Monster Mashup – Is it a Car? A Truck? Actually, Jesse James’ ’84 Rampage is a 200mph Rocket!
No one speaks of the Dodge Rampage anymore. Too bad, because even though it was hardly a highwater mark for Chrysler, it was an unusual entry in an era of bland econoboxes. Today, when conversations turn to “centaur cars” like El Caminos, Rancheros, or even Subaru Brats, the short-lived 024/Charger-based “sport truck” is rarely mentioned. The Rampage, like the equally forgotten VW Rabbit truck of the same era, borrowed its sub-compact platform from the corporate parts bin, grew a bed on the back, and became a diminutive El Camino knockoff.
With a curb weight of 2400-pounds and a 2.2-liter Chrysler four-banger, this Pentastar trucklet was a peppy performer but hardly “rampaged” the nation’s roads back in the day. Around 40,000 units were built during its production run from 1982-84. Today, this Reagan-era Mopar is little more than a blip on the timeline of malaise machines.
Until Jesse James got a crazy notion. A well-known raconteur, and head metal bender at West Coast Choppers, James resurrected this particular Dodge Rampage in his usual outrageous manner. Like Dr. Frankenstein, James added a jolt of mega-horsepower to a conjure up this reimagined Rampage and by God, it’s alive! We love it and named it our Fuel Curve Pick at the 2021 Summit Racing Lone Star Nationals.
Built by James and his team for the Monster Garage TV series on Discovery+, little of the original 1984 trucklet remains. First, they ditched the front-wheel-drive configuration, stretched the body 8-inches, and fitted custom doors, with exhaust outlets vented through the passenger door. The homely factory grille underwent the equivalent of automotive rhinoplasty, and the result is sleeker nose that does wonders for the car’s aesthetics. The truck was then treated to a House of Kolor multi-hued paint scheme, with a WCC logo to boot, courtesy of Darren Wenzel of West Coast Choppers.
The half car/half truck unibody was cut up to accommodate a custom Roadster Shop chassis, complete with a performance-bred RS front suspension, parallel four-bar rear suspension, Baer brakes, and two parachutes out back. Budnik 17-inch wheels and Toyo R888 tires transfer power to the pavement.
There’s a whole lotta power to transfer, too. Now rear-wheel drive, the car is propelled by a monstrous 1200hp Texas Speed-built 427c.i. Chevy LS V8 with a 4.0L Whipple supercharger, hooked up to a Tremec T-56 gearbox and a Winters quick-change differential. The longitudinally mounted mill poking out of the hood quickly answers any questions regarding which wheels are now driving the car.
The car’s greenhouse is now plexiglass, and the interior is all business with a stout roll cage that protrudes into the bed, RacePak gauges, carbon fiber seat from Kenny’s Components, and Simpson safety harnesses.
James long dreamed of becoming a member of the 200mph club and the Rampage was built with that in feat in mind. On March 28, 2021, James ran 207.9mph from a standing start at the Texas Mile in Beeville, Texas. Mission accomplished!
Photos by John Jackson