(first posted 1/24/2014) The Pacer and Matador Coupe were AMC’s Hail Mary passes. We all know how those turned out. So now what? AMC’s passenger car business was kaput, the company was essentially broke, and the development fund kitty might have just bought enough rounds of Leinenkugel at one of Kenosha’s watering holes for the executive team to thoroughly drown their sorrows. But somebody in the back shop was still coming up with ideas, and pretty radical ones at that.
Freed from having to worry about more pressing matters, a few AMC engineers led by Roy Lunn cobbled up a jacked-up Concord with a Jeep full-time AWD system. When AMC Chairman Gerry Meyers first saw it, his reaction was, “what the hell is this?” Pretty rich, coming from the guy who green-lighted the Gremlin and Pacer. But why the hell not? It’s not like we have anything else other than the Jeep Grand Wagoneer that we don’t have to practically give away. What have we got to lose? We’re as good as dead anyway.
The Eagle was green-lighted for production without any sort of proper market analysis or consumer clinics. Once the AMC brass figured out that it was something they desperately needed, they just rushed it into production.
From today’s vantage point, it’s pretty hard to imagine how different the automotive landscape was in and before 1980. No minivans, no CUVs, and SUVs were big heavy truck-based rigs with rough rides and abysmal fuel economy. Four wheel drive was something ranchers ordered on their pickups out west, except the Jeeps, of course. Audis were strictly FWD.
The Subaru wagon, which came out five years before the Eagle, was the pioneer in offering a four wheel drive passenger car, but that was still a part-time affair that could only be engaged in non-paved roads or snow, since there was no center differential. Not that this really hindered its exceptional versatility. There’s no doubt the 4WD Subaru must have been the key inspiration on those back-room AMC engineers. They already had the perfect AWD system, it was just a matter of placing under the right vehicle.
Jeep had introduced Quadra-Trac in 1973, a full-time system based on Borg-Warner’s innovative BW1339 transfer case and central locking differential. It was inspired by the revolutionary AWD system developed by Ferguson for the Jensen FF. As utilized in the Eagle, the system used an inter-axle differential pack utilizing a multi-clutch pack encased in silicone fluid to provide automatic limited slip function between the axles. It all worked like a charm.
The Eagle was truly a revolutionary car. It may have looked more than a bit silly, a Concord all jacked up and with plastic fender flares. And of course, the Eagle was a transitional vehicle leading to much more civilized small SUVs like Jeep’s own XJ Cherokee. Although the Cherokee and other SUVs were instantly “hot”, there were plenty of folks who weren’t yet ready to embrace that new fad. Plus, the S-10 Blazer, Cherokee and Bronco II were still a few years away in 1980. The Eagle created and owned a small but real market for itself, especially in snow and mountain country. It didn’t do much for AMC dealers hurting in Texas or Florida.
That’s not to say that the Eagle didn’t have its limitations. It was still an elderly Concord body sitting on stilts, and everything that implied. Meaning, mediocre space utilization and ergonomics. The Eagle really wanted something new and bold sitting on its new and bold underpinnings, but that’s what there was, and it kept the lights on in Kenosha long enough until Renault started paying for the bills.
And the other limitation was under the hood. Like the Pacer, the Eagle, which gained 300 lbs along with its AWD, suffered from the smog-strangled 258 (4.2 L) six during those pre-fuel injection years. Performance was modest at best, and the thirst was great. AMC offered fours; first the GM Iron Duke, then their own 2.5 L four beginning in 1983. In truth, hardly any were actually built with the four; they were there to allow some half-way decent EPA numbers in the ads. The Eagle was just too big and heavy for the fours, especially since the AWD system typically backed up a Chrysler automatic.
Not surprisingly, the wagon version was by far the biggest seller over the Eagles’ fairly long life from 1980 through 1987. Over 100k wagons were sold during that time. The Gremlin-derived Spirit got the Eagle treatment too, and the odd little hatchback SX/4 (CC here) was the second biggest seller in its first year, followed by the four-door sedan, two-door sedan, and the other Spiritual oddity, the Kammback.
Undoubtedly, numerous folks have transplanted the Cherokee’s fuel injected 4.0 six into Eagles. Had that been available in the Eagle’s time, it would have really made an impact, not that the Eagle didn’t. It gave rise to the whole genre of AWD wagons and the Eagle can certainly be called the mother of all CUVs, depending on your personal definition of that rather vaguely defined acronym. Yes indeed; desperate times can be creative times, and Roy Lunn and his engineers deserve a pat on the back for their creative adaptation of what they had at hand.
The Vise Grips clamping something next to the wagon’s steering column is a nice touch.
