Car-trucks: the automotive industry’s identity crisis on wheels.
Hybrid in the true definition of the word, these vehicles combined the styling and mechanics of both a car and a truck.
Eye-catching in the raised eyebrow kind of way, these creations reached the height of their popularity during the 1970s before fizzling out in the mid to late 1980s.
However, the early 1980s brought about a memorable Dodge entry known as the Rampage.
Production on the Dodge Rampage ran from 1982-1984, meaning it’s been more than thirty years since these vehicles were manufactured.
So, who cares? Why are we talking about the Dodge Rampage?
Well, because it looks like Dodge plans to resurrect the Rampage for the 2016 model year, marking its return to Dodge dealers across the country.
What was the Dodge Rampage?
When I was learning to drive, my father wisely cautioned, always look where you’re going, not where you’ve been.
Good advice, but in order to appreciate where Dodge is going with the Rampage concept, it’s worth checking the rearview to see exactly where the Rampage came from.
Similar to the larger El Camino, and created to compete with the Subaru BRAT and Volkswagen Rabbit Sportruck, the Dodge Rampage was part car, part truck.
Often called half-trucks or trucklettes, these vehicles offered the fuel economy of a car, with the convenience of a pickup truck.
The Dodge Rampage was just that.
It drove more like a car than a truck, but had that rear truck bed, giving it the appearance of a vehicle spliced together in Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory.
Or is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde a better literary reference?
Professional up front, with a surprising creature feature in the back?
Kinda like a mullet…business in the front, party in the back.
Billy Ray Cyrus, circa 1992.
I know. You get it.
In this case, the mad scientists behind the Rampage were Lee Iacocca and his special product guru, Hank Carlini.
The two Friday night poker buddies conceived of the design.
As the story goes, when Iacocca saw the design, he told Carlini, “do it.”
And so Carlini did.
Modeled after the Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon, both cars, the 1982 Dodge Rampage was outfitted with a 2.2-liter, four-cylinder engine, generating 96 horsepower and operated by either a four-speed manual or three-speed automatic transmission.
The Rampage was built on the L platform, designed by Simca, a French automaker, which was once a subsidiary of Chrysler.
Sales of the 1982 Dodge Rampage topped out at 17,636 units, but took a serious fall in 1983, partly because of the release of the 1983 Plymouth Scamp.
The Plymouth Scamp: Mischief on Wheels
Considered the Rampage’s twin, the Plymouth Scamp came in a base and GT model, with combined sales for 1983 totaling 3,564 units.
1983 marked the only production year for the Plymouth Scamp.
Both the Scamp and the 1983 Rampage were equipped with a 2.2-liter engine, operated by a five-speed transmission, with a maximum load capacity of approximately 1,145 pounds, establishing both trucklettes in the “half-ton” rated category.
Sales of the Dodge Rampage sank to 8,033 units in 1983, but bounced back in 1984, presumably in part because of the Scamp’s absence, with sales totaling 11,732.
All told, the Dodge Rampage sold over thirty thousand of the half-trucks, and one can assume this was partly because of its EPA-estimated fuel economy of 21/29 miles per gallon, which was great, considering the United States was still smarting from the oil crisis and uncertainty of the 1970s.
Dodge on the Rampage Again
Although the exact release date has yet to be announced, the new Dodge Rampage is expected to arrive sometime in 2016.
First introduced in 2006 at the Chicago Auto Show, the truck remained a concept, as Head of Design, Ralph Gilles, explained:
“It’s a concept. Sometimes a concept is not done to show a future production model, but as a rolling test bed to show off things that might make an appearance in future vehicles.”
Looks like the future has arrived.
Loaded with modern features and standard innovations like Bluetooth technology, USB ports, Wi-Fi, infotainment-navigation systems, and cruise control, the new Dodge Rampage is offers lots of luxury and comfort in a pickup truck package.
Lead exterior designer, Scott Krugger, explains, “The Rampage was designed as a truck for people who aren’t into trucks, more of a nontraditional truck buyer.”
Yet, from what we can tell of the specs so far, it’s sure to delight traditional truck buyers as well.
Instantly recognizable by the Dodge sixty-side crossbar grille, signature hood and headlights, the Rampage sports new headlamps, featuring LED technology.
Equipped with 22-inch wheels for greater stability, the Rampage earned a five-star safety rating in government crash tests.
Though not officially released yet, the exterior colors have been reported as black, bronze, gray, and white.
Able to seat five-seven passengers, thanks to the split folding seats and Dodge exclusive Stow N’ Go cutting-edge storage innovation, the Rampage boasts leather seats and high-end, soft-touch materials throughout the spacious cabin.
Backseat passengers will enjoy enhanced legroom and ample storage options for all kinds of cargo.
What the future of the Rampage has left in the past is its mini-size and squat stature, good news for consumers who want more from their vehicle, with respect of passenger comfort.
In Krugger’s words, “This is a truck for the person who wants the functional aspects of a truck yet doesn’t want a traditional vehicle. The Rampage has the capability of a pickup without sacrificing occupant space.”
Basically, the best of both worlds.
After all, wasn’t that the whole point of pairing a car with a truck?
Drivetrains and a Green Rumor…
When it is released, expect the 2016 Dodge Rampage to come standard with a HEMI V8 5.7-liter engine, able to get 345 horsepower, and controlled by a five-speed automatic transmission.
Front-wheel drive comes standard, with the projected fuel economy estimated at 15/18 miles per gallon.
There are plans to release a diesel option, and even a buzz about a hybrid model…but, let’s just wait and see how this long-anticipated Rampage does first.
Ready to Go on a Rampage?
Unless you’re in the market for a rare find, which would be the case with the original Rampage models and certainly with the single-year Scamp, you should set your sights on the future Rampage release.
Pricing is estimated to start at $30,000 and top out around the $40,000 range.
Whether or not you consider yourself a pickup truck person seems irrelevant.
The upcoming creation seems to offer something altogether new, something undefinable.
Be a pioneer. Defy definition behind the wheel of the 2016 Dodge Rampage.