I’ve been holding onto these Eagle Wagon pictures since last July. Paul’s article on the Eagle covered the topic thoroughly, eliminating the need to post a historical article. Still this is a nice looking Eagle, and the pictures came from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Put those two facts together, and I think we’ve justified an article.
In Paul’s article, he notes the Eagle “suffered from the smog-strangled 258 (4.2 L) six during those pre-fuel injection years.” This Eagle Wagon provides us with some nifty lines (to use the local Sioux Falls vernacular), but cries out for a power plant transfer.
Fortunately, AMC’s outsourcing habit, combined with the huge aftermarket Jeep industry provides us with multiple engine transplant options. As we look this wagon over, let’s talk about some possibilities.
In reality, the front differential and driveshaft of the Eagle’s All Wheel Drive System makes any engine swap a difficult undertaking, but we’ll just pretend we have the fabrication skills of Jesse James, Boyd Coddington’s build team, and Chip Foose style. With these mad skills, any engine is a possibility.
If we want to keep it simple, AMC’s V-8 provides an obvious choice for increased power. The V-8 block shares the bell housing pattern with the 258 six, so on paper this is a bolt in swap. V-8 displacements included 290, 304, 343, 360, and 401, all tempting capacities. However, AMC never fuel injected their V-8, so let’s look at some engines with modern fuel delivery systems.
The fact that the Eagle came with a T-5 manual transmission really helps out. The T-5 was America’s go-to manual throughout the eighties, which means we can bolt up many engines without bulky adapter plates.
In this image, we have the Ford fuel injected 5.0. Can you picture an Eagle wagon with a couple of GT badges on the fenders?
If that seems too flashy, we could replace these Eagle heads with “5.0” badges. Tempting, no?
If you’re not a Ford Guy, we could go with the Chevy small block. If you can find one of the (extremely) rare Iron Duke powered Eagles, you can even bolt the Chevy up to the Eagle’s bell housing–both engines share the same pattern. Make sure to use the TPI motor–the eight individual runners look so good when you lift the hood.
I would actually prefer to go with a different GM motor–the Buick 90 degree V-6. GM used them in the F-body for several years, so it’s already set up for rear wheel drive and the T-5 transmission. Compact V-6 power with smooth fuel injected power delivery seems perfect for the Eagle.
Looking at this interior, we see this Eagle, like most, came with an automatic. Since AMC used Chrysler automatics, we have the opportunity to use any Chrysler small block…
…including the modern Chrysler Hemi. Hmmm….
How about a Hemi powered wagon sending all four tires up in smoke?
All interesting concepts, but in his article, Paul offered up the easiest and possibly best conversion option: “Undoubtedly, numerous folks have transplanted the Cherokee’s fuel injected 4.0 six into Eagles.”
I’m sure he’s right, but I’m not sure such a simple and clean installation is in keeping with AMC’s traditions. 😉
Share your thoughts on the subject in the comments section, and offer up any other power options you’d like to see dropped between this wagon’s frame rails.
One of the main criticisms of the Cherokee when it was released in Aussie was the ancient engine injected or not I’d avoid it and go for a turbo diesel also from the later Cherokee it should fit.
Here in the US, the original Cherokee came with a Renault diesel (of course it did not share a transmission with the Eagle, so it would be an even more challenging swap).
Let’s put one in an Eagle, and convert it to Biodiesel. We can call it the Portland Special.
Must have been the same 2.1 liter turbo-diesel from Renault we had.
Later on a 2.5 liter and after that, in the Liberty-Cherokee, a 2.8 liter turbo-diesel, both from VM Motori. Mopar and VM Motori go back a long time.
The 2,5 VM diesel is like asking for trouble… I’ll stick with the 4 litre Jeep engine.
The EcoDiesel from the new Grand Cherokee/Ram would be a cool swap, and even sort of keeping it in the family.
A LS1 makes everything cooler too.
I’d prefer something aluminum to get some weight off the front end.
Excellent, the 3.0 liter V6 diesel from VM Motori.
AMC Eagle Wagon
Chrysler 300C-Lancia Thema
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Perfect line-up !
Could you shoehorn a Chevy 350 in there?
It still amazes me that the Big 3 did not try to kill Subaru by making their own AWD wagons and perhaps even a Forester sized SUV back in the 1980s and 1990s. Chevy had the Cavalier, Ford the Escort, and Chrysler had their K-Cars and later the actual AMC Eagle.