I didn’t see that. Thanks for pointing that out. Made me laugh.
The hood release lever is notorious for breaking.
own an amc egale sx/4 and its in good condition like the wagon
jerry-rigged hood release
What’s wrong with vicegrips jackals….not so tactful now
Never seen one but it looks like a good idea Subaru certainly played this card well how come AMC disolved from here? This should have beem the kickoff point to success Awful as they are Jeeps sell this should have been a thriving company not a dead brand coasting.
I think it all comes down to the door panels.
Look at that lovely, padded door panel. Really look.
Have you ever seen a door panel working so very hard to look rich and quality-laden as these AMC door panels? The script on the forward part might as well say “I’m nice, I’m a great deal, pick me!”
A couple other CCs focused on how crappy some GM door panels were from this era. Sure, they might have been hard plastic which you could scratch your name in after a few years, but they were attached to cars you might actually want to be seen in or drive in some cases.
The nerd in me sorta likes these AMC Eagle cars. They’re different, they’re rareish, they’re interesting. But no amount of door panel fluff or “value” is going to coax me into giving someone money for one.
They couldn’t kick off because there was no money left to kick.
That’s the way all car companies die. They get behind on the monies, so there’s less for development, so each year’s models fall pregressively behind the competition, and they sell at lower prices and need more incentives, and every year the vicious circle tightens a little more, until said companies’ noses touch their tails and there’s nothing left. It happened to all the independents in the ’50s, it happened to AMC in the ’80s, and it’s happening right now to Saab.
I always thought these cars were just a few years ahead of their time in concept, while of course being a bit behind the times in mechanical design. If they had been able to follow it up with a properly-engineered more modern version they might have become quite competitive again. But the contemporary Federal safety standards and emissions standards made it even more expensive than it historically had been to develop new vehicles.
These cars sold really well in mountainous rural areas though, as did the Wagoneer. It just wasn’t a large enough market to make them profitable.
I am loving AMC week, BTW.
One of my top Dream Cars is the Nash Airflyte. Yes, I’ve always been a little weird…
I lovvve Airflytes. And am dying to find one.
Does this mean the 72 LTD is off the consideration list?
Yes. It turned out thta it probably wouldn’t make a good DD for Stephanie. But I’m sure an Airflyte would. 🙂
Wish I could help. There was one at a car show in Piqua, Ohio in 2012 that was for sale, but I don’t know where it was from — not Piqua or local area that I know of.
Good luck, rust is their Achilles heel. Best places to look are in the dry western parts of the country. Or, Simply join the Nash Car Club, they have the market on good examples cornered.
Here’s your Nash Airflyte:
Do not worry, you are not the only “weirdo”.
Weird is good!….my father drove a grey/white 1950 Airflyte until 1963. It was the first car I actually drove (I’m 75 now), changed plugs, oil, and sleep in on our annual two-day road trip to Denver University so he could finish his masters. This was in the mid 1950s…before I- 70..40 hwy all the way. The photo above could have been taken in our Kansas City driveway…….fond memories!
I will forever associate Eagles with Back To The Future, didn’t Marty McFly’s girlfriend’s family have one?
Of all cars I haven’t seen in 20 years, this would one of them. Someone’s mom in Catholic School had one.. 20 years ago, that was replaced, with a Cherokee.
Yup, Jennifer Parker’s dad did; I too hear its distinctive horn. Interesting that the movie is set in SoCal and he’s driving one. If he were driving a similar vintage Wagoneer one would make some social assumptions. What does the Eagle imply?
The rear end was raised by flipping the axle from “above the leaf spring” to “below the leaf spring”
That sort of shadetree trick plays hell with steering geometry if it aint compensated for.
Are you sure that’s so? Not to cast doubts, but just curious as to whether that was what was done. Mounting the axle above the leaf springs would have been quite unusual for an American sedan. I wonder…
Yes. I am quite sure. I still remember reading about the AMC Eagle at the time of its introduction. The Hornet/Concord/Gremlin/Spirit had the rear axle above the leaf (like most leaf-sprung passenger cars). The Eagle had it below the leaf (more truck like, and conveniently jacked up with just about zero tooling costs) I think changes to raise front suspension were more elaborate.
It’s actually quite obvious from the profile shot above of the sedan. Notice the leaf springs aren’t visible. If the leaf springs were below the axle like normal passenger cars, they would be clearly visible.
I have a derelict Eagle being stored here; it could be a clone to the sedan in the photos. Having just taken a quick peek, I can confirm that the rear axle is indeed under the leaf springs.
I believe you. For some reason, this morning, it didn’t quite jibe. It does now.
