Curbside Classic: 1984 AMC Eagle Limited Wagon – On A Wing And A Prayer

What is it with avian car names? Firebird, Sunbird, Thunderbird, Bluebird, Lark, Skylark, Hawk, Skyhawk, Robin, Snipe, Kestrel, Aigle (French for eagle), Aronde (old French for swallow), Chaika (Russian for seagull)… I’m sure there are plenty more. Well, there’s the AMC Eagle, for starters. But it’s pretty clear that, by picking the top feathered predator as a moniker for their latest (and indeed final) car, AMC displayed a breathtaking amount of hubris. But it paid off.

Of course, it meant the ad copy kind of wrote itself. “American Eagle soars to new heights”, yadi yadi yada. But c’mon. There’s nothing remotely majestic or predatory about a Concord on stilts. If AMC were that keen on a feathered forename, perhaps they should have gone with a wading bird. But then “Try the new Heron at your AMC dealer today” would have sounded a little less lofty.

I’m sure the overwhelming majority of you will be far more aware of the Eagles’ historical and technical background. If not, do read the full-length CC posts already produced on the subject, of which there are several (list at the end of this one). The TL:DR of it all is that AMC, having bet and lost on the Pacer, had virtually no way to devise the new car they desperately needed. So they took the Concord, itself a mildly refreshed Hornet, and slapped a Jeep drivetrain underneath to create, more out of desperation than inspiration, a very clever car.

The Eagle showed its beak in the summer of 1979 as a 1980 model and soon became a rather good seller alongside the Jeep range. The Concord died out by 1983, but its 4×4 offspring carried on. By this point in time though, AMC had been taken over by Renault, so the Kenosha plant was cleared of the legacy product lines to make way for the Encore and Alliance. Hence our 1984 example here, just like all Eagles from that model year on, was made in Brampton, Ontario.

It was, however, sold new in North Carolina, if that dealer emblem on the hatch is to be believed. Which might be the case, as it seems Eagles were only officially imported in Japan from MY 1985 onwards. Like most birds of its ilk, this Eagle is motivated by AMC’s 115hp 4.2 litre straight-6, mated to a Chrysler automatic. And like the majority of the species, it’s a wagon.

With the benefit of hindsight, it may look odd that AMC bothered to turn the whole Concord range, sedan, coupes and Kammback included, into AWD vehicles, but they were throwing everything at the wall to see what would stick. The non-wagon Eagles look odd to my eyes: very few, if any, ever made it across the Pond. Even the foreigners preferred the wagon from the get-go. Or maybe AMC never even bothered offering anything else overseas.

They weren’t exactly a common sight on European roads at the time, but I do recall seeing a few here and there, especially in the great bastion of American car culture that is Switzerland. Of course, Jeeps were the most sought-after AMC products there at the time, but Eagle wagons could be seen ploughing through snow there on a fairly regular basis well into the early naughties. I’m guessing these would have been pretty popular in places like Scandinavia as well for the same reasons.

Kudos to the owner of this one for finding this period-perfect back seat cover. Really ties the whole cabin together. The car is not the usual factory-fresh Tokyo showboat – quite refreshing.

I found this Eagle while in the company of Jim Klein and his son Max back in October of last year. It was in a spot that had already yielded a fine-looking Wagoneer, so whoever bought this Eagle has a serious case of AMC-itis.

It’s a fairly recent acquisition, too. As luck would have it, I found the very same car on this auction website, where it was posted back in January 2023. They even did a nice presentation video of it and posted it on YouTube.

Aside from that weirdly wobbly rear end, which makes it look like the car is melting, the Eagle wagon is a coherent design. Which is odd, given how cobbled-together-with-leftovers it actually is. AMC were past masters at this sort of exercise, but they outdid themselves with this one. So much so in fact that the Eagle managed to outlive AMC. And of course, the Eagle model begat the Eagle marque, rising from the cinders of AMC-Renault. If Pontiac hadn’t beaten AMC to it, they could have called this the Phoenix. Oh, that’s one I forgot in that list in the first paragraph! Mythical birds count too.

The woodgrain, the whitewalls and the sensible size all combine to make for a very attractive sum total, part cliché and part trailblazer. And with nearly 200k units made (of which over half were wagons), the Eagle at least helped AMC end on a high note. I guess they could have picked any bird name for it, save one: turkey.


Related posts:


Curbside Classics: AMC Eagle Wagon And Sedan – “What The Hell Is This?”, by PN

Curbside Classic: 1986 AMC Eagle Wagon – Ahead Of Its Time, And Behind The Times, by Eric703

Curbside Classic: 1981 Eagle Limited – The Outback Of Its Time, by PN

Mountainside Classics: AMC Eagle And “New Look” GMC Buses Still Working on Mt. Hood, by PN

Automotive History: 1980 Eagle Turbo-Diesel – Seven Were Built, One Still Survives, Not Running, by PN

What If: AMC Eagle Wagon – Let’s Talk Power Options, by David Skinner

Curbside Outtake: AMC Eagle Wagon – In Its Natural Habitat, by Ed Stembridge

CC Auto Body Repair: I’m Not Dick Teague, by Daniel Stern

COAL: 1985 AMC Eagle Wagon – End Of An Era, by Nelson James