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The 1984 Dodge California Shelby 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.

1984 California Shelby Rampage

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.

Side view
“Parts chaser” at the skunkworks, with door stripes and Shelby decal from the shorter-wheelbase Charger. This would be fixed for the production CS Rampages.

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.

Another front quarter view
Production CS Rampages on Chrysler’s New Car Prep lot.
All CS versions came with a Direct Connection windshield decal.

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).

Front quarter view
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 for the stock California Shelby Rampage.

Broadcast sheet (top half)
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.

  1. 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.

    california rampage
  2. I have heard some people claim that the CS Rampages were only offered in one color; this being Santa Fe Springs blue (as shown above). The truth is they were offered in all the 1984 Shelby Charger colors.
  3. There 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, 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.

inside Shelby California Rampage

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.


Stu Suede

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.

Rampage window sticker

Calvin Sanders

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.

Alan Edge

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.

1984 Dodge 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.

Carl Novak

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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