GM had some AWD J-bodies running around at the same time they had the AWD Pontiac hit production in 88. I don’t think there was a huge business case for them. Subaru didn’t sell that many cars back in the day, only really picking up steam in the late 90’s.
In a lot of ways I think Subaru was the Japanese AMC, they just happened to last, through partnerships, until this type of vehicle took off.
Anything is possible. The SBC/AMC bellhousing also makes the 4.3 a possible swap- I missed that one…
Like others mentioned, there weren’t a huge amount of takers for Subaru’s wares back in the day. Many were oddly styled and were under-powered. Subaru XT, anyone? Also, never underestimate the power of a keiretsu. The US anti-trust laws don’t allow that kind of thing…
If you think about it, the original Bronco II, S10 Blazer and Jeep Cherokee (post 1984) *were* the same size as a Forester. By the time the Forester was released, the other domestic US SUV’s had grown a few inches or two.
The funny thing is, the original Outback reminded me of these Eagle wagons to a great extent. A jacked-up station wagon with extra flares added to the fenders, a couple of rugged luggage racks… Voila! Eagle 2.0
There are more similarities between AMC and Subaru than one might imagine.
Subaru just copied the eagle. 4.0 bolts right in dont have to change the mounts and up to 270 hp available.
Using your logic about AMC using the Chrysler Torqueflite, my friend with the Jeep GW looked into pulling the AMC 360 and replacing it with a Mopar smallblock.
Note that many manual transmissions are made with a separate bellhousing that bolts onto the transmission case. Meanwhile, the bellhousing of most automatics, including the Torqueflite 727, is cast as one piece with the transmission case.
My friend found that AMC may have used the Torqueflite, but the case was a different casting with a bellhousing sized to mate to AMC engines. Therefore not a straightforward swap.
Everything is straightforward in the abstract. That’s the beauty of the internet!
In that case, we can take that AMC Torqueflite transmission, machine off the original bellhousing, grab a Torqueflite from a smallblock Mopar and cut the bellhousing off that, and weld it on instead. No problem! Just make sure to fab some kind of jig to ensure that the new bellhousing winds-up in the exact same place as the old one.
Sheesh, just swap cases, that tranny probably needs overhauled anyway. Trans cases are so thin the sawzall/welding would never work. When I rebuilt my Ford C4, I swapped in the Ranger 4X4 output shaft and tailhousing from a C5, so I could bolt it to my transfer case when I did my 5.0 swap on my Ranger. Bought them new over the Ford parts counter, and paid less than $200 for both! Compared to the $500 Advance Adapters wanted for their kit. Getting off topic here….sorry 🙂
If this was a RWD vehicle I would agree that swapping transmissions and engines together would be the most straightforward approach. I doubt this would be the case since this is a 4WD application though, and not all from the same manufacturer.
I figured that someone would comment that you can’t actually cut off the bellhousing and weld another one on. Never say never! I know someone that’s done it! They wanted top mate a newer Chrysler transmission with overdrive and lockup to their big block, so they cut the smallblock bellhousing off and welded the big block bellhousing on.
Give me a Tornado OHV 6 from the original Wagoneer (seals fixed, of course) coupled to either the Torqueflite (I believe a bell housing must exist from this engine’s use in Latin America) or whatever 4-speed plus overdrive will bolt up, with some sort of engine management and TBI fuel injection from an eighties Cherokee. Bam!! Less weight and great fuel mileage. Kaiser/Willys FTW!
Hmmm…TBI isn’t as far-fetched as I thought…apparently the Chevy 4.3 TBI is an easy junkyard swap for many AMC engines… Lots of links here… I BET it could work on the Willys… http://www.jeepforum.com/forum/f12/junkyard-tbi-write-up-1066016/
I’m kinda lazy so I’ll go with the Jeep 4.0L conversion.
Aren’t there modern aftermarket EFI conversion systems out there? In that case, the AMC 360 should be straightforward and all the engine one of these could ever need. Unless you wanted to do a 401.
There are kits to convert AMC sixes and eights to EFI… I have a work buddy who once owned a ’89 Wrangler with the dreaded computer-carbed 258. He gutted all that for FI, and claims it ran great. From what Ive been reading, that’s all it takes to get the 258 into 4.0 territory. Performance intakes, headers, cams, etc and its all up from there.
