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INCP--Dodge Rampage

Rampage1 Inappropriately Named Chrysler Products week continues ...


It's the kind of word designed to be written in all-caps, possibly in red, with a bold typeface, certainly underlined, and ideally with more than one exclamation point. Spoken, it deserves to be either screamed or growled--again, ideally, it would be both, with the same kind of manic intensity normally reserved for the bellowing in monster truck commercials.

In short, rampage is an intense word, summoning up images of violence, uncontrollable power run amok, and hopeless desperation among its victims. Envision Godzilla rampaging through Tokyo, or the Incredible Hulk turning green and beginning his angst-ridden rampage through the U.S. military.

Rampage3_2 Bizarrely, the word also summons up the Dodge Rampage, the early 1980s spin-off of the Dodge Omni 024--a 2.2-liter, four-cylinder, two-seat mini-pickup truck that served as Chrysler's counterpoint to the little-remembered Volkswagen Rabbit pickup. For those who remember neither the Rampage or the Rabbit pickup, envision a smaller, much less powerful, less useful El Camino, and you'll be right on track.

The list of cars on which the appelation "Rampage" (RAMPAGE!) would be more appropriate would be a list of virtually every car ever made. Light, insubstantial, generally shoddily made, and with little power or hauling capacity, the Rampage was as slow as it was strange. As cars go, the Rampage was more Quasimodo than Frankenstein monster; about as intimidating as a sock monkey.

In what is no doubt becoming a familar refrain, I'm strangely attracted to this car. For one thing, the dichotomy between this car and its hyper-aggressive name would make it interesting to drive at least once. Besides, it is such a close cousin to the Dodge Shelby Charger, missing only a turbo engine, some striping, and a lovely fastback roofline, that I can't help but like it.

Rampage2_2 The top two photos are of an '82 Rampage for sale for $1,250 in South Carolina. The third is a pretty intriguing homemade Shelby version, meant to mimic the lovely and related Shelby Charger mentioned above. Now that version, if it had the turbocharged and intercooled 2.2-liter four cylinder, might be capable of a rampage or two.


Scream it with me!


--Chris H.


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I'm sure it was still useful for hauling around bags of pine bark, lawn equipment, or supplies for that DIY project you've been itching to get started.

I remember both the Dodge and the VW pickup ("VW makes a pickup?"). Certainly looks neat. Doesn't seem like this sort of thing ever really had much of a market; 'cept for El Caminos which had the whole macho thing going for it.

Maybe this was a response to the Subaru BRAT. Those from Wisconsin will immediately recognize the chuckles this model name produced.

(i.e., -wurst)


Hilarious! One of your best Car Lusts ever, Chris.

All this does is remind us that, at one time, Carroll Shelby must have sat in some bar and said to someone:

"Hell, you can put my name on a fresh turd if you turbocharge it and pay me enough!"

It's taken him over twenty years to live down that trademark pimp.

I did see somebody street up the VW pickup in a magazine once. With huge tires out back. The funny part was the VW was front wheel drive. So they were dead weight. I guess he did get the motor tuned for a good chunk more power, to the much smaller front tires. And it looked good, for what it was.

Please don't suggest anyone put that 2.2L Turbo in anything. It was fun engine for about the first 20,000 miles but it wasn't built to last.


Boy are you ( misinformed...

The US Dept of Agriculture had some for a while - it was zippy and had room to carry survey equipment around to farms and such. It suited the purpose well. If you want worthless - the Ford Fairmonts were the ones. One was stolen from a county office one time. As a theft of Federal property the FBI had to be notified. They couldn't believe someone stole one. It was a case of fruits of the crime being the appropriate punishment.

The US Dept of Agriculture had some for a while - it was zippy and had room to carry survey equipment around to farms and such. It suited the purpose well. If you want worthless - the Ford Fairmonts were the ones. One was stolen from a county office one time. As a theft of Federal property the FBI had to be notified. They couldn't believe someone stole one. It was a case of fruits of the crime being the appropriate punishment.

In Portland I see VW Rabbit trucks all the time. The gas powered version went quite fast and is great in traffic. The diesel powered version are in high demand here because they still run and accept biodiesel. I see a lot of minor contractors using Rabbit pickups for small jobs.

You may have forgotten the Rabbit Pickup, but like a lot of utilitarian VW designs, they stay around forever.

I had a Dodge Spirit R/T with the 2.2L Turbo 3. With a flowthrough cat and muffler, that little k-car was MEAN, and I smoked more than my fair share of uppity Mustangs and Mitsubishi 3000GTs (well, that one isn't exactly an accomplishment, but you shoulda seen their faces).