Ford did the same thing in reverse when they were modifying the Ranger platform to create the original Explorer–they moved the springmounts from above the axle to below.
Explorer chassis design is not exactly an example of engineering prowess, though, is it?:)
Chrysler did the same to convert their Dodge Dakota pickup truck to the first gen Durango SUV.
It seems to me that the suspesion of that blue sedan consists of A-Arm and torsion bars, not leaf springs…watch closely..
The only Eagle I lust for. The commercials should have gone like this:
“Hey you got your truck in my wagon! No you got your wagon in my truck!” (With sincere apologize to peanut-butter cup makers.)
My grandfather had an Eagle 4-door sedan. He bought it when he was a rural mail carrier in Virginia’s mountainous region after his first retirement. He drove it for years on his route until he started driving Aries K sedans, but kept the Eagle until a bit past his second retirement in the mid/late-90s to use during wintry weather. Even past his retirement he would talk about some of his coworkers who were buying RHD Jeeps for their route and how they collectively derided the RHD Subaru drivers who would still get stuck starting off on snowy/icy hard-pack dirt roads on the routes they drove.
There is a decent number of these around here still – mostly wagons. The most interesting one is probably this two door with a padded roof. Its the only one of this combination I can remember seeing.
Excellent find, Dave. haven’t seen one of these in almost forever.
When you think about it this is a unique cross-over: part Brougham, part SUV.
Hi Paul! This is off topic, but since I seem to recall something about your like for old buses, I wanted to let you know that I will be uploading a couple of pics of my dads bus. The bus itself is covered with a tarp, but I took a couple of pics of the badges. I also will upload a pic of my moms old Fairmont. Enjoy 🙂
That looks just like the 80 I had except for the grille and wheels. It had a funky black and white plaid interior too.
Oh, great find — love the faux-opera-coupe-meets-truck vibe! I used to see a lot of the wagons, sedans, and hatchbacks in NE PA, but these coupes were unusual even when new. Saw one a few years back in a really dreamy silvery blue with a matching padded top.
And just now I found this one, really gorgeous at http://milbank.olx.com/1982-amc-eagle-4×4-coupe-for-10950-iid-137032519 . At that asking price it might still be available. If I had money to burn it’d be mighty hard to resist.
My ex’s dad has two wagons. A good one and one for parts. The good one is in good shape. If I stayed with her I hoped to inherit one of them one day. She told me the other day that he recently acquired another wagon with wood grain sides.
…and that red sx/4 sure looks spiffy.
That SX/4 indeed does look good…it reminds me of the Local Motors Rally Fighter, but I bet even with a modern 4.0 I6 and a ton of upgrades it wouldn’t cost $59,000.
If we hadn’t already been accustomed to seeing AMC Hornets/Concords on the streets for 10 years, the Eagle would have had a much bigger impact, IMO. Since they were forced to recycle the Hornet body, the car was just viewed as odd. I admit that I was one of the people who did not ‘get’ the Eagle initially.
Once you get past the fact that it’s a Hornet on stilts, the cars’ capabilities were rather impressive. TTAC had a poll a while back on their site, asking if you had to choose just one car only to live with for a ten year period, which car? Seeing that your needs could change radically during any ten year period of your life, I chose the AMC Eagle Wagon as one of the cars.
My brother (inadvertantly) did live with an Eagle for 17 years. Considering that he’s not mechanically inclined (more like mechanically reclined), he kept that car going until it was too much to repair the body to pass Pennsylvania’s inspection. He was married a short time before he bought the car, and it took him and his family throughout and beyond the child raising years. In the end, he sold the car as a parts car to another loyal Eagle owner.
Many of the owners I knew were women, because as Paul notes in the early-mid 80’s, SUVs weren’t nearly as ubiquitous, and if you wanted a 4WD vehicle relatively inexpensively, an Eagle wagon was the way to go. It’s a shame they couldn’t keep the sales going, but I’m sure that CAFE and market pressures would have forced AMC out of the business eventually.
It’s a testament to how clean the styling was on the ’70 Hornet that it still looked reasonably modern on the Eagle in the ’80s.
I’ve always loved these. I’d be hard pressed not to buy one if the opportunity presented itself. Just the right mix of utility, bulletproof mechanicals and quirkiness.
Richard Teague designs are timeless. The 1984 XJ Cherokee is still being made in China, and still looks great aside from the grille, which was mangled by Beijing Jeep.
I’ll second that. And, frankly, I think the Pacer and Matador coupe were great designs, let down by AMC’s technical and financial limitations, along with the general automotive climate in the ’70s. Had the Matador debuted a few years earlier, before the baroque Monte Carlo look became the style du jour, it might have been a hit. Had the Pacer been lighter and front wheel drive the outcome might have been very different. Contemporary reviews raved about Pacer’s styling; only later did the car’s nerd reputation take hold.
