Eagle. Such a majestic bird of prey, and a fitting name for a vehicle of worthy credentials. Unfortunately, Chrysler’s Eagle brand was from start to finish a struggling disaster, more fitting of the brand name “Albatross” rather than Eagle, given its burden and general annoyance to the parent Chrysler Corporation.
Born out of the remnants of AMC, Eagle will go down as one of the most peculiar and questionable American brands of all time, as a peddler of an array of vehicles coming from the original American Motors, Renault, Mitsubishi, and Chrysler. Eagle was a brand that no one every really knew what to make of, and as a result, a brand that never found a footing in the American market. While its more memorable later vehicles came via Chrysler and Mitsubishi, its earliest efforts spoke with more of a French accent, á la Renault.
One of those such vehicles was the Medallion, a virtual clone of the midsize Renault 21 which was introduced as a 1986 model in Europe. Brought up to North American specification, the French-produced Renault Medallion sedan and wagon officially debuted in North America in the fall of 1986 as a 1987 model.
Had Renault stayed in the North American market, the Medallion would have been bookended by the Alliance/Encore (and their eventual successor) and the upcoming Premier, giving Renault a competitive compact-midsize-fullsize lineup of cars to sell alongside Jeep and possibly other AMC-badged cars. This is where things get fuzzy, but of course Renault was likely already planning its exit before the Medallion was even released.
Renault’s sale of American Motors to Chrysler was made official in March of 1987, a sale also marking the end of Renault’s active investment in the North American market. Yet sales of the Medallion continued as part of the terms of the agreement, which stipulated that Chrysler continue distribution of the French-built Medallion and upcoming Canadian-built Premier.
The Medallion and Premier would be sold alongside the existing Jeep lineup through the approximately 1,200 AMC-Jeep-Renault dealers in the U.S. and Canada that Chrysler had inherited, with all other existing AMC and Renault models being phased out over the 1987-1988 model years. Initially keeping the fruits of the AMC purchase separate from other Chrysler operations, inevitably a new brand was needed to sell these cars under.
Thus, the Eagle brand was created, taking its name from the final AMC-branded vehicle. The remnants of AMC officially became the Jeep-Eagle division of Chrysler in August 1987, after 1988 Renault Medallions had gone into production, resulting in 1988 model year Medallions badged as both Renaults and Eagles.
With the Premier, Chrysler was contractually obligated to purchase a lofty 260,000 of its 3.0L Peugeot-Renault-Volvo V6s over a period of five years from Renault, or else pay a fine on every undelivered engine. Therefore, Chrysler was more or less held to producing and selling 260,000 units of the Premier over this five year period. Ultimately, only around 139,000 Premiers and its even less successful rebadged Dodge Monaco were produced.
It appears Chrysler was held to less stringent quotas with the Medallion, if there were even such any, for the automaker halted imports of the vehicle after a limited run of 1989 models. In many ways, this was really quite a shame, as the Medallion a very good car, and could have been a great car had Chrysler devoted a single ounce of attention to it.
As aforementioned, the Medallion was more or less a European-market Renault 21 with a few American-market styling, trim, safety, and equipment changes. Stylistically-speaking, the Medallion was an attractive design in the latest “aero” fashion, sporting a sloped nose with flush composite headlights and grille, flared front wheel arches, contoured body sides, bright bodyside moldings, aircraft-style doors, rakish roofline, and French-style semi-skirted rear wheels. The Medallion sedan also featured a high rear deck, full-width taillights, and well-integrated U.S.-spec bumpers.
Likewise, the Medallion’s interior was one of both functional and contemporary design. Ergonomics and efficiency of space were key attributes, with logically-placed controls, full analogue instrumentation, Renault’s pedestal-mounted front seat tracks, and an unobtrusive front center console. The Medallion’s quality of interior finishes and overall design was easily a step above American and most Japanese competitors, with color-keyed plastics, upholstered door panels, and standard velour upholstery.
The Medallion’s list of standard features was lengthy, with the few extra-cost options limited to power windows/locks, upgrade stereo, and leather-wrapped steering wheel. Wagons came standard with cruise control, air conditioning, and a roof rack. Among the Medallion’s most novel options was a remote keyless entry via handheld transmitter, a technology pioneered by Renault several years earlier, and a feature lacked by all its competitors.
Classified by the EPA as a midsize car, the Medallion was notable among vehicles of such small size for the considerably different wheelbases and lengths of its sedan and wagon bodystyles. Whereas sedans rode on a 102.3-inch wheelbase and measured 183.2 inches long, wagons boasted a 108.2-inch wheelbase and a length of 189.7 inches.
