By on March 1, 2021

1983 Plymouth Scamp in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsNorth American sales of Japanese-made small pickups went crazy during the 1970s, with the Detroit Big Three getting in on the action with rebadged Mazdas, Isuzus, and Mitsubishis. Ford and GM eventually created their own Michigan-style small trucks, the Ranger (1983 model year) and S-10 (1982 model year) but where was struggling Chrysler— in a frenzy trying to get the new K-Cars out the door— supposed to find enough money to develop a new truck design from scratch? Fortunately, Volkswagen had shown that front-wheel-drive worked well enough in little pickups, and the versatile Omnirizon platform proved suitable for a bit of El Camino-ization. Here’s the result, found in a Denver yard last summer.

1983 Plymouth Scamp in Colorado junkyard, RH rear view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe Dodge Omni/Plymouth Horizon came out of a Chrysler Europe effort to build a VW Golf competitor, and the North American versions (which differed substantially from their Simca/Talbot brethren) sold very well starting in the 1978 model year. Chrysler USA developed a wide range of cars from this L-Body platform, including the Dodge 024/Plymouth TC3, 1983-1987 Dodge Charger, and the legendary “Cocaine Factory” Turismo Duster, even while K-based machinery rolled off assembly lines.

1983 Plymouth Scamp in Colorado junkyard, rear view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsSo, a Dodge Omni 024 with pickup bed and Rampage badges appeared in the 1982 model year, with production continuing through 1984. The Plymouth-badged version was called the Scamp (after the cheap-but-sporty hardtop version of the 1971-1976 Valiant), got the Turismo snout, and was sold in the 1983 model year alone.

1983 Plymouth Scamp in Colorado junkyard, interior - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsJunkyard shoppers hit the interior of this one pretty hard before I got to it, but you can still admire the racy-looking two-tone driver’s seat.

1983 Plymouth Scamp in Colorado junkyard, engine - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsSome other US-market L-bodies were still getting Volkswagen or Simca engines in 1983, but all Rampages and Scamps got the 2.2-liter four-banger Chrysler developed for the K-Cars. This one was rated at 85 horsepower, not much even for a 2,305-pound lightweight truck.

1983 Plymouth Scamp in Colorado junkyard, manual gearshift - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe base transmission was a four-speed manual; a five-speed manual and three-speed automatic were options. This cartruck has one of the manuals.

1983 Plymouth Scamp in Colorado junkyard, HVAC controls - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsBecause the original buyer sprang for both air conditioning and a four-speaker AM/FM radio, I feel fairly certain that the transmission has five forward gears.

1983 Plymouth Scamp in Colorado junkyard, stripes - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsTotal Scamp sales came to just 3,564, so we’re looking at an extremely rare junkyard find.

At least one Scamp still survives as a race cartruck!

For links to 2,000+ additional Junkyard Finds, visit the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.

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39 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1983 Plymouth Scamp...”


  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Don’t remember the seats being so nice. When these were being manufactured, I didn’t really care or have much use for them.

    But now, an inexpensive version might be just what I want for ‘weekend warrior’ duty.

    Stellantis, Mitsu, Kia-Hyundai could such a vehicle be manufactured and sold in the N.A. market at an ‘entry level’ price?

    • 0 avatar
      spookiness

      Various acquaintances in high school had Omnirizons, and the seats were quite comfy. Later interiors were sort of posh for the time, with nice fabrics (and colors such as the trademark Mopar bordello red and nice medium blue, etc.). The fabrics were also much more substantial and long-lasting than Japanese competition at the time. Our family had 82 &83 Civics, which were great, but the seats shredded and wore down pretty quickly.

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        I learned to drive on my mother’s Omni, but when it came to my own car I got an ’83 Civic S1500 hatch. The Honda was so much better. The Omni’s seats were “American sized” so for adults I’m sure they felt better, but for an 18 year old the Civic was perfect. The Civic felt faster, handled better, shifted better and seemed to be way better built. I remember the Omni seemed like a rattletrap in comparison. I will say the stereo and HVAC in the Omni were nicer.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      I had the Turismo with the exact same interior. It was quite nice for a cheap little car

    • 0 avatar
      Firestorm 500

      Those don’t look like original seats.

    • 0 avatar
      celica0774

      I expect that’s not an original seat- it does not match the dash pad at all.

      A college girlfriend had the hatchback version of this- a TC3, I think.
      Most understeer that I’ve ever experienced. Making a normal right turn at a light I was sure that I folded the steel rim over.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve S.

      Clearly that seat isn’t original. It’s tan while the dash and carpet is red. It looks like it came out of an AMC, maybe a Pacer, Spirit, or Eagle.

  • avatar
    toronado

    I cannot recall another car with a voltmeter but no temperature gauge. This one seems to have some sort of combination oil pressure/temp idiot light.

