By on January 4, 2018

Image: 1984 Dodge RampageThe small car-based truck market was an interesting place in the early 1980s. Chevrolet had a hit on its hands with the El Camino, and it caught other manufacturers empty handed. By then, Ford had lost its LTD-based Ranchero pickup, and in its grief turned to a short-lived experiment called the Durango, based on the Fairmont Futura.

Dodge tried this one. The Rampage.

Image: 1984 Dodge RampageChrysler used one of its existing small platforms to create the Rampage. No, not the K, the other one — the L-body. Flexible in nature, the little Omni hatchback that could morphed first into the sporty Charger and Turismo, and from there was hacked into the trucklet you see here.

Sold between 1982 and 1984 as the Rampage under the Dodge banner, and as the Scamp for Plymouth (’83 only), Chrysler figured it could scrape some sales off the top of the El Camino and the Subaru BRAT.

Image: 1984 Dodge RampageA four-speed manual or three-speed automatic moved the Rampage forward. One engine choice was available: Chrysler’s 2.2-liter inline-four. This engine and later its 2.5-liter derivative were offered in almost everything front-drive from Chrysler between 1981 and 1995. Seriously.

Image: 1984 Dodge RampageSpeaking of front drive, the Rampage was only front drive. Competition like the El Camino was solely rear drive, and the BRAT offered four-wheel drive as an option. Compromise was a necessity in this class of vehicle.

Image: 1984 Dodge RampageStated load capacity for the Rampage was 1,145 pounds, meaning it had a half-ton rating the El Camino couldn’t match.

Image: 1984 Dodge RampageIn the end, none of that mattered. Demand was weak, with first-year sales under 20,000 vehicles, and just over 8,000 the year after that. This 1984 Rampage is one of 11,732. After those figures, Chrysler decided it was time to call it quits. It wasn’t the only one; all the small car-based trucks were on their way out by the end of the ’80s, as customers turned to larger and more capable body-on-frame trucks.

Image: 1984 Dodge RampageLocated somewhere in Michigan, this Rampage confuses with sporty two-tone paint, air conditioning, the aforementioned automatic, and some sweet and luxurious wheel covers.

Image: 1984 Dodge RampageIt all looks in nice condition, though not quite pristine. 77,000 miles on the odometer, and the seller is asking $7,250. Is the Rampage a future collectible, or forgettable crap?

[Images via seller]

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69 Comments on “Rare Rides: A 1984 Dodge Rampage, the Efficient Forgotten Trucklet...”


  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    “Is the Rampage a future collectible, or forgettable crap?”

    Both!

  • avatar
    pale ghost

    Kind of a knock off of the VW Rabbit pickup. The OMNI was kind of a knock off of the Rabbit.

    • 0 avatar
      MrIcky

      The rabbit was kind of a knock off of a renault iirc. It all goes around.

    • 0 avatar
      Guitar man

      Similar to a Proton Jumbuck/Arena, excpet with a worse engine.

      Three speed auto ! That thing would as slow as.

    • 0 avatar
      focus-ed

      Oh yeah. Before Thanksgiving I’ve seen some “maniac” hooning a lowered VW trucklet down the 41. That thing had a pickup;) BTW, that week I spotted few other crazies driving some hoopties North, a rally of some sort?
      Speaking of the Rampage – I saw one a year ago (parked in front of Harbor Freight, where else). In as mint of the condition as one could be found in the Rustbelt. An “import”? I liked the looks a lot, similarly to El-Camino’s. Though I’d rather have late 90s/early 2000s regular cab Taco or Ranger with stick shift (RWD, properly lowered of course).

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      First came the Chrysler Simca 1100, then VW copied it for the Golf and Honda the Civic. Then Chrysler copied VW for the Simca Horizon, and then they “Americanized” it via strut suspension and such by copying VW even more.

      Chrysler expands on the L-platform to make K-Cars which were then used for roughly 80% of its line-up and many disguises. Doesnt VW do the same currently?

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    I wanted one when they were new but tended to be beat-up crap by the time I could afford one.

    A slightly stretched, extended cab version today would be an ideal size for me.