For comparison sake, the sedan’s wheelbase and length were within less than an inch each of Chrysler’s upcoming Dodge Spirit/Plymouth Acclaim, and the wagon’s wheelbase was two inches longer than the Ford Taurus/Mercury Sable wagons yet two inches shorter in overall length. Despite this, bested them all in front and rear legroom, and cargo capacity in the wagon. The wagon’s longer wheelbase made possible some 41.7 cubic feet of cargo capacity behind the second row and 89.5 cubic feet with the second row folded flat, along with an available forward-facing third row seat, bringing seating capacity to seven.
In other parts of the world, the Renault 21 unusually featured further variations of wheelbases depending on its powertrain. Engines with displacements under 2.0 liters were transversely-mounted per most small cars. Engines with displacements over 2.0 liters were longitudinally-mounted as in Renault’s larger cars, for Renault lacked an existing transmission capable of handling the additional power, requiring the front wheels moved aft ever so slightly.
North American models were only available with the largest longitudinal engine, a 2.2 liter SOHC I4 rated at 103 horsepower and 124 lb-ft torque, mated to either a standard 5-speed manual or optional 3-speed automatic. All Medallions featured a four-wheel independent suspension, comprised of a MacPherson strut front and trailing arm rear.
Initial reviews were generally positive, but the sad truth was that the Medallion, whether a Renault or Eagle, received very little promotion. Despite its high value proposition on paper, the Medallion’s very AMC/Renault origins, transition to the unestablished Eagle brand, resulting lower residual value, and lack of general support from Chrysler meant that to those even aware of it, the Medallion was a somewhat less confident buy. Add to that early examples’ inconsistent build quality and proneness to mechanical glitches, and the Medallion represented a far more questionable value proposition.
Can’t you just feel Lee Iacocca’s overwhelming enthusiasm over the new Eagle brand?
The truth was, Chrysler’s motive for the AMC purchase had little to do with Renault, but rather for the gold mine Jeep brand and AMC’s state-of-the-art Brampton assembly plant. Although the Premier soon proved an unforeseen asset, owing much of its advanced underpinnings to Chrysler’s LH sedans, Chrysler very clearly had little interest in or need for these French sedans that shared no common parts with other Chryslers and directly competed with Chrysler’s own cars. As a result, Chrysler wanted to dump them as soon as it could.
Sold for just three model years under two brands, one with a less than stellar track record and one with no record at all, the Medallion was shrouded in obscurity and uncertainty from the start. If any publication of production/sales figures do exist out there, I’ve yet to find them. Nonetheless, it’s obvious that the number of Medallions sold wasn’t high. I’d bet money that there can’t be more than 1,000 left on the road, with maybe 20-percent of them wagons? Lacking adequate promotion, product positioning, and overall support from Chrysler on any front, the Medallion was a vehicle destined for failure, never able to fly high like the mighty eagle.
(Photos by Owen Smith – CC Cohort)
Why did Chrysler phase out the French cars?
They Renault of money and there was no Espace for them in the line up (hehe)
JK. I would definitely like to see how an US Spec Mégane looked like
My dad had a 21 in the UK, looked identical to this from the rear. A properly modern car at the time, it was a great all-rounder with a nice planted feel to the handling. Particularly good on motorways, cruising effortlessly at 80+ all day long.
Nothing but good memories of that car, it was a great workhorse.
My mum owned a Nevada wagon for a while, one of the last ones when they no longer carried the R21 moniker, the sedan having been replaced by the Laguna already. It was positively huge inside. Hers lacked the third seat option but the few I did ride on (they were common) back made it clear that wasn’t just for show.
It was also heavily underpowered, uphill it couldn’t even keep up with the lorries when loaded. These were better with the more powerful engine options.
I remember when these came out. Wasn’t much press for them in TV ads or the car mags. I did see some of them on the road and then they looked like a generic box to me. I figured they might be just another K car variant and didn’t pay attention to them much. I see their appeal now with the benefit of more sophisticated eyes (being old). I agree they could have been more successful with more attention.
I suspect there was a good reason why Chrysler never promoted these vehicles all that much: These, and their Renault siblings, were a money-losing albatross that were part of the cost of acquiring what they really wanted, the Jeep brand.
Even if these had sold in decent numbers, I doubt the per-car profit would’ve even approached that of the myriad K-car variants, which by that time were Chrysler’s cash cow. And to add insult to injury, a significant number of those sales would’ve ended up cutting into the sales of the K-car variants, driving up the per-unit costs of these proven and familiar money-makers.
What an amazing find!
These are truly an automotive tragedy. A promising car derailed by circumstances. Perhaps the Medallion is even more exotic to me because we never got the Renault 21 in Australia.
