Why an ’84 Dodge Rampage? Something Different.

Richard Pedersen

Back in 1982, when we had a “gas shortage” and fuel prices went up substantially, many folks switched to diesel cars and trucks. I bought a new 1982 VW Rabbit diesel pickup truck. I kept it for about 20 years as I liked driving it so much, and it got 40 mpg, no matter how I drove it.

When the Dodge Rampage came out in 1982, I liked the looks of it much better than the VW. It also had more power and better carrying capacity than the VW did. And with its longer chassis, the Rampage offered more seat travel a slightly longer cargo box.

The half-ton Rampage was built in Belvidere, Illinois but only for three years, 1982–84, with total production of 37,401. My 1984 Rampage left the factory on September 22, 1984.

1984 Dodge Rampage front 3/4
Richard Pedersen

Rampages were made on the Dodge Charger chassis and are Charger from the front seats forward. The wheelbase was lengthened from 99 to 104 inches to allow for the pickup box, and the rear springs were heavy duty to accommodate cargo. The base price for 1984 was $6800, or $7300 if you opted for the 96-hp 2.2-liter 4-cylinder. It’s front-wheel-drive, and disc brakes and rack-and-pinion steering were standard, so this little truck really handles like a car. It also gets 30 mpg on the highway.

My Rampage has the 2.2 engine and a three-speed automatic transmission, along with a custom paint design, custom interior, and oversized 15-inch wheels. It’s a rust-free southern truck that was acquired new by NASA and used as a security patrol vehicle at one of its sites. There is still a NASA government sticker on the left door frame.

The agency had two Rampages at this location, both stripped-down models in white with brown interiors and bench seats, and when it was through with them, they were sold to a couple of auto auction companies and then on to a fellow in Nashville. He restored one of them for his wife and started on the other but had to quit working on it after an injury. I bought the unfinished one from him and have slowly restored it as time permitted.

1984 Dodge Rampage seats
Richard Pedersen

I spent a few winters slowly restoring all the mechanical components as well as replacing the windshield and completely replacing the interior. I had to rebuild the headliner fiberboard with fiberglass and replace many of the electrical components behind the dash and in the engine compartment. I replaced all the brake system and had the rack-and-pinion assembly rebuilt. It has all new ignition system components and a new fuel system, including the tank. As is the case with most small Chrysler products from this era, I had quite a session getting the engine to idle correctly. I rebuilt the Holley carb, which didn’t help, and then sent it out to a Holley specialist to have them go through it. It still didn’t idle right.

After I found metal shavings in the oil pan, I overhauled the engine, and while it was apart I had the it balanced and bored .030 over, but it still didn’t run correctly.

I finally discovered someone that had previously replaced the carburetor with a carb body that had one too many vacuum lines running to it, according to the emissions system diagrams. Once I eliminated one of the vac lines and plugged that extra port, the engine ran just fine. I had spent more than a year and way too many dollars chasing this problem, so needless to say I was very excited when I got it sorted.

Today the Rampage drives really well and turns heads wherever it goes. In its day, the 2.2 engine was advertised as a mini torque monster. It won’t win any races (unless you’re up against a diesel Rabbit), but when you come to a hill it just powers its way up without losing much speed. As far as I’m concerned it doesn’t need any more horsepower to be fun to drive.

“I never knew Chrysler built such a truck,” is the most frequent comment I hear at car shows. Another is, “Why did you restore this thing?” That’s easy: I wanted something different, something you never see anymore. I also get asked if it’s for sale, but I really can’t think of anything I would replace it with.—Richard Pedersen, Tony, Wisconsin

1984 Dodge Rampage rear 3/4
Richard Pedersen


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    Nice! My LeBaron with the 2.2L intercooled turbo was written up by Grace at Hagerty: https://www.h agerty.com/media/hagerty-community/rides-from-the-readers-1989-chrysler-lebaron-gtc-tii/. I did not need to restore mine, but I like it for the same reason … it’s different. Not going to see another one at a local cruise. That carburetor was a challenge back then. I purchased a 1984 NA Shelby Charger new, and no one could ever get that thing running smoothly. Based on my experience, I would never buy an early carbureted 2.2L. That engine is great with the FI, however. I love mine. Good luck with yours!!