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      FWD was a problem for them functionally, though. Load up the bed and you reduce the grip of the front tires. This is not a formula for success.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        Putting the heaviest items at the front of the bed instead of the back would make a significant difference, improving the balance closer to 50/50 with the load right behind the seats and improving its handling. Of course, it was never intended for heavy loads so the argument would normally be moot; people beat them up more than they overloaded them.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve Biro

        This was a problem with the Rabbit trucklet as well. But, as mentioned above, putting your load at the front of the bed would work wonders. Still essentially a sound concept.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Having been born in 1977 I should remember these when new but don’t. Perhaps it was because Chrysler was the only member of the Big 3 not to have a dealership in our little rural county?

    I do recall that in the mid 90s one of my father’s customers (he was selling John Deere lawn and garden equipment, let’s remember) had a decently successful lawn care business. The first business vehicle he owned was a well worn Rampage with a small trailer.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    This was definitely a better product than its only direct competition in the US, the VW Caddy.

    • 0 avatar

      I didn’t check the pricing for this, the Caddy, BRAT, and the El Camino.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Oddly the VW Caddys seem to have had a high survival rate. It seems like every town has ONE. Even here in Gallup there was an older gentleman with a fairly clean pale yellow example with a white cap on it.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus

          @dan, I think that has a lot to do with VW having more of an enthusiast fan base. Especially one willing to put up with wacky electronic systems and repeated mechanical failure. There are lots of guys who love their 1980s FWD VWs, not so many who feel the same way about FWD ChryCorp products. I’ve seen old VWs on craigslist with a laundry list of things the owner has repaired before they finally gave up. Very few would sink all that effort/money into a Dodge, unless it was RWD and had 8 cylinders.

          • 0 avatar
            bluegoose

            WRONG!!!! There have always been a FWD Mopar fan base that had existed since the Shelby days. There have been many Dodge Shelby enthusiasts who have sunk thousands of dollars into FWD Turbo Mopars…myself included.

            http://www.turbododge.com/forums/

        • 0 avatar
          scott25

          IT seems Rampages far outnumber VWs north of the border both on classified sites and on the street, and the opposite is true in the US. It is true, whenever I go down south I see at least one Caddy, whereas up here I might have seen two in 27 years. I probably see 3-4 different Rampages a year up here, mostly 84”s.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        I was thinking the BRAT stopped production earlier, but I was wrong.

  • avatar
    JustPassinThru

    Omnirizons were common in both my family and my ex’s – her mother, my father, and her herself all had various derivatives. I had an old Pinto…rust free, economical ($750 and 30,000 trouble-free miles) but worn out by this time.

    I wanted one. Oh, how badly I wanted one. But when I landed my first good-paying job…it was the fall they were being closed out. Once I was through new-hire probation and able to take a flyer on a new car, these were all gone.

    The Omnirizon was fundamentally a solid product…but, today? Three corporate reorganizations past the Age of Lido…these are all-but-orphans.

    Not for $7500. Too spendy for a beater; too uninteresting to be a collector car. A good vehicle for its time, even if not for the market…but its sell-by date is long, long past.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    I think Dodge, Plymouth, and Mitsubishi went in on small pickups in the early 80’s that weren’t much more than cars with cargo beds. I was in high school then and remember a few kids had them, really tiny pickups, smaller that the Rampage.

  • avatar
    55_wrench

    In the early 80s I worked for a precision metal fab shop. The owner bought one for a general runabout and a light duty delivery vehicle. It was a blast to drive compared to the long wheelbase Dodge van used for heavier jobs..

    But the best delivery hack he had was a 69 Ranchero with a built 429. Stand on the throttle at a steady 65 mph and you’d break the rear tires loose on dry pavement every time.

    Fun times at at 912 Olinder..

  • avatar
    spookiness

    That price seems a bit optimistic. Even if it were a Shelby Rampage it shouldn’t fetch that much. No mention of the VW Caddy, which this is more akin to. I always thought it would be fun to do up a VW pickup in the style of a GTI of the day.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      OK, good. I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who thought “crack pipe”…

      That’s a $3K car, tops.

      Too bad, as it’s about 50 miles from my location…

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        To me its $3k for an Omni, Omni/K-Cars are good budget cars but a price like that kinda negates the “budget” bit.

        I’ll take a cheaper K-Car wagon instead

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    I read the headline before I saw the picture and had to laugh when I scrolled down to see the dorky little thing Dodge named “RAMPAGE”

  • avatar
    tomLU86

    The El Camino was based on the GM mid-sized chassis (Malibu). That’s why it continued thru 1983/84.