I didn’t realize how big the wagon was! But I did know – and do agree with you – that Eagle was just a hopelessly mismanaged brand. They had plenty of surprisingly affluent Jeep buyers pouring into showrooms and, while the Talon and Vision were promising, most of the cars sold under the Eagle brand were just Mitsubishis sold elsewhere as Plymouths and Dodges. What the hell was the point? Even the Talon and Vision were thinly disguised Mopar/Mitsubishi products. The Medallion was quickly axed and the Premier, which was also rather intriguing, seemed to just be neglected.
The Eagle brand had so much potential but Chrysler just half-assed it and let it die.
We did get the 21, albeit in weeny amounts. They tried to charge half as much again as a top-line local, and it was never going to work. Especially as the car was a fine competitor for, say, a Mazda 626 or Ford Telstar, but not against an LTD.
Actually, I’m sure I’d have preferred the Renault, but you get my point.
To be fair to the distributor at the time, Aus car prices were sent into complete disarray from mid-86 on, when the newly floated dollar sank. Have a look at a price list of nice Euro cars from ’88. They are startling.
But the way Renault as a brand was so weakly represented in Australia, it really wasn’t a viable option back then unless you were in the enthusiast club, and certainly not if you lived far from a state capital.
You might find tariffs had a lot to do with it being overpriced, protect the local industry at whatever the cost.
Oh wow, you’re right Justy. Such a tiny run, though: apparently over just three years or so and through two different distributors. I knew the 25 was here (thanks to Which Car’s used car buyers guide section back in the day) but not the 21. I’ve certainly never seen one.
Renault then ditched us for a few years, came back, ditched us again, and then came back… This time, it seems, for good. They’re actually selling cars nowadays.
These are truly an automotive tragedy. A promising car derailed by circumstances.
A tragedy? Hmm. A French family sedan/wagon was never going to succeed in the US, no matter what. These were DOA. During this decade of Japanese supremacy, Renault was an automotive leper.
Eagle was DOA too. It was obvious that Chrysler didn’t have its heart (or money) in it. They had little choice but to carry this out and hope for the best.
What was Chrysler supposed to do with this motley bunch of cast-offs? The Premier had no chance after the Taurus/Sable twins came out, as it looked ungainly compared to them, and it was pretty well known that it was a Renault in disguise.
What would you have had Chrysler do with these tainted cars, none of which were really all that terrific? Creating a new brand at a time when the extensive brand structure at GM was collapsing didn’t exactly make a lot of sense, eh? Kill Plymouth but invest in a new brand?
Finding production numbers for Eagle products is indeed difficult. The Encyclopedia of American Cars suggests that about 59,000 Premiers were built in calendar year 1988. The Medallion numbers aren’t even hinted at.
Oddly, this same source mentions a 1988 Eagle, no model name, just says it was a 4 door wagon…..with a 258 cubic inch inline 6 cylinder engine. Numbers produced? 2,305. Obviously this is the AMC Eagle AWD wagon.
No other numbers for any cars sold in 88 or 89, and only numbers for the Diamond Star built Talon until 1993 and the Vision is added.
Yes, Chrysler produced a final run of 1988 model-year 4WD Eagle wagons to use up parts that were on-hand. AMC badges were dropped, the cars were branded simply as Eagles. Production actually ceased in December of 1987.
“the cars were branded simply as Eagles.”
Technically, the Eagle Eagle. Maybe my favorite car name ever. 🙂
Choose the right firearms manufacturer for a bit of cross-promotion and you could have a Desert Eagle Eagle Eagle. 😉
Another favorite of mine is the “Chrysler by Chrysler” that was sold in Australia.
In most countries, a double eagle is known as an albatross.
And…you’ve brought us full circle to my own Eagle post of a few months ago!
There are a few cars that, if I’d happen to see one, I’d try any means necessary to get pictures of them… and the Medallion is one of those cars. Though I was just 15 when these were sold, they fascinated me — even then it was obvious that the car was out of context and was a born orphan. I really had an affection for these, and an affectionate pity for the few people who bought them.
The wagons were especially intriguing due to the three rows and overtly French design. But if I had been in the market for a family wagon in the late 1980s, I doubt I’d be brave enough to plunk down $15,000 for one. Regardless, I always liked seeing them.
This particular car was featured on Jalopnik recently:
Turns out it’s an ’88 — probably one of the few ’88s badged as a Renault. The Jalopnik piece has a link to an Craigslist ad — it was for sale for $1,500. Several pictures in the ad show the car with another Medallion (which isn’t surprising), and the car apparently has close to 200,000 miles (which IS surprising).
Anyway, it’s great to read about one of these this morning, and I had no idea that Renault pioneered remote keyless entry.