I’ll second the almost timelessness of the Hornet–it was a favorite of mine back then, and I think it still looks good.
The Matador, however–let me put it this way–around 1978 a friend of mine wrecked his first car, a ’73 Galaxie 500, by spinning it on a wet street and plowing tailfirst into a gas station sign. His dad then brought him down to a little rural dealership that sold AMC/Jeep/Chrysler/Toyota, and bought him a ’74 Matador that was sitting on the used lot. He did that to PUNISH him.
I’ll say this, though–that car survived numerous assassination attempts by my friend and kept on ticking. He finally abandoned it in a vacant lot next to another friend’s house, still driveable. Just no one wanted to.
The Pacer design was so good Porsche copied it for the 928.
The 1984 XJ Cherokee is still being made in China, and still looks great
Look at the current Jeep Patriot. Clearly inspired by the 84 Cherokee with a Wrangler front end.
Those were wildly popular where I live (SE WI), not only because they were locally built but because somebody had finally come up with a snow-compatible vehicle that you could transport your kids around without making them bump around in a crude truck or buying an expensive Wagoneer.
Every mail carrier had one, and my uncle owned two sedans – he had an ’80, then bought an ’86 and kept both – the ’86 for family travel and the ’80 as his personal beater.
It would be cool to own one, but they’re really expensive to buy around here and not cheap to keep on the road.
These were great driving cars. The fun part was putting them in the same places off road that the big tired rigs would go..
I always wanted to do a 2 speed transfer case swap in one but life got in the way..
A pic of my 80 Eagle with my 81 Cherokee..
that was a cool Eagle.
AMC did very well inventing the first crossover SUV ever. If they had only added fuel injection in 1980 to the miserably strangled 4.2 liter, they might made more of an impact on the market. Too bad the 4.0 liter high output six came too late for the Eagle.
AMC was starved for cash at that point…the big question was, would the deal with Renault go through before the creditors forced a bankruptcy?…and if they did, would the good people of France, who owned Régie Nationale des Usines Renault, favor infusing buckets of money into a to-them foreign, failing operation?
The answer, of course, was yes; and no. Renault wanted markets for THEIR mediocre (manufactured quality) cars. They weren’t interested in updating the AMC line…after they took full ownership, in 1982, the AMC passenger-car lineup was axed.
This is a bittersweet story of decay, desperation, and finally getting something right but only too late. Had AMC done this in 1972, instead of mucking up the Jeepster, they could have easily crossed into an untapped market – and succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. It was actually tried much earlier…I remember a 1971 Popular Science photo blurb of a 4WD Hornet on AMC’s proving grounds. But the powers-that-be wanted Pacers and Monte-Carlo Matadors.
It ended as best it could for AMC, with Chrysler’s rescue…the best (the Jeep XJ and siblings) were saved, along with shareholder stakes and some jobs. But it could have been much better.
Down under they had a real cossover google Holden Overlander those things were awesome and you could get kits to do your own
I never knew they were called Overlanders. A guy in town’s had a yellow one for years as his workhorse; I like it.
Yep Tasmanian built they did 4WD CF Bedfords as well
They were cool. Too cool for the factory, which took until 2003 (!!!) to come out with the Adventra – which was just a Commodore wagon with a bodykit and AWD. No AWD ute? No proper SUV body? Ford’s Territory SUV creamed them in the market. Now Holden just imports its SUVs.
I found something rather appealing about the Eagle and the Concord it derived from. LOL, especially those cheerfully baroque interiors AMC designed for them. Dated chassis with tired ergonomics? HA! Throw some gaudy leather or houndstooth at the problem. But I do remember the front seats of my commanding officers’ command vehicle, an Eagle wagon, being very comfortable.
Chicago area had a bad winter in 1979, so when the Eagles came out in the fall, AMC dealers had a party selling them for full sticker and more. But the party was over by 1981 with still high gas prices, and some mild winters.
But, 4 wheel drive mania would return a few years later with the ‘baby SUV’s’ Blazer/Bronco II/XJ Cherokee.
I own an ’87 eagle wagon. bought it for a thousand bucks with 120,000 miles on it in 2008.
With a carb upgrade I now get better gas mileage than my friends with subaru outbacks & foresters (i average 28-30mpg hwy, 20-25mpg in town). i also have more clearance and more low end torque, the option to fit it with serious offroad tires, etc..
