Streetside: 1984 Dodge Rampage Prospector - Evocative Utility

Philip Ruth

Philip Ruth | Oct 18, 2017

Funny what you find in front of a nearby AutoZone on an evening fuel filter run - a super-rare 1984 Dodge Rampage, complete with the Prospector trim package.

The fact that cash-strapped Chrysler shelled out to build a utility version of its popular L-Body - the Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon - reinforces that small cars were a big thing back in the early 1980s.

You'd look to the two-door hatchback versions of the Omni/Horizon - which by 1984 were called Dodge Charger and Plymouth Turismo - for the chopping block from which the Rampage (and its shorter-lived Plymouth sibling, the Scamp) sprang. The front end is all Charger, with the '80s-sporty soft nose cone striking a purposeful note.

The nose cone is notably rounder than the pointer sheetmetal following it, which marks the Rampage as having transitional styling. The body was drawn up in the late 1970s, when the rules were set by boxes and creases. But design trends in the '80s favored more swollen contours to aid aerodynamics, and the bolting on of a bulbous snout was a fine way to approximate that.

These aluminum wheels could be found on other Dodges. The 600ES wore them as it aspired to be a German touring sedan, and this Rampage included them as part of the American Western-themed trim package, the Prospector.

"Prospector." What better way to flatter your rugged-individualist buyer who wants a pickup truck but must live within the contemporary realities. The U.S. was slowly emerging from a painful recession, and high interest rates and fuel costs limited many an automotive ambition.

But if you got the Rampage Prospector, you'd be reminded of the distinction every time you reached for the door.

The Rampage Prospector presents images of tools that evoke the possibility of golden fortune. Does your truck do that?

This Rampage Prospector's bed has side rails to brace and tie the loads, and there's a dotted line of buttons for the tonneau cover. The staggered formation of the buttons appears to indicate that the cover is tailored around the rail supports. 

The bed in this example has seen its share of use, with a too-heavy load placed in the rear portion at some point.

The Rampage Prospector's black roof picks up the body's lower black accent. They combine to thin out the Rampage's silhouette.

California's Gold Rush is what many think of when it comes to prospecting, so it's appropriate that this well-preserved Rampage Prospector has the state's period blue plates. The mild climate has kept rust at bay, and so this Rampage Prospector keeps helping to make each day an unexpected and bounteous adventure.

A little levity is rarely a bad thing. As this Rampage Prospector's owner makes their way through society's confines, a vehicle that affirms one's independent spirit - even with just a couple of decals - might be just the thing that gets them through.

Get the Car Talk Newsletter

Got a question about your car?

Ask Someone Who Owns One