I think this is the vehicle about which a Chrysler VP was quoted as saying, "Once every pool cleaner in America had one, the market was saturated and they stopped selling!"

Classic - I had a Charger in that vintage, compared with today's standards a total turd-mobile, but it was cheap and got good mileage, and had reasonable cargo space.

Actually both Ford and Holden (GM) still make similiar vehicles:


or Ford

They'd probably have a decent market if they bothered to make these available in the US.

Don't recall ever hearing of the car before, but now I wonder if my blog name was inspired by subconscious memories of this car. Did it have cool TV commercials?

Heartily agree with your take on the Rampage (including the paradoxical affinity for same) but disagree with one other point.

Sock monkeys are terrifying. Slightly less so than clowns, but terrifying nonetheless.

See, this comes from people misinterpreting the name. If several of these vehicles are flattened and laid on an incline, they make excellent rampage for launching boats, making a skateboard ramp or a firm base for a giant Slip N' Slide run.

Laid flat, they are also passable floorage; compressed into a block they make decent anchorage; used as a reflecting and focusing device they can help direct sunlight to a chronic patch of herbiage.

Since they were prone to break down, there were plans to allow the car to be broken into several small sections which each passenger could then carry to the destination; the proposed name was at that time the "Dodge Portage".

I had a 1980 VW Rabbit pickup, purchased when it was about ten years old.

It was OK on pavement or good gravel roads, but the oil pan hung so low that you risked damage on rocky roads, driving across a pasture,

The lack of ground clearance was the main reason I got rid of it.


Carrol Shelby didn't even require the turbo before putting his name on a fresh turd and pocketing the money. My '82 Shelby Charger had the non-turbo 2.2. At altitude here in Colorado it would almost, almost break 100 mph. It looked hot for it's time though with the monogrammed bucket seats and racing stripes, but the original equipment 50 series Eagles cost almost $400 each to replace at 11,000 miles!

The best light pickup ever owned for it's time if you had the 5-speed. I've owned ford, chevy, Isuzu and mazda.
Quick for it's size. Very reliable if maintained. Front wheel drive-great in winter. Cheap on gas. It had the best ride of any light duty pickup.
It was not meant to be a med/heavy duty/off-road/race/tow pickup. The design was hard to love, they were copying the El Camino of that era, but by using existing front and new tooling for the box chrysler came up with a economical light duty pickup.

This is great. I was trying t tell somebody the name of a little pickup I had back in the mid eightys and couldn't remember. The Rampage...

Great little p/u. I had the 83 with the 5 sp manual. I changed out the carb for a little holley if I recall, added a custom exaust system and better tires and better shocks.

I drove the hell out of it, until about 1990. I then sold it to a friend of mine and he drove it for many more miles. I think it had close to 200,000 on it when I sold it.

I loved the gas milage and the front wheel drive and I remember I could get rubber in second and third.

Great memories.

Papa Ray

One big problem with the Rampage was that the air intake for the motor was pointing toward the ground in front of the right front tire. If you happened to be at a Big Boy having breakfast and then drove through a rain-puddle on your way out of the parking lot, you would suck water into the intake manifold and 'spin the crank' resulting a couple of thousand dollars worth of damage. Of course, the 50,000 mile warranty was easily bypassed by Chrysler by their saying that they weren't going to participate, at which time you have a company whose products I wouldn't have stuck up YOUR ass if there were room for the state of Texas.

Wasn't there another one in this class? The Suburu Brat - wasn't that some small car with a faux truck bed? If my memory serves me it even had seats in the bed for passengers????

I have had 4 Rampages in arow. Ist was "83. It got car jacked. 2nd was 84" It got totaled while parked. 3rd '84. I still have it but it runs badly (the only way they could get it to pass smog) 4th '84 . Still have it. I love the Rampage, and if they made them now, I would buy one new. Not interested in 2008 prototype. It carries a load and is still easy to park. It's a great car for a woman. Fits. Works. Runs forever.

Of all of the vehicles that I have owned that little rampage pick-up is still missed. It was comfortable, handled well, was able to pull everything up to a 18ft travel trailer, 20ft boat (with a 90hp merc on it). That little car/truck never complained, it just kept going.

Our K-car family ended up being an 83 Shelby Charger, 87 Charger, 83 Rampage (including sliding rear window and topper), 88 Shadow 2dr, 89 shadow 4dr and the Last was a 91 Dynasty.

It is a shame that we dont have vehicles like the above ones today,
we have (mostly all) settled for an import or two in an AMERICAN DRIVEWAY. My Cars- 97 Lincoln Mark 8, Dodge B350, Mercury XR-7

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