Junkyard Find: 1983 Plymouth Scamp

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

North 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.

The 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.

So, 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.

Junkyard 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.

Some 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.

The base transmission was a four-speed manual; a five-speed manual and three-speed automatic were options. This cartruck has one of the manuals.

Because 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.

Total 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™.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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