The 1982 Renault Fuego was the first car to offer remote keyless entery with a key chain based transmitter(the 1980 Lincoln was the first to offer keyless entry using a key pad on the door)
Renault seems to have been one step ahead of a lot of car makers in the 1980’s. The Fuego was also the first car to have steering wheel mounted radio controls
I saw that car on Seattle CL and checked back from time to time. It took a few weeks to sell, but sell it did. I wouldn’t have been the right owner for it, but I was tempted.
Thanks for the link, it adds quite a bit with the additional pix from the ad. The interior looks in excellent condition and I’m guessing the owner being a bit of a Renault fan (another Medallion as well as a Fuego) has a lot to do with this one still driving around.
Overall a very good looking car, aero without shouting it out and still looking crisp and modern.
Credit to you Eric for inspiring a QOTD?
The curbivore who bagged this Medallion is truly a god among men! Or women:) Especially since I kindly doubt there’s still 1,000 of these on the road. I’d be pleasantly surprised if there were fifty roadworthy specimens in all of North America.
Strongly agree. These cars are on my radar, yet I haven’t seen a Medallion for at least 10 years.
Me too. I doubt there’s even 50 running ones left in the US. I found this one that two young guys were trying to keep running back in 2013. It was a unicorn already then.
How about a follow up ? It would be great to know how they’re doing with the car.
Excellent detailed article Brendan, and a great find by the photographer. These were attractive and desirable cars. The influence of Audi in the design is unmistakable.
The fact that Chrysler had such tastefully styled and packaged European flavoured designs in their recent fleet, made me that much more disappointed at the time when they introduced the thoroughly old school (and bland) appearing Dynasty/New Yorker. As well as the equally blasé styled Spirit / Acclaim. Each seeming like Chrysler’s homage to early 80s GM styling.
Credit to Chrysler though, for later showcasing European influenced design in the beautifully styled Eagle Vision. My all time favourite Eagle.
I’m aware that the Dynasty was already designed when Chrysler acquired AMC. It’s rather the design direction Chrysler was headed under iacocca, that was disappointing. Having the Medallion in the stable, highlighted this for me.
One of my friends had an Eagle Premier. The interior was very well laid out and was a very comfortable car for road trips. The ZF\Renault\Bendix powertrain was a jumbalaya of crap. You remember that crazy ex girlfriend/boyfriend you had in college? The one that bangs on your door at 3am crying and the cat peed on your luggage? If they were a car, they would be an Eagle Premier.
I love well packaged cars and comfortable and ergonomic interiors and cushy rides, so in the last few years I’ve become quite enamored with these French cars when I read about them. The quality issues and poor service support in terms of replacement parts is enough to scare me off of from every owning one, however.
I remember travelling in the third row of one of these back in 1988, a 2 liter engined Renault 21 “Nevada” (as they were called in Europe except UK, where they called it “Savanna”). With 120 bhp and a 5 speed manual transmission it was a decently quick family car in those days. It sold very well in Spain, despite mediocre build quality.
A couple of years later my father bought a five door R21 sedan. Performance was glacial thanks to its NA diesel engine (74 bhp) but it was very roomy and comfortable.
Although the R21 is an almost forgotten car even in Europe, the 2.0 Turbo (available in two or four wheel drive “Quadra” versions) with 175 bhp was rather quick.
i really liked the looks of the amc/renaults as a kid. a good friend had an alliance with a stick which was a blast to drive. i also remember getting a drive in an eagle premiere and being very impressed. but, americans like there cars bulletproof and bulletproof these were not.
“… Eagle will go down as one of the most peculiar and questionable American brands of all time…” “Eagle was a brand that no one every really knew what to make of, and as a result, a brand that never found a footing in the American market.”
While reading this I couldn’t help but think of GM’s Geo brand. I suppose GM had a healthy dose of hubris and thought they could make a bad idea work for them.
I agree with your assessment about GEO to an extent.
There are differences though. If Chrysler could have gotten out of having to offer these Renaults and could have closed down all of the AMC assets except for the Jeeps (which they bought it for) then they would have.
GM was trying to offer a Japanese flavored entity to cater to those folks that would not have a Chevy in their driveway. it also allowed a joint manufacture plan with Toyota and Suzuki.
It was somewhat a success as GEO Prizm was a popular selling car and so was the first generation Tracker. The Metro was a popular seller also and in one instance the popularity of the car actually killed it. The GEO Storm was a excellent made car that Isuzu made for GM. It was a sister car to the Impulse that was being made at the same time as the Storm. However nobody was buying the Impulse because they were buying the Storm so Isuzu killed off the Impulse and repurposed the factory line for other vehicles. That also killed the Storm off.
“GM was trying to offer a Japanese flavored entity to cater to those folks that would not have a Chevy in their driveway. it also allowed a joint manufacture plan with Toyota and Suzuki.”
