Welcome back to another exciting edition of Shitbox Showdown! Today, we’re seeing double as we look at two pairs of mini-trucks, each for sale for one low price. But first, we need to finish up with yesterday’s overcomplicated Germans:
The big Volkswagen, eh? It sounds like rarity won out over panache in this case. And it’s a good point – you’re more likely to see another sketchy Cayenne for sale long before another Phaeton crosses your path.
Now, the big difference between yesterday’s projects and today’s is that while you couldn’t pay me to take either of yesterday’s choices, I’d happily tackle either or both of today’s projects if I had a place to put them. Both are two-for-one deals on compact trucks from the early ’80s, and either pair has the potential to yield at least one really fun little truck. Let’s take a look.
1982 and 1983 Dodge Rampage – $1,495
Engines/drivetrains: 2.2 liter inline 4, 4 speed manual (5 speed in parts truck), FWD
Location: Gleneden Beach, OR
Odometer reading: 81,000 miles
Runs/drives? Starts, but needs a fuel pump to run (no engine in parts truck)
Silly David. He went all the way to Australia to wrench on a pair of rusty Chrysler-made utes, when we’ve got a pair of them right here in Oregon! And they actually look marginally better.
OK. Only marginally. But still.
It’s no secret by now that I have a somewhat perverse attraction to ’80s Chrysler vehicles. And this is one of my favorites. For three years only, 1982-84, Dodge lopped off the back half of the L-body Omni 024/Charger and grafted on a pickup truck bed to create a stylish little ute, sort of a miniaturized version of Chevy’s El Camino. And for 1983, Plymouth came along for the ride with a version badged as the Scamp.
You may laugh at the notion of calling this a “truck,” but the EPA classified it as such, and it has a payload rating of 1,145 pounds, less than contemporary body-on-frame small trucks, but nothing to sneeze at. You won’t move mountains with it, but for most small-truck duties, it has plenty of capacity.
This sale is for two Rampages. This black one is the better of the two, intact, with a four-speed stick. It runs, according to the seller, but has a bad fuel pump. The fuel pump on this is mechanical, easily available, and a cinch to replace; I think the seller just wants it gone. Or someone in the house does.
The second Rampage included is described as a “parts truck,” and even that may be generous. Too bad, because it has the cool “Rampage 2.2” graphics on it. But the seller says it was “damaged by flood and crazy ex-girlfriend.” Whether those two events are causally connected or simply coincidental isn’t specified. But there are some useable parts on it, particularly the five-speed manual, which gives it an overdrive fifth and much better overall gear ratios. Yank the gearbox, and whatever glass and salvageable trim you think you might need, and scrap the rest, I would say.
1982 and 1983 Nissan/Datsun 720 4×4 – $2,000
Engine/drivetrain: 2.2 liter inline 4, 5 speed manual, part-time 4WD
Location: Longview, WA
Odometer reading: unknown
Runs/drives? Both run, one needs a clutch and the other has gearbox problems
The Datsun (later Nissan) 720 series pickup is another vehicle with which I have personal experience. I bought one for $800 in the depths of a bitterly-cold Minnesota winter when I lived in Duluth. It was half-buried in a snowbank when I went to look at it, and it was -25F out. The truck started right up, heaved itself out of the snowbank without help, and I said, “I’ll take it.”
These trucks are both powered by the NAPS-Z (Nissan Anti-Pollution System) engines. These engines aren’t as famous as Toyota’s 20R/22R truck engines are, but they deserve to be. They’re single-overhead-cam, chain-driven, with two spark plugs per cylinder, maddeningly using different plugs for the intake and exhaust sides of the head. (Don’t mix ’em up, either.) But apart from that weirdness they’re sturdy, efficient motors that last for eons if cared for, and half an eon if abused.
The seller only included one photo of each truck, so what you see is all I know. The ’82 King Cab pictured above looks to have a slightly better body. It has a bad clutch and a broken windshield, according to the seller. This ’83 standard cab, which if it were dark blue would be the spitting image of my old truck, has an unspecified “bad tranny,” but includes a replacement. It’s a little more work getting the gearbox out on a 4WD truck, because you have to get the transfer case and front driveshaft (and the front suspension torsion bars, if memory serves) out of the way, but not impossible.
For two grand, this package sounds like it’s worth a closer look, actually. The seller says you could easily make one good truck from these, but I bet you could get both of them going, pick which one you like better, and then sell the other one, and probably recoup what you spent. Free truck! If only I had a place to work on them…
So there you go: Sports-coupe-based utes, or Japanese 4x4s. Either way, it’s a pair of them. Which one – er, I mean two – will it be?
Gotta go with the Rampages. I’ve always wanted a mid-eighties Shelby Daytona Ute (check out allpar for pics), and with these two I could pretend it’s a project I’m actually gonna start on.
I always thought those Dodges were interesting, but with the sever rust in the roof, they’d be a no go.
