Junkyard Find: 1983 Dodge Rampage

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

Once the Dodge Omni/ Plymouth Horizon, front-wheel-drive econoboxes that began life as Chrysler Europe designs, proved to be strong sellers in North America, Lee Iacocca and his poker buddies decided that a pickup based on the Omnirizon platform would be a fine idea. The result was the Dodge Rampage and its Plymouth-badged sibling, the Scamp. I found one of those cartrucks in a Denver-area wrecking yard a while back.

Although the Plymouth Division had a history of selling trucks that goes way back (and continued through the Malaise Era), the Scamp (which took its name from a Valiant submodel of the previous decade) existed for just the 1983 model year and ended up being the very last Plymouth-badged new truck available here. The Rampage had a longer career as part of the more truckish Dodge brand, being built for the 1982 through 1984 model years.

I’ve managed to find nearly as many Scamps as Rampages during my junkyard travels, with two Scamps and two Rampages— including a super-rare Prospector— appearing before my camera prior to today (for some reason, all three of my junkyard Rampages have been ’83s). There was a California-only Shelby Rampage as well, but I’m not holding my breath about finding one of those in a car graveyard.

Ammeters were still fairly common in new vehicles in the early 1980s, a hangover from the weak generators and flaky batteries of earlier decades, so this truckcar got one even as its oil-pressure and coolant-temperature gauges became a penny-shaving two-fer-one idiot light. Whatever gauge or light would have gone on the opposite side of the speedo has a FRONT • WHEEL • DRIVE badge as a filler.

It’s in rough shape, with plenty of rust-through in the usual spots.

The engine would have been an 83-horsepower 2.2 straight-four just like the optional plant in the Omnirizon that year ( Peugeot and VW engines were available in the cheaper early Omnirizons), but it’s long gone.

The interior is completely gutted as well, with none of the telltale leftover fasteners that suggest removal in the junkyard. I suspect that this was a parts truck for a Rampage enthusiast who discarded it once the good stuff was gone.

I doubt a Rampage enthusiast would have driven on flat rear tires for enough miles to nearly erase this one, though. Perhaps that was done by the second-to-last owner.

The wheel on the other side is even scarier. I’m guessing there was a lot of Everclear drinking and maybe glue-huffing involved in this Rampage’s final drive.

This cartruck had the base four-on-the-floor manual transmission, which remained available in new US-market cars all the way through 1996. The five-speed manual cost an extra 75 bucks (about $220 in 2022 dollars), while a three-speed automatic went for $439 ($1,290 now). That’s a lot to spend on a truck that listed at just $6,683 (around $19,646 today).

The front-wheel-drive pickup turned out to be something of an evolutionary dead end, with the pickup version of the Volkswagen Rabbit getting the ax here at the same time as the Rampage. Truly small pickups of any sort were mostly gone from the American market by the end of the decade, too.

Perhaps a longing for a more modern Rampage is what led some Denver-area Neon owner to build a backyard Neonpage.

Cash back, Prospector discounts, and 11.9% financing!

[Images courtesy of the author]

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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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  • THX1136 THX1136 on Apr 25, 2022

    I sold my '84 Shelby Charger to a gentleman in Illinois who had a Rampage. If I remember correctly he intended to use my car for parts - or to make a Rampage/Shelby hybrid vehicle. Other than the air dam and ground effects a lot of the unibody was quite 'rust impaired' after 406k mi. which is why I got rid of it. The 2.2 was still running well - only using a qt of oil every 2k mi. which is when I changed the oil any way and got 35 mpg for me. The clutch had started to slip a bit somewhere in the mid 300k area although it still got me where I needed to go. (only slipped under 'hard' acceleration, leisurely acceleration showed no slippage.) Always wondered how his plans for my car came out.

    • 71charger_fan 71charger_fan on Apr 26, 2022

      I gave a set of Shelby Charger bucket seats to a guy in Delaware who was piecing together a Shelby Rampage. I have no idea if he ever finished it.

  • Mdoore Mdoore on Apr 27, 2022

    I was always curious if the tail lamps were from the FoMoCo parts bin? Econoline Van, Maverick?

  • NotMyCircusNotMyMonkeys dudes off the rails on drugs and full of hate and retribution. so is musky.
  • Big Al from Oz Musk and Trump are of the same ilk, except Musk's IQ is a damn site higher than Trumps. Musk like Trump is only into himself. Musk doesn't care about Trump only Musk. Musk sees more dollars if Trump wins.Hey, I'm Big Al again!3
  • Rover Sig We have a car with two fake exhausts in the bumper, but a large shiny muffler visible hanging down on one side, not aligned with the fake exhaust exits. Horrendous. I had to paint the shiny muffler with high-temp black paint to make it less visible. Exhaust pipes were meant to be round and hang below the bumper, and they can be made quiet or loud as the engineers like. But fake exhausts rank down there with fake intake vents on the side of that old Buick.
  • EBFlex Of course it does. What a silly question
  • Buickman Elon is a phony.