I want to say Holley makes the kits, possibly Edelbrock. Could be both, but I hear tell its heavy on GM parts. Of course i COULD just google it, but Im lazily talking out my ass!
It kind of depends… I often go right to the SBC conversion idea, only because the SBC is soooo small. And there are so many companies out there with conversion kits. And the AMC and Ford small blocks are equally small. The V6 Buick sounds good on the outside, but the 90 degree V6 is rather wide. If you’ve spent any time in a Hornet or Concord or Eagle engine bay, you don’t have a lot of room. For comparison, an early Falcon has more room in the engine bay.
That said, you could get a nice 3.4, 3.5 or 3.9 GM 60 degree V6 to pop in there, smaller than a small block and right out of the factory a nice 175 HP /210 ft. lbs. of torque. The 3.9 is even more powerful.
But, with modern “kit” EFIs, there’s no reason not to put in an AMC V8, although the 4.0 Liter 6 was as powerful as you’d need in that car…
4.0 FI Jeep engine would be my preference it’s a little more “counter-factual history” authentic. What if AMC had lived another 10 years, they would have FI the six eventually, right?
If you don’t care about that sort of authenticity, how about an Atlas I-6 from GM? 275 hp and smooth inline 6 power. It’s a different sort of authentic.
It was originally AMC-Renault that developed the 4.0 EFI engine and production started in 1986, prior to the Chrysler takeover. Eagles were built until the end of 1987, so AMC or Chrysler certainly could have combined the two if they wanted. That would be the only swap I’d ever consider doing in an Eagle as well, for many reasons.
The Atlas engines are sweet but I think they’re probably much too tall to fit.
MOPAR used to sell a kit to convert the 4.2 to port fuel injection. It was basically the intake manifold and computer controls from a 4.0 to bolt onto a 4.2. I had a 89 jeep YJ with this on it and it was a great motor. No need to swap the engine at all. The AMC straight 6 is a great engine and there aren’t enough straight 6’s around anymore, so why eliminate another one?
I’d forgotten that the Eagle side badge looks just like Sam the American Eagle. He would probably not approve of engine swaps:
“You people are all weirdos!!”
I’ve never thought this was really a wagon since the tailgate doesn’t open to bumper level. It’s more like a 4 door hatchback.
I don’t believe AMC called this bodystyle a wagon until 1978 when it became part of the Concord line. In its original incarnation as a Hornet, it was only ever referred to as the Sportabout.
I stand corrected – the 1977 brochure refers to it as the “Hornet wagon” and it appears to have lost the Sportabout emblems that year.
Much to my surprise I came across an AMC Eagle while scrolling through the stock list of a well-known classic car dealer here. It seems to be in an excellent condition, I like the color combination. It sure isn’t a bargain….
Reading this reminds me how AMC seemed to make a lot of stupid choices which cost the company its existence. In 1967 GM feeling that V8 power is the way of the present and future sold the vaunted Buick 3.8l V6 to Kaiser Jeep. In 1970 AMC bought Kaiser Jeep out and decided to dump the Buick 3.8l V6 to stuff an AMC straight 6 into the Jeeps and sold the 3.8l back to GM. That 3.8l engine went through many changes and lasted to 2008. It was uber reliable and paid GM back in spades. Had they started using the Buick V6 in all of the cars instead of that boat anchor they AMC stuffed in all of their cars then people might have bought more AMC vehicles.
However, Buick had to invest a lot more into it to get the even firing version that people could live with. That original version of the V6 was rough as a cobb. I could see where the AMC straight 6 would have been seen as a better option if they could get it to fit.
A V6 sure would have solved the “sorry, no rotary available” problem with the Pacer a lot better than the I6 did.
AMC V8s have been transplanted into Eagles, but apparently it is not exactly a slam dunk because of the AWD hardware. The 4.0 is the hot setup.
GM sold a couple of really good motors (well, they were eventually good.) but only bought the Buick V6 back. Maybe AMC *should* have hung on to the motor, but I don’t know if they would have had enough capital to develop it properly. In it’s original state, the motor was rather rough, due to the odd firing single plane crankshaft. The AMC straight six was simple, easy and smooth. It fit most of their cars, at least up until the 1970’s. The tooling was amortized and the processes were in place.