I live in southern utah canyon country and have taken this puppy on some pretty gnarly roads that there is absolutely no way an outback could take.
it helped to put some more aggressive off road tires on it (i chose General Tire Grabber AT2’s)
I’ve found it to be a seriously affordable alternative to gas guzzling 4×4’s.
I can’t quite go everywhere i would like to with it, but the trade off in terms of road driving bonuses compared to most off road capable vehicles make it worth it for me.
the town i live in is dominated by ranchers with big trucks and retired and younger folks with Subaru Outbacks and one thing i’ve noticed is that most of the Subies end up falling apart or in the shop three times as often as my Eagle.
The Eagles were built for longevity and the 2.58 straight six is known for lasting over 350,000 miles if properly cared for.
my grandpa had one of these when I was a wee lad. He drove it like it was an Unimog. I’ve always loved the eagles, and though I’ve never seen one I would snatch up a SX4 in a blink. AMC did some wonderful things in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Kind of an American Lancia in way (quirky, unsound business plans, and really, really cool cars). Good luck to you and yours.
What carb did you fit please? Sounds great
I own one of these. Thankfully, now in Ohio at least that I do not have to emissions check anymore, I have been able to make mine a lot more drivable. What is cooler though than maybe the car itself (which is more sure-footed than most modern 4×4 cars) is the network of owners. I have many “online friends” I have met through forums, Facebook pages, etc. When I need a part, I can usually have it “found” in 48 hours. It is a VERY dedicated owner base, most of whom will help at the drop of a hat.
I also own an Eagle. An ’86 wagon. I’ve loved these cars since I saw my first one in 1980 when a Neighbour bought one. I thought they were the coolest car.
After 27 years of use and some neglect the car still ran fine. That’s improved with a number of easy upgrades (HEI, coil, bypass, 2150 carb, etc.) and I will be continuing with more (4 speed w/od tranny, 242 T-case, XJ LSD, 4.0 Hi-output, etc) just to make it run that much better.
I will continue to enjoy this car.
I’ve yet to see one but it was an idea ahead of it’s time.I like the woody wagon best.
Not sure how I missed this the first time. IMHO, the Sportabout wagon was the nicest styling job to ever come out of AMC. This makes me wonder how things could have been different if the QuadraTrack underpinnings had been adapted to this car when it was fresher, maybe 1975 or 76. 1976-78 were pretty good sales years that AMC really missed out on due to nothing very appealing to sell (other than Jeeps). They could have moved a lot of Eagles in the late 70s, and even more, this was a specialized niche that would not have been hit as hard as most in 1979-81.
By the time this came out, my reaction was that this was more or less of a gimmick borne of desperation. Which seems about right. But a cool gimmick, though. I would drive one of these. With a 304.
The Eagle definitely falls into the ‘what might have been’ column. Rather than wasting precious development money on the Pacer and Matador coupe, if AMC had, instead, went all-out on the Eagle in the early seventies, putting an optional AWD system underneath the Hornet Sportabout, the AMC story might have had a very different outcome.
An Eagle put into production five years sooner could have been the game-changer that saved AMC (or at least kept it alive longer without the acquisitions). Considering how well it sold when AMC did build it while in their last throes of life, it likely would have been a big hit before the stigma of lingering death hung over the company.
Well, until the first gas crisis, anyway. But, as mentioned, sales would have quickly rebounded after the gas situation calmed down a bit. It’s worth noting that the Eagle was built all the way thru MY1988, well past the introduction of the SUV-craze starting 1984 Jeep Cherokee, which is the other vehicle AMC should have devoted its meager resources on getting to market ASAP.
Imagine how differently things might have played out if AMC had shunned the Pacer and Matador coupe in favor of the Eagle and Jeep Cherokee. It could have been a successful AMC where Lee Iacocca went after leaving Ford. Of course, then it would have been Renault buying Chrysler, with a successful Iacocca-led AMC producing the minivan, which would eventually buy out Chrysler from Renault.
So, the end result probably would been the same. One way or the other, Chrysler and AMC were going to end up merging at some point, regardless of which one was the more successful.
Will the newer 4.0 swap in these? I thought I remember reading that one of the front axles goes through the oil sump and the oil pan won’t fit on the 4.0. I know you can swap the 4.0 top end onto it to make a 4.2 HO with fuel injection. From what I understand this setup works nicely and really puts out some nice numbers.
I’d love me a Sedan as a winter car. I’d just have figure out how to dip the whole think in POR15 to keep it alive.
Hang on for another 90 minutes; a post about re-powering Eagles is up next.
did that repower article ever get published? (yes i know this is a 5 yr old thread!)… had 2 sundancers, a 2 door, 3 wagons… all gone but… looking at a spirit now! thx, gord email@example.com
“What the hell is this?” accurately sums up my impression of these car during the ’80s, when I first began noticing cars as a child.