    The Ranchero was based on Ford’s mid-sized BOF Chassis (Torino / LTD II), NOT the LTD. That’s why it died in 1979.

    The Durango was an aftermarket job, not a Ford product.

    People have done their VW pickups as GTIs.

    The Omni did mimic the Rabbit–the original Omni even used a carbureted 1715 cc version of the Rabbit’s engine.

    With the (relatively) torque 2.2 liter, I’m sure the Rampage was relatively brisk for 1982.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      My cousin Diane had one, brand new in ’83, automatic, 2.2, non-turbo. It had neck-snapping acceleration, 0-60 in something like 12.5 seconds. Diane raved about it. Her first car was a 1961 Studebaker Lark that did 0-60 in about 25 seconds, even with a third of its weight in rust. So, yes – relatively brisk, at least with my relatives.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    “and some sweet and luxurious wheel covers…”

    Nope.

    Those are styled steel wheels. Which I seriously wish would make a comeback.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Dear seller,

    I’ve got $725 for you.

    Thx
    28

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Did Chevy really have a hit on its hands with the El Camino in the early 80s? I don’t remember them being particularly popular, and at that point they’d been around for 20+ years. I suppose Ford dumping the Ranchero might have goosed their numbers a bit.

    • 0 avatar
      JustPassinThru

      The market was in chaos.

      The then-unknown, marginal Japanese companies, were raking in the numbers with their tiny trucklets. Meantime, VWofA brought out the Rabbit-based truck, and initial sales seemed strong.

      The EC and Ranchero were holding their own. I suspect Lido’s boys just figured that if they could take the style of the El Ranchero, and reduce it to the size of the Toyota truck, they’d have a winner.

      They didn’t, for three reasons. Truck buyers were not enamored with FWD. Gardeners and handy types, a big part of the Japanese-truck market, were unimpressed with the less-practical Rampage.

      Buyers in general were not yet convinced that either Chrysler or its products had staying power. The Omnirison turned out to be one of their better all-time offerings; but at the time, all people could think of was Studebaker Redux. The Rampage could have been Chrysler’s Avanti.

      The astroturf-in-the-truck-bed blue-collar bad-boys were unimpressed. It had to be SBC or nothing. A Boss 302 was an acceptable alternative. NOT an Omni four.

      Lido just misread the market with this one. After all his home runs and triples, he was more-than-due a few strikeouts.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        “but at the time, all people could think of was Studebaker Redux. The Rampage could have been Chrysler’s Avanti…”

        I’ll agree with Studebaker Redux. But the Rampage/Scamp as Chrysler’s Avanti? No, more like Chrysler’s Wagonaire.

        I’d say the G-body coupes (Daytona, Laser) coulda/woulda been Chrysler’s Avanti, at least in spirit if nothing else.

        • 0 avatar
          JustPassinThru

          Well, the Rampage came from the same thread of desperation – if trying a different market. Like the Avanti, it was heavily based on an existing model. It was there to try and generate some EXCITEMENT over the utilitarian product it was based on.

          The Avanti was to be “hot” – because that was where the trend of the 1960s was. The Rampage was to try to suck off some of the “kewel truck” market – that was shifting and still shifts. Four-door trucks were a non-starter back then; they’re the only thing that sells, today. But it was this moving target that Lido’s boys took aim at – and missed.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      I wouldn’t call it a hit, but they certainly did get a bump from Ford dropping the Ranchero. The mini trucks of the early 80’s were too mini for some people. Back at the time I knew a guy that owned a commercial construction company. He was a Ford man and all the trucks in his fleet were Ford except for the El Camino. Of course he had Rancheros in the past but once they went away he wasn’t willing to give up the blend of car and truck and he felt he needed to have a vehicle that wasn’t too old. So he went El Camino over Ranger.

  • avatar
    Middle-Aged Miata Man

    Those engine bay and interior pics bring back vivid memories of my first car, a 1984 Turismo. It even looks like this Rampage has the same equipment package – A/C, automatic, cruise, low-back bucket seats. It’s only missing the pop-up sunroof (I’m not sure if that was offered on the trucklets.)