If AMC had hung on to the Buick V6 *AND* developed an even-firing split plane crank (like GM eventually did) the character of all AMC 6 cylinder powered cars would have been drastically different. Imagine the Pacer, having lost the GM Rotary, with V6 power, or the Hornet, Gremlin and Matador with the same. It would have made a world of difference.
When the XJ Cherokee was released, the optional motor was the 2.8L Chevy 60 degree V6, which was no great motor at the time. It made the Citation X-11 a nice performer for the times, but was average at best in most everything else it powered. It would have been interesting to see if AMC would have agreed to buy more of the 2.8s and placed them in the car lines of the early-mid 80’s.
Even as middling as the motor was, it would have been more powerful than the Nash six that was in there already, and be able to upgraded for upcoming emissions concerns. I think we would have seen a longer life for some of the cars, although by then most of the Hornet based cars were *elderly*.
Still, an Eagle SX-4 with a high winding V6 could have been quite the ride…
As I recall, originally GM wanted AMC to build the V6 on their behalf, but AMC either didn’t have the capacity, or more likely preferred the quick money of selling the tooling back.
The AMC six was introduced in 1964, it wasn’t related to the old Nash six with the updated OHV head. The carbureted 258 survived to 1990 in the Wrangler, so it could meet the emissions requirements of the day.
In the mid-seventies, AMC executives said unequivocally that they didn’t have the resources to do with the V-6 what Buick did.
The carbed versions of the Buick and Chevy V6s weren’t any more powerful, more reliable or smoother than the AMC straight six. The lone advantage they would have offered is that they were lighter, but not even by that much. When the fuel injected versions of the GM engines came out, they were a huge improvement, but by that point the Spirit and Concord were already dead and it was obvious that the Eagle wouldn’t be around much longer either. I’m sure it would have taken AMC even longer to refine them to that point.
For passenger car use, I agree with you, the V6 probably had a lot more potential for compact, efficient horsepower. Its a proven motor for cars, but in a Jeep or any other kind of truck….NO THANKS. The AMC 6 is legendary for being an ultra reliable torque monster. I had 2 Jeeps with 258s and another with the 4.0. Great engines. But then, Ive always been partial to the inline design when it comes to 6’s. Theyre the engine of choice in torque 4x4s designed for low speed grunt work, or in high revving sports cars. V6’s always make me think ‘minivan’ or ‘sedan’. Not performance stuff there.
Unless maybe it’s a 478 inch GMC V6? https://www.curbsideclassic.com/curbside-classics-american/curbside-classic-1963-gmc-pickup-the-very-model-of-a-modern-v6-truck-engine/
Something absurd and most difficult like a twin cam v8. Cadillac Northstar.
AMC used the 2.8 60 degree V-6 in Cherokee, so the 3.4 V-6 Dual twin cam must bolt up ot the T-5.
Not only twin cam, but rare, unusual and widely disliked.
The T-5s used in Jeeps were laughably weak though. Back in highschool and college when I was always hunting CJs, I drove many 258 T-5 equipped Jeeps. Those trannys were absolutely tortured with the twist of the 4.2. Behind that rubber band 2.8 v6 it might live. Behind anything with some level of torque, watch as it grenades! That said, the World Class T-5 as used in the Mustang GTs is another animal entirely…
One must realize, however, there are a few variations on T-5 input shaft lengths and spline count. So just because it has a T-5, doesn’t mean you can slap any ‘ol engine in front of it.
The wide variety of T-5 parts allow you to mix and match components and build what you need
For instance, You can swap input swafts to match bell housing depth, as long as the gear tooth count remains the same from shaft to shaft.
You can also swap gear sets into a new center case, should you need a different bolt pattern on the front of the case. I recently swapped a gear set out of a Chevy T-5 into a Jeep center case. I can now bolt the tranmission up to a Ford, and take advantage of the Chevy gear ratio set.
But as always, be sure you don’t mix world class and non world class internal parts.
Howell makes fuel injection kits for old jeeps. Not super cheap but nice for people who don’t like fooling with carbs.
In my opinion the 4.0 liter six from the Jeep would make a perfect swap. With 190 hp it would almost double the output from the 4.2 six. I’ve often wondered why AMC didn’t do this-they could of had a domestic version of the Audi Quattro, and would have been a quite interesting vehicle.
The Torqueflites that were sold to AMC had the AMC bolt pattern, not Chrysler’s. So that wouldn’t be simple at all. There are adapters, and adapters can be made for just about anything.