    I would have liked to have shared this story with a friend of mine Ron. He had one of these and was restored to showroom condition. He really loved that truck.

    His heart gave out last summer and I was lucky to sit and talk to him at an event last spring. I hope his truck finds a worthy owner.

    It’s great how big the Hagerty tent is. Maybe not my cup of tea, but definitely interesting to see these again, and enjoy a reader’s passion.

    My first new car was a 1982 O24 Omni.4 speed and I loved that thing!! I would take it out on the ice in upstate N.Y. and in the mountains of the Adirondacks.Unstoppable.I still have the sticker.$6,200

    In 1987 a friend owned a Plymouth version of this little truck. A Scamp? I don’t remember its name. I imagine that it was identical to yours, except for the badges. Glad you’re keeping this one alive.

    It looks fantastic! I haven’t seen one in years. It begs for the turbo 2.2 out of the Shelby Charger though. I had a girlfriend who bought the NA Charger new, and it was a blast to drive. And then a friend of ours bought the first year turbo version of the Charger, instead of a BMW 3 series. (Possibly bad advice on our part) But she loved the turbo Charger, and it would walk away from her friends new 3 series. Neither of the Chargers could tolerate sitting in traffic on hot summer days though. More than once, we would have to pull over to let it cool down. (Or traffic started moving)

    Cool little ute. I see he sourced some Shelby Charger seats. I remember seeing one of these with a turbo swap running 14s at Englishtown. I’d love to get my hands on an 87 GLHS Charger someday.

    Sharp looking truck but plagued with Chrysler’s build quality of that era. My 2.2 5 speed would easily to 30 mpg even though it didn’t really run that great. The carb must have had dozens of hoses connected to it. Must have been pretending to be fuel injected?

    There is a guy in my area who has one that he has added additional boost to. Before him I have not seen one of these in at least 30 years.

    I have had two Plymouth Scamps, which were made only for 1983. One was a 4-speed base model, and the other a 5-speed GT model (which I still have). Despite their rubbery shifters, they are fun to drive – peppy, decent handling, and a not bad ride for a small pickup truck. The 5’2″ bed is almost as long as some of the monster four-door pickups of today. I used to get about 30 MPG on the highway with the 4-speed; I would expect the 5-speed to be slightly better, but have not really taken it anywhere. They are cute little utes – and useful, too.

    I also had an ’84 Rampage, and can testify that with a 5-speed they are delightfully torquey. The author’s problem lies squarely in the slushbox.

    As my screen name suggests, I also own an 83 Scamp. As of today (3/22/24), I have owned it for 35 years! I bought it in high school. It has gone through 2 restorations, and 2 significant power upgrades to get to the point it is at today. It now sports a turbocharged/intercooled 2.5L engine with a 5 speed, cranking out over 250 hp. It is a VERY fun truck. And will still get 32+mpg on the highway, if I stay out of it(hard to do). I love this truck, and will own it until I pass from this earth…

    I had a friend the in 80s buy one of these from a Chrysler dealer auction (lemonade buy back) nearly new, with a blown motor. He also bought a brand new GLH Shelby that one of the lot attendants had rolled and totaled. With the obvious mash-up of parts, his little pick-up was amazingly quick and seemed fast at the time. HIs other project was a Corvair pick-up with the middle (ramp & body) section removed, nicknamed “Stumpy”, that had a turbo motor from a Monza coupe. Wonder if either of those “trucklets” are still in circulation?

    There are still a handful or more shortened Corvair out there. They pop up in the Corvair groups from time to time and the history is always interesting. Still firsthand accounts of many being built.

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