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