36K Original Miles: 1983 Dodge Rampage

Jeff LaveryBy Jeff Lavery

The Dodge Rampage trucklet is a fan favorite among Mopar enthusiasts from the 80s, even if the concept never truly took off with consumers. All too often, the ones that remain on the road have actually been used, resulting in tired bodywork and mechanical components.  This example here on eBay skirts that fate with low miles, a recent respray and fresh floors installed to eliminate what little rust it had. The Buy-It-Now of $2,500 seems quite reasonable, and there’s the option to submit a best offer. 

Mileage is low at 36,850, and the seller notes it was garaged for most of its life. It does need a new carb to run but its mechanical ills are said to be limited to that and a mushy brake pedal. Otherwise, the seller considers it one of the best in the region, but considering the relative obscurity of the Rampage, it may be one of the best in the country. That said, it still needs work like most of them do which we suspect is reflected in the low list price.

The new floors are a major plus, but it does beg the question as to whether there is any other rust hiding in the body or chassis. Its location in Pennsylvania doesn’t necessarily mean it was driven in winter, but the odds are good given these were marketed as mini workhorses. Overall, it feels like a project that the seller acquired knowing it wouldn’t need to much to run again, and did the bare minimum to make it attractive to a new owner. Lack of rust is a major selling point, as is the manual transmission.

The most attractive part of this Rampage is you can drive it as is; restore it back to OEM condition; or perform a GLH conversion. It hasn’t been modified or otherwise messed with, and the clean platform makes it worth throwing some money at. At the very least, it looks ready to use as intended for runs to the dump and other light-duty tasks. If the owner bit at an offer of $1,800-$2K, this looks like a fun winter project with minimal headache.

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Comments

  1. XMA0891

    I am drawing a blank, Dodge had the Rampage, Plymouth had the _____? In spite of their many shortcomings, I always liked these for reasons that still elude me.

    1+

    • Michael Carney

      The Plymouth Scamp

      2+

    • Jay M

      Scamp

      6+

    • Walter Joy

      Arrow?

      2+

    • Rick Loera

      Scamp is what the Plymouth version. Was called. My friend Mike had an 84 Rampage with the Shelby package. Burgundy with silver stripes and accents. Grey bucket seats . Can’t remember if they had the Shelby stitching on the seat backs, like my other friend Phil who had an 85 Black Shelby Charger. Phil’s had the 2.2 liter with turbo. 146 hp. Mike’s Rampage had the none turbo 2.2.

      0

  2. John D.

    Arrow was a Mitsubishi body on frame mini-truck. If I remember correctly, it was killed about the same time as the Scamp. It lived on quite a few more years as the Dodge Ram 50.

    2+

  3. John Newell

    I owned a 1983 Dodge Rampage. A black 2.2 litre with fake hood scoop and special aluminum that were dealer installed that I never saw on another vehicle. It got 30 miles per gallon (Cdn) and I drove at at between 80 and 100 mph all the time sun, rain or blizzard. It never felt like the pavement was anything but warm and dry. I drove up hills other cars slid down backwards. In heavy snow I drove around stalled traffic on the wrong side of the road. My Rampage made other cars look like oversized paperweights.

    Soon after I traded my Rebel Machine and my wife’s Honda for it (it took me ten years to find an Rea wire my Machine) I put a cap on it. That transformed the Rampage from a small underpowered pickup to a large dog transport, safe passage for thousands of dollars worth of men’s and women’s new fashion merchandise to hauling sand and cow manure not in that order.

    The Rampage’s problems were few. It was under powered by at least 300 horsepower. But since I spent most of my time on the 401 at a hundred as noted, I could forgive that sort of. Besides the 30 mpg was vital at the time.

    The other major issue was the location of the gas filler. It was too low to the ground and in winter it felt like it took several weeks to fill the tank with an arctic blast blowing straight from the tundra.

    In the years I had it – 1983 to 1989, it had one mechanical problem. The clutch cable broke. Most conveniently just as I was nearing a Texaco station where the clutch cable was repaired while I waited. Where I waited was across the street in the upstairs massage parlour I designed for a client. Lying on the table having a most luxurious free massage while I watched my Rampage be repaired for $45.00 was a unique experience.

    Eventually I sold it because the driver’s side A pillar rotted out and bought a new Dodge Daytona that was even more gutless than the Rampage. A few months later I bought a 1990 Jeep Cherokee 5 speed. As good as it was, it could not be driven on black ice at high rates of speed like the Rampage could. That was a tough adjustment.

    No other vehicle I’ve ever driven or heard of could be driven through traffic at very high speeds in the harshest of weather like my Rampage – mini pickup truck that handled better than any sports car.

    Plus the bed was big enough for me to sleep in stretched out – no need for hotels unless my wife was with me.

    I’d buy another one brand new right now if I could get one.

    The tires on myRampage were Firestones. When I bought the Rampage I tried to get the dealer to give me anything else but them. Exploding Firestones were extremely unpopular at the time. But those were what I cruised through snow, ice, hail and torrential rain on at a hundred + mph.

    Those were the days.

    21+

    • Neal

      Great comments. Thanks for sharing!
      Consistent travel at 100 mph is crazy! You’re lucky. Yes, I’m sure skilled too. But lucky.

      1+

      • John Newell

        Luck only takes you so far where speed is concerned. Our generation grew up in a unique time – the baby boomers forced the expansion of cities and our network of roads. For a time we had a lot of mostly empty roads or nearly empty compared to these days.

        Most intermediate two door hard tops were built for and as street racers. A lot of people were street racers including women.

