In a dusty gravel parking lot, a guy in a green Dodge Dakota skids to a halt, doubles back around, and whips out an iPhone. I can read his mind: “What in the heck are those things?” He snaps a picture, shakes his head and grins, flips us a quick thumbs-up, and then scoots off down the road with a spin of the rear tires.
“I guess that happens a lot,” I say to owner Spencer Acker.
“Oh yeah,” he replies, reaching in to pop the hood on one of his three Dodge Rampages, “They’re pretty special.”
So, to answer the question, just what in the heck are these things? Rampages! Built for just a very few years from 1982 to 1984, this was America’s first front-wheel-drive pickup truck, a sporty little ride with great fuel economy and a decent-sized bed for carrying surfboards in the brochure and a load of gravel in real life. Business up front, party in the back. No monstrous V8 that never gets used, just a stout little 2.2L four-pot and the curb weight of a Mazda Miata.
To own one would be unusual. To own two, well, maybe you need some spares or something. But Spencer Acker had four Rampages – one was written off not long ago when it was rear-ended by a drunk driver – as well as a huge collection of spares.
“Well,” he chuckles, “I guess I am a collector after all. Never looked at it that way.”
A retired commercial fisherman from Prince Rupert, Acker now lives in North Vancouver in a little neighbourhood tucked close by Capilano University. One day, he was driving along and saw an odd little pickup truck off to one side. That was ten years ago, and he now owns two 1984 Rampages, one collector-plated 1983 version, and a huge array of parts and spares from cars he’s found and disassembled himself.
“I’ve got tailgates, body panels, you name it,” Acker says, “You pretty much have to have ’em. Engine parts are easier to find, but stuff for the body is more difficult.”