all things.

    <img src="http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3299/3623842982_2375e758e3_z.jpg&quot; width=600>

    These photos are a couple of years old, but the Rampage still roams around town – I see it occasionally, albeit rarely.

    Also, I love the yellow examples above – make mine a deep electric blue with white graphics and those period five-spokes, though, as the yellow's a bit much.

  • There is one in the Bay Area that was converted by its owner into an electric car (truck?). He even reworked the badge to read "Amprage".

  • I never was impressed with these at the time. It may be the misty veil of time, but those lines are pretty appealing now. I also dig the form factor. I still see a need for the light weight town truck. Of course it won't haul like a F-200000000, but not everyone needs to tow a metric craptonne of crap all the time.

  • Wow! Didn’t know so few Rampages are around. I happen to own 3 nice 1984’s. Any estimate of how few are still in existance? One of mine was bought new by my father for $4999! Thats right. Its a 2nd owner.

  • sykoangelo

    ive always loved rampages saw one for sale 800 bucks i jumped on it missing the front bumper my friend just happened to have hauled off his old shelby charger a few months before the only piece he kept was the front bumper, i need the left fender ground effect for it but other than that its complete id really like to get that groun effect if anyone knows where i could get one

  • Mark Bigelow

    I owned a 1983 Rampage, Prospector Edition, for 16 years and it was my daily driver for 15 of them. It was white with black details, stripes and graphics. I always enjoyed that truck and everybody in town knew who drove it. I was always sorry I sold it and on Christmas day 2013 I did a search on Ebay and found the spittin' image of my first one somewhere in northern Illinois. I bought it and had it trailered to Florida. It is like having an old friend back.

  • Scampage

    Gots me one and I love it! It was originally a Rampage and I cloned it to a Scamp, I like the bumper/grill better. I installed a 5 speed behind a turbo block with a Mopar/B&M supercharger. topped with a Weber carb. Turns heads! 🙂

    <img src="http://mopar1.us/rampage/new1.jpg"&gt;