        Travelling 100 mph on roads like that was actually safer than doing the speed limit if you had the right kind of vehicle.

        Most people were afraid to drive that fast. I quickly learned that driving that fast was much safer than going slow since that’s what al unskilled drivers did. Going slow meant you were always surrounded by potentially incompetent drivers.

        A high speed vehicle needed precise steering, disc brakes, radial tires, lots of horsepower, seat belts, coil spring suspension and balance.

        For this reason many station wagons were perfect snow vehicles. Those with mid sized V8 engines were perfect. But useless at high speed cornering because the whole car just weighed too much. So you weren’t likely to out-run the police in one but you could drive all day at a hundred on the new super highways.

        The Rampage with a cap on the back was effectively a mini station wagon and great for high speed travel but not for fast take-offs. The best at both and all around high speed travel was the AMC Sportabout, a small station wagon with a V8 under the hood.

        Speed was never an issue in terms of safety.

        At a hundred miles an hour time slows down traffic to the status of pylons. You have time to watch the heads of the drivers of most vehicles. Head movement and even the style of hat worn gives lots of information about how or if a driver will do a certain thing or react a certain way. Fedoras were a dead give away for an incompetent lazy driver.

        You watch under and around vehicles for otherwise obstructed view objects that could prompt/require evasive action.

        At high speed in daylight field of vision is vital. You don’t want a child, animal, person to enter the road you are travelling. You are extremely farsighted so you see tiny details long before they become problems. So there are never any problems or even close calls.

        When you are going that fast you’re on high alert or you don’t live.
        If you cannot maintain that high alertness you must not speed or a fatal accident is almost certain. It pays to be tense. You can’t be tense and drowsy at the same time.

        You also need to know what the vehicle is in front, behind and on either side at all times. One of them could be a cop.

        The purpose of the speed though is not speed for speed’s sake. It’s best use is to control how close other vehicles can be to you. With plenty of space around you, accidents are almost nil unless a distraction occurs or a medical problem. Distractions and medical issues can be fatal at any or no speed.

        Speed can shorten the duration of a long trip (several hours or days). Speeding for shorter distances doesn’t work unless you can time the lights which I always learn in a new area. There is no benefit or reason to speed through a school zone or a hospital zone so you never do that.

        Most muscle cars were not candidates for long distance high speed driving because they were geared for quarter mile drag racing. They could only sustain high speeds for short bursts or blow up and very poorly balanced front to back.

        Today’s sports cars are engineered and balanced much better than older cars and even trucks today can out perform most old muscle cars.

        All wasted until the public and legislators finally realize that our speed limits were set and are set for dump trucks, cranes, transports, buses, campers, and cement trucks. Cars and light pickups can and do easily and safely travel much faster.

        0

  4. Mark Member

    So a happy ending !

    3+

  5. Chuck Cobb

    shifter seems to indicate an automatic transmission

    1+

  6. Howard A Member

    The Rampage/Scamp remains the only US built front wheel drive pickup. I’ve always liked these. Being a big, not huge, fan of K cars, this seemed to make the most sense, with a cap, like John sez.
    http://carphotos.cardomain.com/ride_images/2/3853/3761/22131880002_large.jpg
    There just wasn’t enough covered space in the cab. Sorry, this one looks a little rough, and I have seen really nice ones. Very limited appeal, why it failed in the 1st place and I’ve decided to go with a small wagon. Why would it need new floors at 35K? 135, maybe, and they were dependable, so someone ran this thru the PA. salt at one time.

    0

    • Evan

      @Howard A:

      Weren’t the Rabbit pickups built at the plant in Westmoreland, PA?

      0

      • Howard A Member

        Hi Evan, that may be true, but this was of the American makes. I always thought the Rampage/Scamp was a knee jerk reaction to the VW. I never understood why the VW was so much more popular.

        0

  7. JimmyJ

    Looks like an automatic to me…

    1+

  8. Howard A Member

    Now, if this was a Shelby Rampage, whole different story.
    http://www.allpar.com/photos/dodge/omni/shelby-rampage.jpg

    0

    • John Newell

      You’re right Howard. The Rampage was 300 horsepower short of what it needed under the hood. Another subtler issue was that it’s a vehicle best suited for short guys. In winter a big guy wearing winter clothes would have been extremely cramped.

      But the heater was the best I’ve ever experienced in any vehicle. The vents were perfectly placed to put heat on cold hands and for some reason Rampges could throw meaningful heat on the coldest mornings within a block from home. Nothing could touch it in this category.

      0

      • Ralph Robichaud

        Given the size of the passenger cab, you could have it toasty warm by simply lighting a match!

        0

    • John Newell

      I just saw the photo of the Shelby Dodge Rampage. Fewer options than mine. No hood, no high back buckets and wheels were not as nice as mine. Does this version have turbo? No sign of that.

      But still very nice.

      0

      • Rick Loera

        No

        0

  9. whippeteer

    It’s an automatic. But I question needing new floors on a 36K vehicle. At a minimum, that shows a lot of use on salted roads.

    0

  10. Nevis Beeman

    An elderly lady of my acquaintance owned one of these, and drove it until unable to drive ….thereafter she was chauffeured around in it by her daughter.Eventually her final journey was taken,horizontal, in the back of her Rampage, by special written request. She obviously thought it was pretty special…..sadly it’s ultimate fate is unknown !

    0

  11. PAPERBKWRITER

    Never even heard of this vehicle. guess they weren’t big sellers.

    0

    • John Newell

      No they weren’t big sellers but they were underpowered and that surely did not help.

      0

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