Not sure how long those Dodges have been sitting in ocean breeze and being rained on 9 months out of 12, but whatever hasn’t been eroded away is the rootbeer-brown and orange-pinstriped soul of the early 80’s. As a teen of that era, I plead that we let it gently leach into the earth.
Those Datsun 4x4s can be fixed up and sold for like $4,000 each. I love Datsuns. Errybody loves Datsuns. They’re the best, mang.
Nothing against the Rampages, but a 4×4 extended cab Datsun is too good to pass up!
Body on frame > unibody any day once you get to DT levels of rust. More likely to be salvageable.
I got an ’86 Nissan 720 4×4 for free. Didn’t have a title, which was fine, because it was my offroad-only toy. Used it for a few years, and gave it away to a friend. He ended up rolling it somehow.
Datsuns would make for a decent foundation for a truggy. not sure if in the end you would pay less than just buying a RZR, but in theory you could license and drive on the road the end result.
One of my friends in the early 1980s had a Rampage, his first new car. The Rampage only lasted a year or so before it was traded in on a Daytona Turbo Z, the one thing I remember about it was that when you put a heavy load in the back, the front wheel drive got unloaded making it a handful in the winter (snow tires would have helped but in those days the common (mis)conception was if you had FWD you didn’t need snow tires).
Another friend (a couple of years later) had a Nissan 720 4×4 pickup. The Nissan stuck around for many years and other than the emissions carb, was unkillable.
Nissan all the way today.
I had an old 200sx with that twin-plugged motor. He ain’t joking when he says they’re unkillable. I always thought the Rampages were cool looking and I typically support Utes in general, but today I gotta vote Datsun.
I have an odd affinity for the pickup car so despite my general disinterest in all Chrysler products I’m going rampage. Also, there is one on my way to the cottage that has been slowing going back to the earth over the past few years.
Every time I drive by I think about stopping to see if it is for sale, depsite the fact my wife would be pretty mad if I showed up with it.
That one looks in way better condition than either of the two up top – buy all three and you’ll have spares to keep at least one of them running for days!
I think the photo makes it look better than it is, also that is from a few years ago. It looks rougher in person. Not David Tracy levels of visible rot but give it another winter and it might be there.
As much as I’d love to tell everybody that I own “these two utes,” the Datsuns are the better buy.
Goddamn! I love me some bedside cleats! Datsun for the win!
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Well, that’s fine, but are you going Team Chryler or Team Datsun/Nissan? More importantly, which one does the almighty Priest EHIS choose?
And even more important, can Priest EHIS make $12,000 to $17,000 per month working part time from home?
Okay, this post changed entirely and I’m onboard with the content.
“If you can find a better cult, join it!”
Thanks for the easy one, today. Yesterday’s shitshow made my head hurt a little..
I much prefer Toyotas to Datsuns, but today I find I prefer Datsuns to this particular pair of Rampages. Mostly because the Datsuns are in better shape, are probably more useful, and aren’t so very rare. I’d follow Mark’s “free truck” plan.
Gah! How am I supposed to decide here? Dodges and Datsuns are my jam! The Z24E NAPS-Z engine in the 720 will indeed run until the end of time, but the Chrysler 2.2 is no slouch, and parts practically grow on trees.
I’m going to have to go with the extra ute quirkiness of the Rampages.
If Dodge wanted to compete with the Ford Maverick and come out with their own small truck, the Rampage would be a good name. However, all their trucks are now sold under the Ram name so it would be the Ram Rampage which would be a good heavy metal band name.
Ram Rampage just sounds Metal
Sounds like an episode of Archer too.
Terms of Enrampagement!
I got your ram rampage right here…
Personally, I think Ram’s Maverick fighter should just be called Beau. Then the limited launch editions could be First Blood.
Went with the Datsuns due to usability. The Utes are nice, but not my niche.
A twofer, I want to take one of each please! A Rampage for the obscurity of never seeing one running in over 30 years, and the Nissan for a street racer. The Rampage though, is ripe for the 3.0 TT V6.
If my wife wouldn’t murder me I’d get all 4 and hang onto them until neices and nephews were old enough to learn to work on them so they could have their own vehicle that they have a vested interest in when they get their licenses.
Found the crazy Uncle!
You mean the AWESOME uncle…
Yea that’s what I said!
Part of me wants to say the Rampages in the worst way… but I know that the Datsuns have resale value, utility, and capability in their favor, so that’s where I’m going.
Got to go Datsun
As much as I love those old Nissans, gimme the Rampages. You can build a very stout turbo motor for those, which would be most entertaining.
Nissan over Chrysler any day
Twice on Tuesdays!
You typically find the 720 in 2WD flavor, so that alone is a compelling argument in favor of these. I’ve done the spark plug dance on this engine and, while annoying, it’s not so bad. They’re great little engines and have a good, useful power band IMO. These are the ones that cemented Nissan’s reputation for solid, quirky trucks. My brother had a 720, put it through all hell and it just ran and ran. Put me down for the 1440.
Got a screaming deal on a built up 2.2Turbo and 5-speed transmission. Just been looking for a
victimvehicle to put it into. Gimme the lil trucksters