These cars always freaked me out; they were always in miserable condition, and I thought the rear end styling was the result of a warped bumper. I’d never seen one which hadn’t taken some sort of minor hit in the rear. They were everywhere in rural upstate New York, with good reason, and they were always caked in salt or mud.
To me, the AMC Eagle was like a scary bulldog; they really do have an aggressive nature about them, beyond just their stance. I suppose AMC might have known that, naming the car after a rather frightening bird. “AMC Pitbull,” wouldn’t have sounded as nice.
It’s amazing how the few more inches of ground clearance and 4WD thoroughly transformed this car. The Concord was about as non-descript, boring and vanilla as anything made in the early ’80’s, but the Eagle actually looked tough. Even in wagon form it looked aggressive and all-business.
Wife’s uncle who lived out in the country had a 1980 Eagle wagon. Black, with the fake wood. Recalled him complaining about gas milage, which was about 15-16 mpg. The thing ate tires for some reason, but the 4WD made it a great winter snow car.
A friend’s uncle drove an Eagle. I never asked him about it, but he had it for many years. I think it was a wagon.
> …a multi-clutch pack encased in silicon fluid…
I’m pretty sure you meant “silicone”, not “silicon”. Big difference. 🙂
And here I though AMC was trying hard to be high-tech rather than into boob enhancements. 🙂
Well, it was a Concord “augmented” with components from the Jeep parts bin, after all.
I miss the Studebaker and Hudson brands but I get angry when I think about AMC. I went to AMC when I grew tired of the general having his way with me. A car fire on a busy street was the final straw. Now we have lived through the bailout of the general and AMC is dead.
One of these wagons lived a couple miles from my house. Haven’t seen it for a year or two. Orphan brands are sort of iffy with me which is why my Saturns are gone but confess to lusting over it. It was a common sense brand and I always thought the 258 was a great engine. Have a Toyota Forerunner now so need to shut up and be happy one supposes.
I still see the occasional one around town. Tough little cars.
That cheerfully baroque interior is one of the main reasons my Grandfather bought his Concord. Nice vicegrips too, I’d forgotten about the passenger side mirror swivel in the middle of the dash.
Next time we do AMC week maybe I’ll have found some photos and do a Concord COAL.
Grad school roommate’s dad living in Cleveland had the wagon. First time I went along to visit family we borrowed it to see the town. Exact same interior, as I recall, minus the vice grips. It was snowing, of course, but the Eagle took us everywhere we needed to, in comfort and style (and good heat!) without a problem. Which makes Eagle the official tour vehicle of Cleveland?
I bought my 1st house in 1990 in a neighborhood that looks a lot like the backdrop in Eugene that we frequently see from Paul. My neighbor next door was a retired phone company employee, never married. She had the wagon in the blue two tone that is seen on the sedan in the lead picture. Always garaged in her detached 1 car, it was a sharp vehicle that gave her an unusual sense of security in our mid-western winters. She didn’t drive much, so issues like gas mileage weren’t a big concern, and I doubt she would have noticed the lack of performance in a diesel Rabbit, let alone this car.
In general, the Eagle was about the best looking and best trimmed iteration of the 1970 Hornet body. The body looked reasonably contemporary though about 1979, and had a retro charm to it during the 1980s – much like the Grand Wagoneer and Jeep CJ.
Maybe they should have brought back the ’63-’64 Classic. AMC did do retro well.
Chicago area had a horrid winter in 1979, and some wacky local TV weatherman predicted another one for 1980. Thus, AMC dealers in fall 1979 were selling ‘all new’ Eagles above sticker, until the ’80 winter turned into one of the mildest.
By spring 1981, Eagles had rebates and AMC had empty showrooms, until the Alliance, then reality again set in, again, and again…
I saw one of these in red in the parking lot of the local shopping mall back last May. It was in great condition and it both looked like a daily driver and was well cared for. It had regular MD license plates on it(Vanity plates no less which said 87 AMC)
Here is the front of it
“…and the development fund kitty might have just bought enough rounds of Leinenkugel at one of Kenosha’s watering holes for the executive team to thoroughly drown their sorrows.”
More likely a round of Strohs, since AMC Engineering was based at AMC Headquarters, which was always in/near Detroit. Around the same time Eagle would have been in development, they moved HQ from the old Plymouth Road Office Complex in Detroit to a shiny, new office tower in Southfield.
I really like these in wagon form – as others have noted, their looks belie their 1970 birth. Yo’d barely guess they were the product of a financially-starved company. One of the few giveaways to rushed development would have to be that tailgate though, that stops above the taillights and as a result looks like an aftermarket conversion. Still a great concept though; like the Subaru Outback of its time.