Which was funny, because (in Pennsylvania, at least) once you bought the car, both the title and owner’s card stated “Chevrolet”. Which the salesman was very careful not to mention before the deal was closed. When I bought my girlfriend her Metro, the temporary owner’s card said “Geo”. And then the title arrived. For me, a minor shady annoyance. I could see where some customers would be pissed, however.
Yep, GM never bothered to register Geo as a brand. It was just a nameplate on the hood.
If GM never bothered to register the brand, would that make it open slather for anyone else to use ‘Geo’ as a brand at the same time? And if you registered ‘Geo’, would mighty GM have to settle with you? The mind boggles…
It’s a semantics/legality issue you’re misunderstanding. A car in the US needs to be titled according to its “make” and “model”. Normally, a “make” is the same as the brand, but not in the case of Geo, as it also was the case with Scion. These were something like a sub-brand, not a full-fledged brand. Which is why Geos were sold at Chevy dealers, as there were no Geo dealers. Same as Scion; they’re all legally titled as “Toyotas”. Sold in Toyota stores.
It makes shutting down these sub-brands drastically easier and cheaper. Franchise laws in the US are quite complex when it comes to real brands/makes and their dealers. It cost GM billions to shut down Oldsmobile.
Geo was certainly “registered” by GM in the same way a model would be. But it wasn’t a brand/maker. Got it?
At the time car dealers used to say Geo stood for Gross Equals Zero because they made so little money on them.
What a great piece, Brendan. I had completely forgotten all about these.
Chrysler found itself in a strange spot. Jeep had one of the highest income demographics of any vehicle buyers. And most of those buyers would never have considered anything in a Chrysler-Plymouth-Dodge showroom. However, French cars have just never found a market here.
I remember doing some car looking with the future Mrs. JPC in probably 1989. We went to a Jeep-Eagle dealer and drove a Premier. These were in the lot but had no appeal to us. By that time a V6 was essential in a non-Japanese car in that price class. The relatively small 4 was just not enough engine for what they were trying to get for the car.
These cars would not have saved AMC or Renault here in the US market. They were expensive for what you got, and they were unusual. People will pay more for less when there is some something extra like safety (Volvo) or some unique appeal (Saab) or prestige (BMW) or a handful of other factors. These were just relatively expensive and French, a combination that was never going to sell in the US without some really outstanding something – which this car did not seem to possess.
Peugeot seemed a much better proposition for the US market but it was not successful here either.
That’s cool to know you and Mrs. JPC actually test drove a Premier; but I can see why its value proposition was inferior. Charging a premium for a brand lacking credentials of image to back its price is a challenge.
That would make for a great CC meetup icebreaker question: give us one fact about yourself that nobody would ever guess. That I actually test drove an Eagle Premiere. 😊
For those who lust after this admittedly handsome Renault 21, here’s a sobering statistic from a British used car review site (https://classics.honestjohn.co.uk/): As of April 2014, out of 2,743,100 cars produced, an estimated 553 are left. That’s a 0.0202% survival rate.
Something may have got lost i translation. there are approx 550 Renault 21s registered still in the UK but teh 2.7 million figure refers to worldwide production, not UK sales.
But still not a great survivor
When it comes to ordinary, mundane brands (which Renault is in the UK) very few cars of this era are still on the roads, thanks to the scrappage scheme and the general disposability of cars there.
How many Honda Accords or Toyota Carinas of that era still exist in Britain?
A guy that I worked with 20 years ago bought a used Medallion sedan. I rode with him a few times and was impressed. It was comfortable and rode nice. Parts were very hard to find even back then. Too bad because it was a nice car. His was the last one that I can remember seeing.
Interesting that the Eagle Vision was made concurrently at the Brampton plant along with Intrepid and Concorde models in the early days of that plant. Now they make 300s and Challengers and Chargers there. Fascinating.
A coworker had an Eagle – I don’t know which model. It was a decent enough looking car, with a bit of an air of quality around it, whether deserved or not. Weird that a company would buy a brand and then allow it, or cause it to die. They could have flogged it a bit harder at least until the engine commitment ran out.
Great article! It helps to understand the history of these brands and how things came to be today. Eagle does not get much press on CC.
“Interesting that the Eagle Vision was made concurrently at the Brampton plant along with Intrepid and Concorde models in the early days of that plant. ”
The Vision was essentially the same car as the Intrepid and Concorde with which it shared the LH platform. IMHO the Vision was the best looking of all the LH cars
Evidently the car that was ultimately sold as the Chrysler 300M was originally intended to be the second-generation Vision.
