Home » Two-fer Truck Tuesday: 1982 and 1983 Dodge Rampages vs 1982 and 1983 Datsun 720s

Two-fer Truck Tuesday: 1982 and 1983 Dodge Rampages vs 1982 and 1983 Datsun 720s

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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:

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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?


Quiz Maker

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6 months ago

A front wheel drive pickup makes no sense whatsoever.

6 months ago

As a kid, I loved the oddball little Rampages and Brats and VW Pickups. But my handle says it all. Unkillable 720s for the win!

6 months ago

I was really in the minority!
That’s OK, I love those underdog Rampages. I would clean one up and repaint to glory.

6 months ago

My first car was a 1984 Nissan 720 that still said Datsun in the corner of the tailgate for anyone who hadn’t gotten the memo about the rebranding. It was a hand me down from my grandfather, 5 speed manual, crappy tan color. I took it with me to college, blew the head gasket, blew up the slave cylinder, and offroaded the crap out of it for years. Man, I miss that truck.

Not sure if images are allowed, but will try:

6 months ago

*deep breath*
Clearly I am on the losing side here, but goddamn I want a ute. Not enough to want to fix those but, but way more than I would want those Datsuns.

Dale Mitchell
Dale Mitchell
6 months ago

Without looking at brands, 4×4 > 2wd
Looking at brands .. well same result

6 months ago

Rampage all day.
In one of my many completely voluntary and extremely odd daydreams, after I won the lottery, I’d have a stockpile of original Chrysler FWD’s: L-Bodies, a couple original Caravans, a Daytona and Spirit, and enough original Chrysler 4 cylinders to make some real hodge-podge vehicles.
An N/A DOHC 2.2 for an Omni? Sure!
A Turbo III Caravan? Yup!
A 2.5L Rampage? Why not!
Just a mess of cars that’ll even less value that just would’ve wanted Chrysler to have done anyways…… which is quite often (um, 50 years of Charger Daytona’s and not ONE can do over 200mph? After all this time?!)
There’s something really wrong with me.
There is no cure lmao

Dale Mitchell
Dale Mitchell
6 months ago
Reply to  World24

You could offer me 29 rampages (any condition) vs one Datsun, I would take the Datsun every day, all day.

6 months ago

Great. I just got Ebola just from looking at the pictures of those Ramchargers.

6 months ago

I’ll take the Datsuns, and make a decent trail beater out of that king cab.

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