I’m surprised they never made a Grand Eagle by dusting off the Matador wagon tooling and putting the 4wd mechanicals under it.
…dusting off the Matador wagon tooling and putting the 4wd mechanicals under it.
My thoughts exactly. The Hornet Sportabout always suffered it’s tailgate opening, which had a high lip cargo had to be lifted over. The Eagle’s tall suspension made the lift over the lip even more of a problem.
Take the Matador wagon, with a tailgate that opens at cargo floor level, and give it the AWD system, a brougham interior and a 360.
But they killed the Matador 2 years before the AWD system came out.
Also, with the Grand Waggy, was there really any reason for another 4WD wagon of similar size?
Also, with the Grand Waggy, was there really any reason for another 4WD wagon of similar size?
Grand Waggy 1963 platform with log axles and leaf springs at both ends?
Let’s start the 80s with a 4X4 wagon that at least rides and handles like the late 60s, with an independent front suspension
For a couple of years in the ’80s these things were the vehicle to have if you were a skier. 4 people and their gear fit reasonably comfortably inside (the wagons at least) and you didn’t have to worry about whether the snowplow had been out.
These days everybody west of the Rockies has some form of AWD vehicle, but in 1980 it was a unique feature. I’d forgotten about the sedans but at one time the wagons were fairly common in these parts. AMC did pretty well with these for what was basically an afterthought. Still ugly though.
I like the Eagle. In fact, I liked it since as a kid I had a Stomper (remember those?) that was a lime green SX/4. Id always been a Jeep nut but once my dad gave me a little education on how AMC and Jeep were connected, I had a soft spot. Yeah, theyre weird and underpowered but still they just have that off the wall, ‘neat-o’ factor as did many of the 4×4 minitrucks of that era. Unlike the CUVs of today which are nothing more than minivans in disguise, it seemed like AMC built these for people to actually go out and have fun with them. My dad was a 4Wheel and Offroad and Four Wheeler subscriber, so I got to see all the roadtests on these as well as how actual people beefed them up with 80’s era accessories and took them offroad. Whens the last time someone even attempted to offroad in a chevy traverse, or a Toyota highlander? As weird as a tubular brushguard, roof lights and a set of white 8 spoke ‘wagon wheels’ looked on an Eagle wagon…it also looked a LOT like those Stompers I had. And that means it looked FUN. The CUVs of now….not so much.
Shouldn’t the AMC Eagle be seen as a kind of AWD Volvo 240? If AMC had been able to tool up an entirely new car based on what was a great concept they would have had a car that not only had a big following in America but could have gained AMC a sizeable foothold in Europe.
The other car that bares comparison is the Range Rover, in the mid ’70s it too was far from fully realised, with short wheelbase, 2 doors and a carb powered V8. When it was fully developed in the mid ’80s it became an automotive icon.
I prefer the sedan to the wagon/hatchback, but given a choice between an Eagle or an E30 325xi, I would take the BMW.
Never really noticed this before, but it appears that the rear axle is off center and closer to the rear of the wheel opening, especially on the blue sedan. Is that how they all were?
The white wagon is apparently a rare one. I was told by an AMC Expert (supposedly) the wagons with the rear wiper were rare. They were supposedly ordered specially for the Alaskan market due to the bad weather and constant build up on the rear window it was supposed to be mandatory for the wagons to have this.
Kind of makes me wonder if it was so important for the wagons to have it. Why didn’t they make it mandatory for all models to have the rear wiper?
I’m afraid i’ve never owned or driven an Eagle. But I’ve seen plenty of them when I was a boy, between 10 and 15. AMC had an awesome idea there. Take a proven body, place a proven 4wd powertrain underneath, and what do you get? Bibbidy bobbidy boo! an all weather, go anywhere vehicle one could use for just about anything. The only thing I would’ve done to it is give it a new grille. Perhaps that of the AMC Spirit. The grille used for the Spirit from 1981 and later looks more attractive (in my humble opinion) than that of the Eagle. I would’ve also had a small diesel engine under the hood.
