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behind the “Direct Connection Rampage”
by John Arnold
It has long been assumed that,
with only 3,564 produced, the Plymouth Scamp and Scamp GT were the
rarest of the orphaned L-bodied trucks. However, most Rampage and Scamp
fans are completely unaware that in the Rampage’s final production
year, a special edition was created and sold through a select number of
California Dodge dealerships.
These unusual Rampages weren’t simply
option packages (such as the Prospector), but were actually
factory creations made to resemble the popular Shelby Chargers.
"We are going to do a Rampage or a Shelby Street-Fighter version of the Rampage. That is the first thing we are going to do."
- Carroll Shelby, Car Exchange, 1983
One of the original
Shelby Rampage concept drawings, from early 1983. Notice the
louvers behind the side window and the Shelby
Charger rear taillights.
Little has been written about these rare trucks and
most people outside of southern California had no idea they existed.
But recently a 1986 Shelby Times article surfaced and many of the
Shelby Dodge "experts" found themselves scrambling to explain
it. The article was extremely brief and didn’t even include a name for
the special Rampages. Fortunately, I was able to learn more about these
trucks when I purchased two of them from the original owner.
Like many Rampage fans, I had
been searching the classifieds for months (a short time period given
their scarcity) when I happened upon a party who was selling what
appeared to be a 1984 Dodge Rampage which had been converted to look
like a Shelby Charger.
After speaking to the owner, I
found he was selling not one, but two of these strange Rampages. One
was left bone stock, and the other was in his words, “a monster.” More
importantly, I had learned that these weren’t just home conversions, but
in fact two of only 218 California Shelby Rampages. (This name has
since been verified by 3 other sources including Moss Motors in
Riverside, California, who included color inserts of the truck’s title and
specs in their 1984 Rampage brochures).
Needless to say, I was
impressed by both of the little Shelby trucks. But it was the so called
“monster” that really excited me. The intercooled turbo GLH-S Rampage
gave new meaning to the term “hauling ass.” (Read more about this
particular truck in the March 1998 issue of High Performance
Since the reappearance of the
Shelby Times article, more information has surfaced regarding the CS
Rampages. Unfortunately due to limited reference material, a lot of it
is incorrect. For the sake of presenting the facts, I have included the
original vehicle production broadcast for the stock
California Shelby Rampage.
We apologize for this image being clipped but the file could not be read completely
To further dispel the misinformation, I have also responded to some of the false statements that have appeared on other sites.
The result of a joint effort
between Shelby Automobiles and a well known California-based design
center, the truck was dubbed the Shelby Street-Fighter. Sporting a
totally re-designed aluminum front fascia complete with flip-up
headlights and a Fiero-like snout, the truck marked a complete
departure from any Shelby Dodge vehicle to date. Unfortunately, the
suits at Chrysler, perhaps foreseeing the Rampage’s eventual doom,
scrapped the project, and the prototype was sold to one of its
designers. It still exists today.
— John Arnold
I have only recently heard the
trucks referred to as “Direct Connection” Rampages and since the trucks
were equipped with DC bulk parts (as the Production Broadcast printout
I included states), I can kind of see how some of the truck’s critics
have adopted this name. However, over the past four years, I
have been approached by dozens of people who remembered the trucks when
new. The first time I heard it called a “California Shelby
Rampage” was when I met several employees at Chrysler’s training center
in Ontario, CA. One of them remembers anxiously awaiting the
arrival of Shelby’s much publicized version of the Rampage.
But when the truck never appeared, he had to settle for a stock ’83
In addition to that, I’ve
talked at length with employees of Moss Motors in Riverside,
CA. They also corroborated this name and two of them
remembered the trucks appearing in the dealership’s local trade
advertisements as the “limited edition California Shelby
Rampage.” This was also one of the dealerships that included
inserts in their 1984 Rampage brochures, a single page with a photo of the truck, listing its name and
specifications. Incidentally, several employees
of the dealerships I visited fondly remember the truck as it attracted
more buyers than the stock Rampages, which sometimes remained on their
lots for more than a year. So as far as the truck’s true
name, I have more than satisfied my own curiosity. The rest
of the critics can call it what they want.
