Junkyard Classic: 1983 Dodge Rampage – It Can Haul 1145 Pounds Of Hantavirus

Ah, the Rampage.  Dodge’s “Sports Pickup”, sold between 1982 and 1984, was a short-lived phenomenon.  While a few are still roaming the streets, as of this month there is one less out there.  In this case, a 1983 model which I stumbled across a few weeks ago.

I don’t believe I have ever driven or ridden in one although they weren’t that uncommon in Southern California when I was younger.  Obviously based on the Dodge Omni they used the swoopier styling of the 024 variant.  I suppose if they had used the Omni itself it would look just like a VW pickup, might as well try to set it apart.

This ad is somewhat interesting in how they compare the truck to the S-10 and the Ranger.  While obviously front wheel drive, I didn’t realize that the payload was so similar to the other two.  In addition, the Rampage had more power and torque than either (when equipped with the standard engines).

I think they are kind of reaching when they list color-keyed carpeting as a feature on a truck, but the amount of galvanized metal is an interesting statistic (340 square feet of it vs 265 on the S-10 and only 50 on the Ranger).  Did these end up doing much better in regard to rust in the real world?  This one looks pretty good but rust isn’t a huge thing in Colorado.

Why were all the plastic bumper pieces yellow underneath the paint?  Mustangs of this era exhibit the same phenomenon when they get worn.

That’s actually not terrible as far as space goes.  It’s also a rare pickup in that you can almost strain your back reaching down into it to get something out of it.  Bend with your knees, folks.

My first college roommate had an Omni 024 and I remember that steering wheel.  Very rubbery and sort of mushy, kind of like fake flesh or something.  The key is in the ignition in this one.  I always wonder what went wrong to make it end up here, if it’s not an obvious accident it’s hard to tell.  The mice have been at work on this one a bit but otherwise it’s decently preserved in here. I guess the standard color-keyed carpeting is a nice touch after all, and you all know that I do love me some red interior!

It’s a bit hard to make out in this picture (look just ahead of the grab handle on the above picture), but the door locks are a knob that you twist 90 degrees to lock and unlock.  Was the Omni like that as well?  It seems extremely non-intuitive as compared to the pull tab or rocker switches in most cars.

Besides being a bit faded, that seat fabric is in phenomenal condition.  It’s kind of a fairly coarse cloth that seems well padded and looks pretty comfortable.  The doors wouldn’t open for me for some reason so this is as close as I could get.  Of course with the mouse droppings I wasn’t overly interested in actually climbing in to really see for myself.

It appears to have died just before quitting time, a few minutes before 5 O’clock.  There’s no way of telling if it’s done 113,000 miles or 213,000 miles, unfortunately.  The HVAC controls to the left of the wheel are a bit bizarre, there isn’t much space there and it seems like you’d be fumbling around in the dark half the time too.

The mighty Chrysler 2.2.  An engine I have zero familiarity with, unfortunately.  Or fortunately?  But there it is, covered in dust and dirt.  Maybe that means there wasn’t ever much reason to open the hood and fiddle with it.  99hp and 115lb/ft of torque wasn’t horrible back in the day for this size engine.  A VW GTI’s 1.8L only put out 90hp in the same year with less torque too.

Here’s the ad from the original (1982) year.  Note that payload was lower by 70 pounds.  I wonder what was different to cause the increase for 1983. The gas mileage number seems ludicrous, I can’t believe these got anywhere near 47mpg on the highway with a 2.2L engine, even at the 55mph speed limit.  Maybe on a downhill section?  I’m obviously aware the standards/testing regimen has changed several times since then but did this fool anyone?


The owner’s manual was on the dashboard along with a loose Rampage badge.  Yes, I tucked them back inside after taking the picture on the hood, although I maybe should have taken them, they are interesting artifacts.

Looking back, it was an interesting little sub-section of the market.  Clearly the Ford Ranger and Chevy S-10 just dominated over the Rampage, Dodge’s advertising selling points notwithstanding.  And the Japanese obviously did as well.  I wonder how this fared against Dodge’s own in-house Japanese transplant, the Dodge D50/Ram50 (a rebadged Mitsubishi Mighty Max).  Obviously producing something in-house is preferable to buying it in, but the Rampage wasn’t offered in 4WD or in any other body configuration.  For 1984 the front end changed a bit with a move to four headlights but then the lights went out for good at the end of that model year and the Rampage ended.

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