Junkyard Find: 1983 Plymouth Scamp


1983 Plymouth Scamp in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsNorth American sales of Japanese-made small pickups went crazy during the 1970s, with the Detroit Big Three getting in on the action with rebadged Mazdas, Isuzus, and Mitsubishis. Ford and GM eventually created their own Michigan-style small trucks, the Ranger (1983 model year) and S-10 (1982 model year) but where was struggling Chrysler— in a frenzy trying to get the new K-Cars out the door— supposed to find enough money to develop a new truck design from scratch? Fortunately, Volkswagen had shown that front-wheel-drive worked well enough in little pickups, and the versatile Omnirizon platform proved suitable for a bit of El Camino-ization. Here’s the result, found in a Denver yard last summer.

1983 Plymouth Scamp in Colorado junkyard, RH rear view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe Dodge Omni/Plymouth Horizon came out of a Chrysler Europe effort to build a VW Golf competitor, and the North American versions (which differed substantially from their Simca/Talbot brethren) sold very well starting in the 1978 model year. Chrysler USA developed a wide range of cars from this L-Body platform, including the Dodge 024/Plymouth TC3, 1983-1987 Dodge Charger, and the legendary “Cocaine Factory” Turismo Duster, even while K-based machinery rolled off assembly lines.

1983 Plymouth Scamp in Colorado junkyard, rear view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsSo, a Dodge Omni 024 with pickup bed and Rampage badges appeared in the 1982 model year, with production continuing through 1984. The Plymouth-badged version was called the Scamp (after the cheap-but-sporty hardtop version of the 1971-1976 Valiant), got the Turismo snout, and was sold in the 1983 model year alone.

1983 Plymouth Scamp in Colorado junkyard, interior - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsJunkyard shoppers hit the interior of this one pretty hard before I got to it, but you can still admire the racy-looking two-tone driver’s seat.

1983 Plymouth Scamp in Colorado junkyard, engine - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsSome other US-market L-bodies were still getting Volkswagen or Simca engines in 1983, but all Rampages and Scamps got the 2.2-liter four-banger Chrysler developed for the K-Cars. This one was rated at 85 horsepower, not much even for a 2,305-pound lightweight truck.

1983 Plymouth Scamp in Colorado junkyard, manual gearshift - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe base transmission was a four-speed manual; a five-speed manual and three-speed automatic were options. This cartruck has one of the manuals.

1983 Plymouth Scamp in Colorado junkyard, HVAC controls - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsBecause the original buyer sprang for both air conditioning and a four-speaker AM/FM radio, I feel fairly certain that the transmission has five forward gears.

1983 Plymouth Scamp in Colorado junkyard, stripes - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsTotal Scamp sales came to just 3,564, so we’re looking at an extremely rare junkyard find.

At least one Scamp still survives as a race cartruck!

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