On the matter of the truck’s
differences with the ’84 Shelby Charger, I have gathered information
from several sources (including employees of the design facility
responsible for the 1983 Shelby Rampage prototype) that explains why
these trucks were not fitted with most of the Shelby Charger’s
equipment. According to my research, Carroll Shelby abandoned
the idea of producing a Dodge/Shelby Rampage based on the
Street-Fighter prototype when it was learned in 1983 that Chrysler was
going to discontinue the Rampage the following year.
However, at around this same
time, Shelby and his boys did create a one-off Shelby Rampage based on
a stock 1983 model. The “parts chaser,” as it was referred to
by the employees, was fitted with all the Shelby Charger goodies
including the longer wheelbase side skirts that had recently been made
available by Direct Connection. It was this truck that
inspired the production California Shelby Rampage, a last ditch effort
to make the little unpopular hybrids more appealing to buyers.
Because of this, there were no
attempts by Chrysler to equip the CS Rampages with all of the Shelby
Charger’s mechanics. Plans for ceasing Rampage production had
already been enacted by the time this project had started.
Although the trucks were fitted with the Shelby transmission, the costs
for full mechanical conversions would have been too expensive and that
would have skyrocketed the already high $10,289 price tag.
I have no doubt in my mind that
if Rampage production had continued, Carroll Shelby and Chrysler would
have built the Shelby Street-Fighter. There was too much
money invested in the prototype and design work for this to have been
just an exercise, and although Mr. Shelby’s personality almost always
warrants a wait-and-see attitude to his predictions, I feel he was
genuinely planning on producing another fantastic vehicle.
My California Shelby Rampage did not come with cruise control, although the article indicates it was a standard accessory. There’s also a $39 credit on the window sticker for removing the Direct Connection decal; when you look at the windshield you’ll see a trace of the the Direct Connection decal but the original owner had it removed.
I saw Patrick Shelby race at the 1984 (I
think) Formula Atlantic support race for the US Detroit Grand Prix
Formula 1 race. I immediately noticed the car as it was sponsored by
Shelby Racing Wheels, and the driver was Patrick Shelby. I remember their pit/support vehicle being a Shelby Rampage.
Thanks for the info on the
Shelby Rampages. I used to own one that came with
everything the same as the Shelby Chargers except for the CS logo on
the seats, and the silver stripe. It had the 9.6
to 1 compression engine, same trans, brakes, wheels, tires, etc. There are a total of 5 Shelby Rampages in Sacramento
I know of. The only dealer installed option on mine was a matching
Sante Fe blue camper shell. The people who own mine now really enjoy
I enjoyed reading your article
on the Shelby Rampage. I owned a 1982 Rampage, and I was surprised to find
that a Shelby version was made in 1984. I did note that some people were
referring to it as a "Direct Connection" Rampage.
In the spring of 1983 Chrysler released 248 Special Order Rampages for the Canadian Market. They came with the ground effects, factory tonneau with integral spoiler, roof mounted wing, special side decals and pinstriping, and a chrome valve cover.
I was excited to see this page since I owned one of these cars, bought in the summer of 1984 off the showroom floor of Meister Dodge (now Worthington Dodge) in Carlsbad, California. It must have come down as a halo car for the showroom. It was nearing the end of the model year, the Rampage had just been discontinued, and I got it for way under sticker. It was equipped just as you describe. It was metallic maroon with silver stripes and effects, with the dove gray interior. (I remember being so stubborn about the price I’d pay that the sales guy tried to move me to a Ram 50, but I got my way.) It was a great little truck and I wish I still had it; I sold it to a retired teacher in Pacific Beach in 1990.
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