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The Plymouth Scamp and Dodge Rampage Were Compact El Caminos

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author photo by Doug DeMuro February 2017

The entire history of Chrysler is loaded with brilliant executions -- like the minivan, and the K cars, and the modern Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 -- and laughable failures. The Dodge Rampage and Plymouth Scamp were laughable failures.

A little back story. Way back in the late 1950s, Ford and General Motors each decided to produce a pickup truck that was also a car -- a vehicle that has survived in Australia as the "Ute." Ford had the Ranchero, which came out in 1957, and General Motors had the Chevy El Camino, which came out in 1959. Chrysler had nothing. This continued as both the El Camino and Ranchero were redesigned, first in the 1960s, then again in the 1960s, then in the 1970s, then again in the 1970s. Chrysler had nothing. Eventually, General Motors also made a GMC version of the El Camino -- first called the Sprint, then the Caballero. Chrysler had nothing.

And then, finally, the El Camino, and the Caballero, and the Ranchero were canceled in the 1980s, after 30 years on the market.

It was about this time that Chrysler rolled out a competitor.

The Chrysler competitors to the El Camino and the Ranchero were called the Plymouth Scamp and the Dodge Rampage, and I bet that you've never seen one if you were born after 1990. This is for two reasons. Number one, nobody bought them. And number two, the ones that people did buy wasted away into nothingness like four years later.

Much of the reason for this is that the Scamp and the Rampage weren't the full-size, body-on-frame work trucks that the "rivals" were. While the El Camino and Ranchero had a huge footprint and V8 power, Chrysler thought it could capitalize on the fuel crisis and tightening regulations by offering the Rampage and Scamp as front-wheel-drive vehicles based on economy cars, with 2.2-liter 4-cylinder engines.

The result was that the Rampage and Scamp had just 96 horsepower, they could haul just 1,145 pounds (or about 700 pounds once you put two good-size adults inside the truck), and they were complete disasters: Not only did they not offer the muscle and the brawn of their rivals, but they came literally 30 years too late -- at the very end of the popularity of the El Camino and the Ranchero. The Rampage lasted for three years (1982-1984); the Scamp lasted just one (1983).

A laughable failure indeed.

Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

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The Plymouth Scamp and Dodge Rampage Were Compact El Caminos - Autotrader