A rare sight, for sure, that Obama ’08 sticker and the Medallion to which it clings. As to the question of whether these Renaults could ever survive a long life, this one would be able to shrug Gallicly, point to it’s long list of registration labels and say “Yes, we can.”
(Alright, I’ll stop).
It’s not likely these would have succeeded, even if they had done so at first (ala Alliance). The V6 was the Dourvin, which always had a poor output per cubic inch and poor economy in all it’s guises. They lacked refinement, they didn’t suffer any maintenance neglect and didn’t live long lives any way. They really were always a poor engine, and as everyone knows – and their own history proved – you can’t polish a merde.
The original 21 is (to me) a handsome beast which I would yet understand someone else calling “bland.” The aero style, as Brendan points out, is in the details. The Medallion nose does spoil quite a bit, however.
The Premier is based on the Renault 25. Do I understand you to be saying, Brendan, that the LH cars were based on it or the other way? I ask because it’s not quite clear, and also because I have no idea of the answer.
The LH cars were based on the Premier. That was the starting point for their development in any case.
It would be hard to imagine it going the other way: LH to Premier to R25. A Renault sedan derived from an American car? That would have been different.
PRV V6 = #2
When Ford adopted the ‘invisible’ D pillar on the Explorer, it immediately reminded me of the Medallion wagon. I like this look on the Renault, combined with the wider C pillar. Not so much on the Ford, where the C pillar is much too broad. To me, the Explorer generally appearing bloated and over-styled.
Caution: Big rambling off-topic rant ahead… The Explorer to me represents the conflicting feelings I have with modern vehicles. My right-brain sees the safety, environmental and unit cost reasons for the safety-cage-high beltline-thick pillars stuff. But my left brain wants sheer/angular/low/wide back. I want them to look they used to and function like modern stuff. I don’t know if this is possible. I started a 1/64 scale car collection in 2011 and have them in my bedroom so I can surrounded myself with the way cars used to look to me. The real world, or my part of it, has gotten uglier and it manifests itself in all the angry headlights and blobby shapes I am surrounded by on the roads. I had a difficult upbringing and found comfort in music and cars, and modern versions of each no longer make me feel good. Or anything at all. I should probably delete this post, but since it was so much typing and editing on the tablet I will keep it, even though I may have just exposed myself as a nut. “Getting old is not for the faint-hearted.”
Some might say “down”.
Always enjoy your candor, and sometimes brutally honest, comments Daniel. LOL 🙂
That’s what I thought. Doesn’t “federalization” usually make cars worse?
Welllll…no, not per se. There’s a reason I phrased myself as I did!
Some people object to the appearance of US-spec bumpers, while others appreciate that the US bumpers do a better job of minimising the consequences of a relatively minor hit.
Some people object to US-spec lights, because they think US-spec lights are necessarily inferior to European-spec ones, which is not the case, and neither is the opposite — this can go either way, or both ways at the same time.
Some people object to US-spec mirrors and seatbelts, and it’s fair odds they have a good point.
Some people regard the home-market configuration of a car as the only true/pure/legitimate version, and anything else as a bastardisation. They think they have a good point, but all they have is an opinion without much substance under it.
Most people aren’t fanboi-types and most people don’t get into the minutiae of photometric characteristics of headlamps or turn signals, particulars of sideview mirrors, safety performance of seatbelts, and other suchlike. What most people object to is not Federalisation but Americanization: changes made by the automaker to suit what they think American buyers prefer, and/or for other reasons besides complying with US technical regulations on vehicle safety, emissions, bumpers, and theft-resistance. Different suspension/steering/brake calibrations, unavailability of specific options, colours, and configurations, and stuff like that (not to mention what can be the biggest disappointment of all: an automaker simply deciding not to offer a particular model, or any vehicles at all, in the American market).
Changes from the home-market version can straddle the border between federalisation and Americanization, too. For example, US bumpers don’t necessarily have to be ugly, if one’s got an open mind and doesn’t insist that the only ones that look good are the European ones. And there’s a wide range of what’s permitted by the American regs for just about every aspect of a vehicle’s lighting system. An automaker can choose to deviate from European/rest-of-world practice only to the minor extent necessary to comply with US regs, or they can choose to hew very closely to traditional US practice. When Mercedes switched to composite headlamps on most US models for ’86, they put in the lousiest, cheapest and nastiest type allowed. Ford did the same on the Merkur models, and so did Audi on the 4000 and 5000. But in fact, most of those cars had differently but more-or-less equally primitive headlamps in the home market. There doesn’t have to be an ocean crossed for stuff like this to happen, either. The Eagle Premier/Dodge Monaco had optically very innovative, highly efficient headlamps. It was a one-off; the Spirit/Acclaim and the Dynasty, etc, had the lousy/cheap/nasty kind.