  • avatar
    spamvw

    I had one of the Pennsylvania VW versions of this, I wish I’d had a little more room in the interior, adding 3 inches to cab length would have done wonders. I added GTI seats, wheels, and center console. And I found out putting a snowmobile in the bed does not help with front wheel drive traction on hills.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I had the Turismo car version of this with the 2.2, which was fine until you turned the A/C on which caused a vapor lock shutting down the car. I would have to wait 20 minutes for the poor little thing to calm down and restart. We parted company within a year

  • avatar
    ThomasSchiffer

    Scamp. Sounds like a restaurant specializing in seafood.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    A friend of mine took an old VW bug and made a stakebed for it. He tried to do the same thing with a 2001 Neon, and couldn’t do it. He said the unibody construction didn’t lend itself as easily to pickup/stakebed modifications.

    Anyone hoping an automaker can easily modify a subcompact into a mini-pickup is wrong. Any pickup made from an existing subcompact is going to need extensive design modifications to meet current regulations. That means the costs probably don’t pencil out for a cheap mini-pickup variant.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Too many things have changed since then. Your kids, hitchhikers (usually not at the same time), multiple or stinky passengers just rode in the bed.

      By the time it has 4 seats, which are basically a must, plus a bed? The “pickup” part would be a joke. Or it’s no longer a compact.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        VW already has a possible ‘donor’ vehicle the ‘Caddy’ which it will produce in multiple formats using the existing MQB chassis. Switching it from a van/people carrier to an open bed should not require too much expense.

        After all they have offered a Golf based ‘pick-up’ before.

        Unfortunately being a VW the Caddy is premium priced.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    I remember P. J. O’Rourke describing the El Camino and Ranchero as for someone who wants to say “I’m too (damned) tough for a car and too (damned) rich for a job.” It’s difficult to describe this cartruck like that.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      I always thought they were for the guy who wants to say, “Sorry, Honey, I can’t take your mother and the kids with me – no room.” Then he can light up a cigar, or Lucky, and take the long way to the hardware store.

  • avatar
    midnite_clyde

    I still have my ’82 Rampage in a barn. That was one cool ride. I thought the 2.2 was plenty strong with the 4 speed. I may still get it running again, but my ’87 Comanche Chief has first priority for a restoration.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Ford is coming out with a front wheel based compact truck called the Maverick which is based on the Bronco Sport. It will be a crew cab only with about a 4 foot bed and will come with an all wheel drive option. This Scamp would meet my needs but the manufacturers will only make crew cabs like the Maverick. I don’t have use for a 4 foot bed.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    What a weird set of gauges! Volts but no engine temp. Sprung for AC and upgraded stereo but no tach despite row your own.

    My first thought was a chain reaction accident did it in, but looking at the pinched door and rust it soldiered on for a while after getting sandwiched.

    A lot of effort for 3600ish units for one model year econobox, parts bin special or not. Service manuals, certifications, marketing materials, dealer education materials…

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    The Scamp and the Rampage lasted only a couple years or so. The similar sized and purposed vehicle Subaru Brat came on the market earlier and lasted much longer. What did Plymouth/Dodge do wrong?

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      Bad timing. These trucks came to market about the same time that Ford & GM released the S-10/S-15 and the Ranger. There were still a gazillion little Japanese trucks available and once interest rates and fuel prices came down, trucklets like these were superflous. Including the BRAT. And the VW Caddy or Pickup here in the states.

      For all of the genius moves that Iaccoca allegedly had, this was a bad read of the market. Had they been introduced in 1979 or 1980, I’m sure they would have done better. But not by much. For almost the same money, you could get a Toyota or Datsun pickup which was much more capable compared to the Subaru, VW or Chrysler trucklet. Chrysler even sold the Mitsubishi pickup back then, too. Talk about internecine competition. About the only unique feature the Subie had was the AWD. I think if it were to compete only as FWD, it would have sunk even faster than the 5-6 years it did sell.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    If they brought this back today they’d sell at least 6 but there would hundreds on the internet proclaiming “I was ready to buy but had to bail because (insert obscure detail here like the hubcaps were the wrong shade)” or “I wanted one, but 7500 bucks new is about what this is worth…I wasn’t paying that 15k for it.”

  • avatar
    dal20402

    A family friend when I was growing up had the Charger coupe version, with a naturally aspirated 2.2 and a stick. It was surprisingly comfortable inside and he said it was fun to drive, but mostly I remember loving the frameless-window doors.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Well Art you do not have to worry about manufacturers bringing this back except for Ford with a crew cab version of this with a smaller bed (Maverick). Manufacturers are only interested in making vehicles that are 30k and plus preferably ones that are 50k or more. Loan periods have increased to 84 months and will likely go to 120 months but I doubt most of today’s new vehicles including trucks will go more than 10 years with the more complex electronics. Water pumps inside engines assure that repairs are more expensive and more engine failure.

