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Plymouth Scamp and Dodge Rampage: economy car based pickups

Dodge Rampage

Developed largely by Chrysler Europe (the former SIMCA and Rootes Group), but with American engineering involvement as well, the Chrysler C2 project yielded the hugely popular Plymouth Horizon and Dodge Omni, the European Chrysler Horizon, and, later, sporty coupes based on those cars. There were several odd variants, including the surprisingly quick Omni GLHS, but the oddest may have been the Plymouth Scamp and Dodge Rampage, lightweight trucks based on the economy cars.

The Omni and Horizon earned the Europe’s Car of the Year award in 1978, but Chrysler was not done. In 1979, they launched hatchback coupes based on the Omni and Horizon, called Dodge O24 and Plymouth TC3 (they would later be renamed Charger and Turismo, respectively). Burton Bouwkamp wrote, “Both vehicles were done at the instigation of Lee Iacocca. The Turismo/O24 was styled and engineered in-house.”

Enter the Dodge Rampage

Burton Bouwkamp wrote:

The first Rampage was created by a custom body shop under the direction of Hank Carlini, who was Lee Iacocca's special assignment man on product. (Hank came from Ford with Lee and was in Lee's Friday night poker club.) When Lee saw the Rampage model he said, “do it.” We (Body Engineering) were assigned the production engineering job, which turned out to be bigger than it looked because the prototype Rampage was built with a Turismo/O24 windshield and 4 door sedan front doors. They did not fit together which meant that we had to design new door glass, door seals and glass drop mechanism to make it work.

1983 Plymouth Scamp GT

The basic McPherson strut front suspension design was carried over from Omni/Horizon, with a linkless sway bar; in back, leaf-springs were used with “sea-leg” shock absorbers; the leaf springs’ shackle angles were designed to enhance side to side stability. Leaf springs and shocks were mounted below the load floor to maximize cargo space.

The Rampage was the first front wheel drive pickup sold by Detroit automakers, and included a four speed manual transmission (upgraded to five speeds in 1983), interior hood release, power disc brakes, tinted glass, bright moldings, remote driver’s mirror, color-keyed steering wheel, dual horns, radio, day/night mirror, and vinyl high-back bucket seats. The Sport model came with two-tone paint and tape, a lower-sill blackput, 14 inch color keyed wheels, raised-white-letter tires, cloth covered bucket seats with adjustable backs, special trim, tachometer, and clock. A three-speed TorqueFlite automatic was optional, as were air conditioning, intermittent wipers, heavy duty cooling, road wheels, dual remote mirrors, and various radios.

Turismo and Plymouth Scamp

All used the 84 horsepower four-cylinder 2.2 liter engine with two-barrel carburetor; this provided quick acceleration for the day, and the torque bias of the engine helped responsiveness with a loaded bed. The single-piece tailgate had a center release lever; support cables were covered and concealed when the gate was up. A body-color front bumper was backed by a steel bar. Halogen headlamps were standard; for 1982 and 1983, a five speed manual was optional(standard on Sport/2.2/GT). The base payload was 1,145 lb.

Optional axle ratios were 3.02 (automatic), 2.69 (four-speed manual), 2.20, 2.57, and 2.78 (five speed).

Dodge Rampage, 1982-1984

dodge rampage seatsThe 1982 Rampage and Scamp weighed just 2,246 pounds (2,293 in Sport trim) and started at around $6,700. Sport added around $500. Thus, they weighed somewhat less than the Ram 50, but costs were fairly similar — Ram 50 started lower but finished higher. In this first year, 17,636 Rampages were made, compared with 34,615 Ram 50s; neither came close to the D-series but both outsold Ramcharger.

For 1983, Rampage 2.2 replaced Rampage Sport; all Rampages, keep in mind, were 2.2-equipped. The Rampage 2.2 added new graphics and a fake hood scoop in addition to the prior-year Sport additions. Weight and price were similar to 1982, except on Rampage 2.2, which gained around 18 pounds over Rampage Sport, and cost around $50 more. Rampage 2.2 seats were either black or black with a wide red stripe. EPA claimed 28 mpg city, 47 mpg highway — astonishing gas mileage, but the criteria were relatively loose at that time. It is likely average buyers would still get highway mileage in the high 30s. (With California emissions, EPA rated the Rampage at 27/45. This included the five-speed manual transmission, which was the most popular one.)