You don’t have to take things to fanboi extremes to conflate original-config or European-spec with superiority. The mythology practically writes itself: they have high-speed Autobahns/Autoroutes/Autostrade in Europe, so obvs the European-spec stuff must be better! In reality, that’s not necessarily so. But “terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad US regs are RUINING YOUR IMPORTED CARS!!!!1!!111!!!!” sold a lot of magazines in decades past, and it’s still fairly fruitful ground for clickbait nowtimes.
What I had in mind was ugly bumpers (come on, they usually were) & headlights, and blunting the car’s handling capabilities.
I assumed you were thinking of lighting, and in fact that you do so any time you’re breathing. Tee hee.
There are nights I dream of reviewing lighting technical papers, writing lighting technical articles, and evaluating headlamps—followed by days I wonder why I bothered going to sleep.
Mother had a Premier which prompted my sister to buy a Monaco. Chrysler and Eagle were so desperate by that point, sis got her Monaco for $9999, which was really a heckuva deal. Except I don’t think that car lasted 4 years.
No parts are shared between Premiere and LH cars. Only the N-S FWD layout. Source, Allpar.com
Nobody is suggesting they shared parts. But the LH cars are a developmental evolution of the R-25 platform, meaning instead of starting totally from scratch, they started with it, and built development mules using it, and went forward from there. The fact that the LH cars used the N-S engine format is not an accident.
A quote from Bob Lutz: “the Premier had an excellent chassis and drove so damned well that it served as a benchmark for the LH … the spiritual father, the genetic antecedent of the LH is the Premier.”
Remembering how loudly Iacocca’s Chrysler played the “Made in America” card in the 80s, I find it so ironic that Chrysler had to bail itself out of an obsolete product lineup TWICE by starting over with platforms originally engineered in France:
1) The K-car, derived from the Omnirizon, itself a lightly touched up Talbot.
2) The LH cars, genetically derived from (and originally made in the same plant as) the Eagle/Renault Premier, based on the R25.
Of course, the French were replaced by the Germans: the LX sedans owe a good deal of their engineering to the W210 Benz.
The K car platform had nothing to do with the Omnirizon. The K had a beam rear axle and the Omnirizon had a VW (and others) style semi independent twist beam with shocks inside coil springs, among a lot of other things. The K body is much bigger and more square. The FWD packages might have had something in common.
Agree, don’t know why some go on about “derived from XX car” based on the description of layout.
Are 2 random cars the “same platform” since they both have 4 wheels? 😉
WHAT. I’ve been looking for a Medallion for ages (it’s definitely a top-ten car on my personal CC bucket list), but I’d long since given up any real hope of finding one. And not only is this a Medallion, it’s a wagon? The number of running Medallion wagons in the US has to be in the single digits now. I’m shocked and amazed: what a find! Wow. And a good writeup, too.
I saw exactly 1 Medallion when they were current, owned by the owner of the Subway sandwich shop near my apartment. For that matter, the only Premier I saw in daily use lived in the apartment complex where I lived. Decades later, I saw a Premier sitting at a repair shop in Plymouth, Mi.
I have read that the sale of AMC to Chrysler was in negotiations for close to two years. Renault was having issues at home, Hanon got the boot in 85. His successor, Besse, started trying to pedal AMC, then was assassinated in 86.
The way things evolved was that AMC engineering was to focus on Jeep, while Renault took the lead on passenger cars, with AMC helping out on things like interior trim. Problem was, and this I got from a couple AMC styling guys, was that Renault designed and tested their cars for French weather conditions. The cooling and hvac systems were not up to the task of dealing with the wider range of conditions in the US, and Renault would not improve the system.
Additionally a lot of the AMC dealers were second rate. The dealer in Kalamazoo (combination AMC/Jeep/Mazda/Chrysler/Plymouth) tried to give me a song and dance about how both front calipers on my R5 were “seized”, the car was unsafe to drive and I had to pay them for new calipers right now. What a pantload. The brakes on that car worked perfectly fine then, and for the several more years I had it. I read a 12,000 mile “long term” test of an Alliance. The magazine said the car was fine, but they would go to another state before they ever took a Renault to the combination AMC/Chevy store where they had that Alliance serviced. Another person I have talked with bought an Encore at Coon Brothers in metro Detroit. Coon Brothers had been a Nash/Rambler/AMC dealer forever, and never dualed with another brand. Frank’s Encore was fine. He had it 8 years, without the reliability horror stories that seem to come out of stores where AMC was a side line.
This Medallion was on the Seattle Craig’s List a few weeks ago. Close to 200,000 miles and iirc, he had a Medallion sedan parts car as well. This may be the same car mentioned up thread. The listing is gone now, so maybe he found a buyer.