There’s also some mix and match that can be done with the AMC six which will give you something like 4.5 litres, FI and other goodies. Some combination of the 232 and the 4.2 … can’t remember off-hand. That would be the easiest, certainly.
Pretty much anything else would take a lot of fabbing. But could be fun. 🙂
EDIT: Make that 258, not 232 CID …
My ‘Dream Eagle’ would be the SX/4. Id build it into a kind of offroad AMX. If an EFI conversion or 4.0 is pretty good, then a 401 is even better! Swap the rear axle to a Ford 8.8 (twice as strong as the AMC model 20 and keeps the bolt pattern), upgrade to a world class T-5 tranny, work that 401 over real good and give it a Big Bad paint job and some 17×8″ torq thrusts…that would be a screamin eagle!
That said, Id be ok with the coupe or the wagon too…either of those with the EFI 258 would be a cheap, reliable and unique ride.
In Texas it’s too old for the smog gestapo so that opens up a whole bunch of solutions. Personally, after having a 4.3/700r4 that I couldn’t break and getting over 20mpg with it… that would be tempting.
The inspectors do have to look to see that the equipment for the year is still intact. I think if the transfer case could be adapted or replaced, I wouldn’t care about adapting to the AMC case at all. A 350 or 305 chevy/302 Ford with the trannie matched to it would give improved over stock mileage I think. What is the weight of that wagon. Sure less than my Impala wagon and that means higher mileage with the right rear (and front) ends.
The more I think about the 4.3/700r4 the more I think that is the answer.
Hey, lee. You have the 4.3 and 700r4 in an eagle?
if you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to contact you, as this is exactly what I want to do.
I currently have SX4 The Iron Duke SBC. So the 4.3 should work well, and an automatic a904.
amosende@ yahoo .com
He had a Chevy truck with that combo.
The fuel injected 4.0 is the only swap worth doing on an Eagle as far as I’m concerned. Totally bulletproof engine, lots of power and it works with all the hardware already there. You can reuse the 258 crank and turn it into a 4.5l as well. Huge straight sixes are cooler than V8s, if you ask me.
I have dreamed of having exactly such a car many times, with the 5- or 6-speed transmission from a 4.0 TJ and one of the fulltime 4WD Jeep transfer cases that also has a low range.
I see a buick gn turbo v6 as a nice option . tons of power lots of parts to upgrade decent fuel economy ,lots of power , paint the car black , and you have darth eagle ,did i mention lots of power?
I’d opt for a 4bt cummings, you can get good used ones for less than $4000 with a 5speed trans. 130hp 265ftpds of torque at 1600rpm. And it can easily be boosted to a safe 200hp.
Legacy trucks had one in a w300 that got around 32 or 34mpg
If money was easy I’d look into the new cummings turbo diesel crate engine 2.8litres
It’s around 10 000$ without tranny of course.
But if a wanted gasoline power I’d check for the newer jeep v6, ideally one with flood damage and low miles drivetrain to get for cheap.
Then again one could also go for the 4.7litre stroker kit developed by mopar for the I6’s jeep industry. And add a fuel injection system.
You rebuild your old engine with their components….supposedly giving an extra 45hp and more torque…..and of course a lot less figuring out of how to swap / install new parts for new engine and tranny.
For those who wish to be truly exotic and unique how about a a super light engine developed for a sports bike? a turbo diesel 1.2litre 3 cylinder with 180hp 250pds of trq!!!
QUOTE “The Thunder Star 1200 TDI by Star Twin. It’s a fully functional diesel motorcycle that first rolled on the scene in 2005, but apparently it was just too weird to go into full on production. It’s powered by a burly 1.2 liter 3 cylinder turbo diesel engine that’s usually more at home in the Volkswagen Lupo (a car model that never made it across the Altantic). Despite the massive engine, the Thunder Star actually produces some interesting performance statistics. The huge turbo-diesel engine can actually produce a fearsome and unprecedented 180 horsepower, 250 lb-ft of gut busting torque.”
What about the jeep 4.7L I6? plenty of power to travel highway speeds, plenty of torque to get you there quick and OEM jeep parts.
This is the Ultimate Jeep stroker 4.7 L l6 engine with a proprietary turbo boost system.Now you can have V8 horsepower in a true bolt in I6 engine installation.