    The two-tone gray paint is also the same, although the darker gray was confined to the lower bumper moldings and rocker panels on my car, set off with bold red and orange pinstripes and “Turismo 2.2″ decals in between. Mine also sported 14” aluminum wheels often seen on K-convertibles of the same year.

    Even at that price, I’d be seriously tempted if this Rampage was located closer to home. Nostalgia is a powerful drug.

  • avatar
    eManual

    “This engine (with turbo and without) powered almost everything front-drive from Chrysler between 1981 and 1995. Seriously.”

    Not even close. My 1987 Dodge Lancer and 1992 Plymouth Voyager both had the 2.5L 4, which was based on the 2.2L, but had more torque and HP. Also, there was a Mitsubishi engine option in the 1980’s, and the 3.3L and 3.8L V6 were popular for the Minivans in the 1990’s or so.

    • 0 avatar
      Middle-Aged Miata Man

      Yeah, better to say the 2.2L was available in almost every FWD Chrysler.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        Or mentioning the 2.5L as a derivative, since it was standard in the minivans, and powered a great many Spirit/Acclaim, Sundance/Lancer, etc well into the 1990s, which I’m sure was what Corey was thinking.

        • 0 avatar

          My my we’re all particular today.

          • 0 avatar
            eManual

            I was hoping that it was a typo – i.e., that the 2.2L powered 1981-1985 or something like that. Even then, I remember that the Mitsubishi engine was an option when I bought a Dodge Aries wagon in 1981.

            I would have apologized or corrected such a ridiculous statement. I hope your editor reads this.

  • avatar
    taxman100

    I had an 84 Turismo with the same color scheme, and the same wheels. They were silver painted steel wheels with trim rings and center caps. They were quite nice wheels for the day.

    Mine came with a 5 speed. At least in 84, if you got the base 1.6 french engine, it was a 4 speed manual. The 2.2 liter only had the 3 speed auto or the 5 speed manual.

    The thing sipped gas, and I did get it over 120 mph once.

  • avatar
    scott25

    My absolute dream car

  • avatar
    SnarkyRichard

    Took one for a test drive in the early 90s. It was cheaply built junk back then and hasn’t got better with age . Suggesting this is a collectable vehicle is like saying Dodge Omnis are collectible . Because that is what it was , a cheapo Omni with a tiny pickup bed = forgettable crap !

  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    What is this fine example of a Rampage really worth? Beat up I’ve seen these sell for under $1K, nice ones up to $2K. I don’t really see this sellling for more than $3K.

  • avatar
    bluegoose

    Corey,

    There was an actual “California Shelby Rampage” built by Dealers and Direct Connection in 1984. There were only about 200 produced. A few Shelby FWD fanatics actually built Shelby Rampage Turbos using the Shelby Charger front clip and ground effects.

    https://www.allpar.com/omni/rampage/

    • 0 avatar

      Very interesting. That variant is not well-known.

    • 0 avatar

      I looked at buying a home built Shelby around 2005. The owner had bought a new Rampage in 84 when he was a tech for a Dodge dealer. I guess around 88 they had a Shelby Turbo daytona come in totaled from a rear end hit. So he swapped the drivetrain into the Rampage. It was a great looking truck. I still find myself searching the classifieds for one.

      I have driven the VW Caddy and Brat while I like both the Dodge has way more interior room.

    • 0 avatar

      @bluegoose: I think that’s what the gentleman who purchased my 84 Shelby was thinking of doing with my car. He mentioned he had a Rampage and was going to use my car for “parts”. It would be cool to see what he actually came up with. He was located in IL at the time. Heck, maybe he reads TTAC.

  • avatar
    CaseyLE82

    My dad had one of these back in the mid 1990’s (when I was around 12). I remember REALLY liking it. I also remember it having a lot of difficulty in cold weather, and a lot of swear words coming from my dad’s mouth in the months from Nov to Feb when he was trying to take me to school in the morning. Still I thought that thing was so cool. A car truck? What? Yes, please.

    If this thing were priced anywhere in the realm of reason I would pick it up just as a novelty.

  • avatar
    WildcatMatt

    For all the labels of “crap” no one else has mentioned that this came in #4 in the Crap Cars book.

    Don’t know how useful one of these would be but I’d be interested in taking one for a spin to check it out.

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