1983 Rampage sales fell to 8,033, partly, it seems, because of competition from Plymouth’s 1983-only Scamp and Scamp GT.

Plymouth Scamp body - CAD diagram

Despite extremely low sales, Dodge tried again in 1984, switching to a new, sportier grille and new hood treatment. The weight went up again, with Rampage going to 2,293 lb and 2.2 going to 2,357; the price jumped a bit, to around $6,800 for Rampage and another $500 for Rampage 2.2. Power remained the same at 84 hp. Rampage sales jumped back slightly to 11,732, presumably due to the loss of the Plymouth Scamp; but this was the final year for the Rampage. The only way to get one after 1984 was to buy the Shelby version.

1983 Plymouth Scamp

For 1983, the Scamp name was moved forward from a two-door Valiant derivative (the Plymouth version of the Dodge Dart Swinger), creating a Plymouth clone of the Dodge pickup; Plymouth was already selling their version of the Mitsubishi-sourced Dodge D-50 as the Arrow Pickup.

Plymouth Scamp and Scamp GT were a single-year model, in retrospect not worth the tooling and development costs, minimal though the latter must have been. The front was taken from the Plymouth Turismo; functionally, the Scamp was identical to Rampage. Scamp GT, like Rampage 2.2, added a false hood scoop, tachometer, trip odometer, stripes, 14-inch argent silver steel wheels with trim rings, and five-speed manual, with a choice of cloth and vinyl reclining bucket seats (black with wide red stripe or just black). Prices were similar to the Dodge, at around $6,700 and $7,200; weight was somewhat and inexplicably greater, at 2,305 and 2,340 pounds for Scamp and Scamp GT. Scampt GT did boast a higher payload, 2,110 lb

At the end of the year, Plymouth had sold a mere 2,184 Scamps and 1,380 of the marginally more profitable Scamp GT. around a third of the Scamps and around a quarter of the GTs had the automatic; most Scamp buyers opted for the five speed manual, with the four speed being least popular. Stripe packages were very popular on the base Scamp; around one fifth of buyers opted for two-toned paint. Tonneau covers went to around 15% of Scamp buyers and nearly half of Scamp GT buyers. In those days of aftermarket stereos, it should not be surprising that nearly half of Scamps came with the radio delete; half of the remainder came with stereo.

rampage and scamp suspension

Shelby and Rampage and Scamp

Carl Raupe wrote:

In 1982, Chrysler introduced the Dodge Rampage and the Plymouth Scamp to compete with import trucks. Both were based on the Omni/Horizon platform with the wheelbases extended to 109 inches, beefer rear springs, and a pickup bed carved just behind the two front seats. Even with its diminutive size the little truck had double wall bed construction with galvanized steel.

Everything from the front seats forward is straight off the shelf Omni/Horizon. As with other car/truck vehicles they will carry neither a large load of passengers or cargo. But they will do darn near anything in a pinch. I live on a ranch in Texas. My Scamp with 278,000 miles serves me well every day...on the ranch or over Texas highways. It's the only truck I have every seen that gets such good gas mileage (43 mpg) you think it's making gas while you drive it.

Plymouth Scamp CAD drawings

In 1983, with the Rampage still fresh, Carroll Shelby said, “We are going to do a Rampage or a Shelby Street-Fighter version of the Rampage.” It did not appear until 1986, three years later, and two years after the last Dodge Rampage had been produced. Just 218 California Shelby Rampages were made; they looked like Shelby Chargers in front.

Gary Howell of Howell Automotive wrote this about his own Rampage:

The Rampage has had several carburetors on it. The one that I liked the best was the Holley 2305 series progressive two-barrel. Vibration destroyed several of them. The carburetor on it now is a reworked factory 5200 series Holley, Barry Grant fuel systems did a stage 3 rebuild on it. They wouldn't give me any flow numbers on it, but it should be in the low 400 cfm range. The basement of the engine is pretty much stock 1984, the cylinder head is G casting with a good 3 angle valve job. Cam is a .460 lift 288 duration. TRW followers and lifters. Stock lifters are the weak link in the valve train the ring are the protruding part is crimped on and doesn't live long above 7,000 rpms.

Mopar Performance intake, not much different than stock. Hedman Hedder with 2.5 in exhaust, no cat, and a turbo muffler. Sound like a angry swarm of wasps. Power put to the ground through a MP clutch and pressure plate, and a Shelby 5-speed with 3.85 gears. The secret to the low elapsed time is the body. Rampage is a pick-up, i.e. no weight in the bed, front wheel drive, hook and gone.


Dimension Inchesmm
Box length63.7 

tonneau cover

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