    Many manufacturers might follow John Deere in that only their dealerships will be able to repair their vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Nonsense. Even the cheapest crapboxes generally go 10+ years without much drama. Right to repair is a thing and those “complex” electronic tend to be easier to diagnose and fix. Once you get out to 20+ years you are mostly in to hobby car territory and the cars that people tend to keep as toys have a healthy aftermarket for that sort of stuff.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Well, how hard is to change an internal water pump? Some of the vehicles I had, changing the timing belt? might as well get a new water pump, belt tensioners and the misc parts that are reachable. I could be totally wrong but I imagine there’s a max length of loan/vehicle price ratio. A Fiesta with a stick and ac? 60 months max. Wanting Shelby or a Raptor? Why yes Mr. El Scotto we can go 84 months on your new vehicle. A couple of things about car dealers. 1. They’re the manufacturers customers, not us. 2. Car dealers are in the real estate business. They only have so many parking spots. Most of those spots are filled with what will sell. The dealer is in business to make money. Stripper models are kept around to show us how punishing an inexpensive vehicle can be. Pick on the cheap car of your choice here. Conversely, go to a dealer and try to look at their most high end model. Most dealers don’t carry them due to the I wanna look at one/I wanna buy one ration is huge. Just huge. Friend of mine used to have a Buick Olds Pontiac dealership he said many times, four door family cars keep me in business. Your Trans-Am is my lot unicorn.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Which is why making direct sales at least *not illegal* seems like a good idea.
      The dealer can completely load up their lot with silver Outbacks for the normies while I can still order a BRZ or STI from the manufacturer. Yet dealers always fight against it happening.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        The only car I had dealers consistently not want to order was a manual 3 series back when such a thing was made. You will not get any incentives that may be offered though so that can be a big deal. They will go back and forth until you write the check for the deposit then they’ll happily whip out an order sheet…then you wait.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    A full size truck is more capable of accommodating a gentleman whose responsibilities have expanded with his waistline.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I expect a vehicle to last 10 years and if it last 20 or more then that is icing on the cake. I doubt many of the new 2021 vehicles will even last 10 years. Correct the dealers are the manufacturers customers and if a manufacturer can limit who has access to repairs this is good for the dealers who make more on service than they do on new vehicle sales. As for the water pump being inside the engine the water pump will usually fail before the the timing belt or chain and failure will most likely mean the engine is destroyed. Try changing a water pump on an Equinox which can cost over a grand. I will not knowingly buy a vehicle with an enclosed water pump because of the issues I previously mentioned and if I did I would replace both the water pump and timing chain or belt at the same time because of the labor involved in replacing one or the other.

    The dealers would prefer to sell the higher priced new models because of markup and not the so called strippers which are fewer and fewer with less profit. As a consumer why should I buy a product just because it is better for the dealer instead of one that meets my needs and wants. If a product does not meet my needs and I am buying it out of concern for what is more profitable for the dealer then I don’t want it. I do understand floor planning and how dealers determine what vehicles they order but I am not going to buy any vehicle just to satisfy a floor plan unless it comes close to what I need and want. I can live with an automatic transmission or a crew cab in a small truck and even a few extras but I will not opt for a vehicle that requires expensive repairs and that barely lasts. Maybe that means I will never buy another new vehicle and if that is the case then so be it. Maybe ordering directly and skipping the dealers would be a good option for many of us because we can choose what we want within the constraints of what the manufacturer offers. If I am buying a new vehicle I am willing to wait to get what I want and cut out the middle man.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Enclosed as in behind the timing cover and driven by the timing belt? Sure, I’ll get them. You change them out with the timing belt. I’ve never had one of those fail and if it did it’s just a timing belt service which I can do.

      Enclosed as in the V of the motor like those Ford V6’s and the like? Yeah I’d think twice on that.

      Still, contemporary cars, with rare exceptions will typically go 10+ years without much trouble. If I had 20+ years on my requirements list I’d probably restore an air cooled Porsche or something. My current daily is 18 years old, but it is low miles and I have a 5 year old pickup for when I need to spend a week with it on jack stands.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I have had one vehicle almost for 21 years and I gave it to my nephew who wanted it especially since it has a 5 speed manual. It was a 99 S-10 extended cab with a 2.2 5 speed. It was one of the best most dependable vehicles I have owned and it was like new when I gave it to him. He has it mainly as a toy and keeps it in his car barn. I doubt I will ever keep a vehicle that long again and I doubt most 2021s would last that long. Parts are inexpensive and readily available for the S-10. At 125k miles it still runs and looks new with no rust and the original paint which is like new. The oldest vehicle I have now is 12 years old and has relatively low miles and I will keep it for a few more years. I was interested in the new Maverick truck until I found out it had an internal water pump with a 1.5 and 2.0 engine. I decided to buy a low mileage 2008 Ranger because it has a 2.3 engine without the internal timing chain and turbo charging and it has a bed that is usable. The price of the Maverick will start at 20k so it is not about the price but the other issues I just discussed. I might have even lived with the small bed but the turbo and the internal water pump were just too many negatives along with made in Mexico.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    What a miserable little $#!+box

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Agree with you on that but it looks like it was well used. I prefer my 85 Mitsubishi Mighty that I had for 14 years.

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