The rarity of the Medallion wagon makes it a gem, but I’d have to say, the Sable and Taurus wagons accomplished the aero look in wagon form FAR better IMO. To me at the time, the Medallion appeared somewhat conservative/nondescript compared to the design and packaging of the first gen Taurus/Sable wagon.
To me at the time, the Medallion appeared somewhat conservative/nondescript
The stretch of the late 70s/early 80s when Renault styling went more conservative, was greeted with a chorus of howls that Renault had taken the “Frenchness” out of the cars. Personally, I think those Renaults were the most attractive, an interlude of rationality between the 12 and 16, and the bizzareness that followed their withdrawal from the US.
My favorite of the French built Renaults we got here was the 18, particularly in wagon form.
I think the Alliance came off quite well, particularly in convertible form.
I fully agree Steve, the R18s looked great. And were well done in their ‘Americanized’ form.
I found the Fuego another attractive, and very original Renault design.
In the mid-80s I was working as a typesetter. One of our customers was a husband-and-wife team who organized tours to France, and we did their brochures. They drove a Renault 18 wagon. At some point they replaced it with a Japanese car. I didn’t think to ask them why.
CC Effect: I just saw a Medallion on the road about 2 weeks ago. I really hoped to get a picture of it, but I was stuck at a light waiting to go straight and he got in the turn lane and went left on a green arrow before I could get my phone.
Seeing that car prompted me to read the other CC article about the Medallion, and I strongly suspect the car I saw belongs to the fellow Curbivore who posted pictures of his Medallion in the comments of that other article. Not only does he appear to live in Northern California, I actually recognized the shopping center in the background in one of his photos! And how many Renault Medallions could there possibly be driving around the Sacramento area?
Gotta love that Lee Iacocca ad; I guess he decided “the first new American car brand in 30 years” sounded better than “the first new American car brand since the Edsel”….
The interior on this thing looks great, quite contemporary even now. This would have been a great car if it were reliable. I recall it feeling like an obvious soon-to-be-orphaned car at the time though.
The wagon is intriguing, though it looks a bit dorky with those wide rear doors, long front overhang, and short rear overhang. Is this the last wagon sold in the US with a forward-facing 3rd row seat?
Yep, I was just thinking this. It was Edsel, lol.
Wouldn’t AMC as a brand have debuted for MY 1966?
At the end of each year, there should be a vote among the CC readership as to the rarest featured find. This should win.
Great article, Brendan, and Owen Smith, my hat is off to you.
A friend’s mom had scored a Medallion at auction that was only a few years old, at the time. The mom, poor lady, just couldn’t believe she had gotten such a nice, newer used car for so few bucks. I believe that Medallion was gone within a couple of years.
Agreed! That’s a great idea Joe.
From the front, the wagon sure looks a lot like a Subaru Legacy wagon of the 1990s, with the grill and the greenhouse.
I understand the use of bigger bumpers on the Medallion to meet North American bumper standards, but I’ve always wondered why Renault or Chrysler used thinner chrome framed headlamps and a different grille on the Medallion with a separate front end piece. The full height headlamps and grill on the 21 look much better integrated with the rest of the car.
Nice find, haven’t seen one in a long time. Id be suprised if ther were 100 of them that still ran.
Was thinking the same thing as I looked at the pictures.
Hi there, i live un France and i have a Medallion Sedan since 2017. I’ m looking for a Medallion Wagon in France or Europe, if you Know once to sell please MP.
Salut Stéphane! Nous somme 2! Tu trouves des pièces en France? Je galère ici punaise!
Non rien de spécifique en pièces. Tu as déniché une Medallion récemment en France ?
protectionism also is a big part of the equation. witch is good from an american point of view. Also, as for anything, when something is cheap to afford, people will less take car of it…. as sad as it can be. Those cars where pretty cheap for the technology you got. i own 4 of them, station wagon. 2 running, 2 for parts. Amazing cars. Fuel efficiency if wonderful, specially those days. Very cheap to service and repair. Ok, no ABS, no airbags, no CarPlay, no rear camera, no radar, no driving assistant, no factory Bluetooth … well, i guess no problems then. People turning their heads on the car while driving is just priceless, whatever it s because of nostalgic feelings or disgust.
If Renault had decided to keep going in US for 1988-89, eventually would have begged Lee Iacocca to bail them out and take Jeep. Renault branded Medallion and Premier would have been nailed to showroom floors.
Alliance sold well its first year due to low price and ‘made in Wisconsin’. But they had warts, and tainted Renault name. Also, the bigger cars were facing strong mid size cars Camry/Accord/Taurus. The unsold cars would have bankrupted Renault.