At the peak I owned 12 Eagles at once, gave 5 away so still have 7. I can thank my grade school teachers for figuring that problem out …. anyway.. still drive an Eagle to work every day. People always comment about it ” is that still running “, Ha .. just kidding, it just turned 270,000 miles. I bought this particular Eagle in the late 90’s and put it on the road in 2000, and have been driving it ever since. I am currently getting between 15 to 18 mpg, and that’s not bad for a 31 year old engine. These cars were ahead of their time, called the first crossover made in U.S.. Although now considered old technology it has the plus side of being able to be fixed on the road. Today these new cars with their feedback systems sometimes are a bear to fix in your back yard. If you ever get the chance to buy one ALWAYS check for rust in the front wheel well areas on the unibody frame. Rust in these areas have killed an otherwise nice looking Eagle. When my ’83 I,m driving finally breaks in half, I will put another one on the road. click on pict to enlarge
owned a red S/X4 in the early 90’s…..LOVED that concept
wish i still had it….
added tall skinny truck tires with taller jeep shocks and was un stopable in the new jersey winters
only wish the straight 6 had more horepower and that damn plastic vale cover…uuuugghhh
I am driving an 1987 eagle sedan—-but after rear brake job the mechanic discovered there must be a bent axle—now car shakes when braking. Don’t see rear axles online. Someone in this forum mentioned there are many eagle fans who are willing to help. Can anyone suggest a source for this? I’d appreciate it because right now I’m having to hunt for another car——and don’t want to! I’m in Iowa.
My wife and I had a 1980 Eagle Wagon Limited. Very comfortable. Great visibility and driving position. Gas mileage was about 18, not great. Only problem I had was keeping manifold gaskets on it. Once I saw a guy in a Chevy pickup trying to get his boat out of a lake. All he did was spin his tires. I asked him to get a chain and I walked his truck and his boat out without breaking a sweat. Of all of the cars that I have owned, if I could have one brand new, one would be an Eagle wagon and the other would be a 1976 Olds Cutlass Salon.
While living in the US / New York from 1994 – 2001, I used to own a blue ext/blue int.Sedan, 85 or 86 I think, color exactly as seen above. Wondering if this is my ex-car. Bought it in 1998 in Brooklyn from an elderly person, maintained it well, it was a beauty. When I left US in 2001 sold it and the new owner later told me it got a transfer-case problem and didnt run anymore. If the car is still on the road (at least in 2014), that would be a good thing. Here is the car in 2000, on NY plates.
If the Pacer and Matador Coupe didn’t flop, or if AMC sunk that dough for a completely new Hornet, would we have seen 4WD in 1980?
Because if there was a completely new Hornet/Gremlin built in 1975, there would have been a newer car to put on that Eagle, instead of the ancient decade old car AMC had to use.
The idea of putting 4WD on a passenger car seemed odd, back in 1980. Seeing AMC turn that decade old Hornet into an Eagle seemed like a joke. In 1980 we wanted FWD, transverse mounted four cylinder engines in utilitarian boxes.
When I first saw an Eagle I thought it wasn’t real. When I heard why it looked like it did, I didn’t think it was necessary.
Had both an ’83 Eagle wagon and ’86 sedan, both with the 258 six. The 4wd system was brilliant, the engine was decent enough, torquey and smooth, and the body and interior fit and finish beyond crude, just pure crap. As it also was on the ’87 Grand Wagoneer we had. But at least the Eagles got better mileage than the AMC 360’s 10-11 mpg! The latter was traded on a Montero that was better in every respect, and that one has led to 3 more very reliable, competent, and sort-of-efficient Japanese SUVs that we drive to this very day!
Even now, I still think these cars are just so cool. The jacked up look makes it appear so bad and all business-like. I thought they were cool in 1980, too. However even with 100k sold it was the end of the line for AMC. The Gremlin and Pacer killed it. I wonder how things would have turned out had the Rambler been developed. There was always a market for a no-nonsense, right sized family sedan. Alas, AMC probably didn’t have the cash for that, either.
Next to the Eagle Wagon, the slow selling Eagle Kammback was my next favourite bodystyle in the Eagle family. A four door Kammback potentially being closer than the wagon to being an early take on the CUV.
This body style was essentially a Gremlin with a larger rear quarter window. The Spirit sloped hatchback body style (also offered as an Eagle) was quite attractive; either of these is what AMC should have done in 1970 instead of the Gremlin. Don’t forget AMC offered a convertible too (converted by a third party), making 6 Eagle body styles in all. AMC had even kicked around a 4WD pickup truck style in the early ’70s, building a few prototypes.
The Kammback should have been given a 7 slat grill and marketed as a Jeep.
i love AMC. something abut being different. about doing things with little to no money and yet being creative. to me their cars were not like the rest. it’s like turning left when everyone is going right. i never knew studebaker or packard… and i was never a fan of 50’s cars. but AMC was special to me.
For 17 years I drove a Brampton-made 1983 AMC Concord DL “W” code, rare (5) spd manual trans wagon . As owner-maintained, it was rugged and reliable transportation, it is missed to this day. The 258 cid still lives on in a Jeep.