The 1984 Dodge California Shelby Rampage
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
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.
|"Parts chaser" at the skunkworks. Note the door stripes and Shelby decal from the shorter wheelbase Charger. This would be fixed for the production CS Rampages.||Production CS Rampages on Chrysler's New Car Prep lot. All CS versions came with a Direct Connection windshield decal|
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, CA., who included color inserts of the truck's title and specs in their 1984 Rampage brochures).
|Another CS Rampage on New Car Prep lot, without the Dodge decal on the front clip. A black CS Rampage is in the far right background|
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 Mopar).
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" printout 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.
- It has been stated that
because the CS Rampages were based on the standard ZH28 platform, they
only had 84 hp. This is incorrect. All 1984 Dodge Rampages were equipped
with a 99 hp 2.2 liter motor. When fitted with the CS Rampage's
performance exhaust system, that figure would be even higher.
Though it was equipped with the base model's lowback seats, the CS version included, standard, most of the options on the top of the line Rampage including air conditioning, quick ratio power steering, cruise control, and the center console and arm rest. Other factory added equipment such as ground effects, Shelby pedals, 15 inch wheels, etc., were available only on the CS Rampages.
- I have heard some people claim that the CS Rampages were only offered in one color; this being Santa Fe Springs blue (as shown below). The truth is they were offered in all the 1984 Shelby Charger colors.
seems to be some confusion as to exactly what role Carroll Shelby or
the Shelby Skunkworks facility played in the creation of the CS
Rampage. As stated in Shelby Times, a "nifty little parts chaser"
appeared at the Skunkworks in 1983. Furthermore, the article suggested
that it was this truck that inspired "someone" to gear up the west
coast facility to produce the CS Rampages.
But there is another even more interesting connection. As evidenced by the quote above, it seems one of Shelby's initial plans with Dodge were to "do a Rampage or Shelby Street-Fighter version of the Rampage." After doing some research, I found that there was in fact a prototype Shelby Rampage built in 1983.
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
Shelby Rampage and Direct Connection notes
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 model.
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. The one page inserts contained a photo of the truck with it's name and specifications listed below. Incidentally, several employee's 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 employee's 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.
Greg Landon, Dodge Shelby Rampage owner
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 that 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 driving it.
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.
Relevant local pages
- Dodge Rampage and Plymouth Scamp
- Allpar (our host)
- Chrysler Europe and the creation of the Horizon
- The creators of the L-body (Omni, Rampage, etc.) speak
- Rampage “Dodge” lettering placement