Well, realistically, who else but AMC could take so many dissimilar parts and turn it into a fully functional vehicle. Whitewalls, opera windows, stand-up hood ornament, two-tone paint, landau vinyl top…and so on.
The entire car itself was built in much the same way, at its core a 1970 AMC Hornet with a four-wheel drive system. In 1978, the venerable Kenosha-built compact went upscale and was renamed the Concord, with available color-keyed wheel covers, landau top, and opera windows.
The Eagle first appeared in 1980, and generated much interest in AMC showrooms. This coupe, a sedan, a wagon and the Gremlin/Spirit based SX/4 rounded out the lineup. As time wore on the lineup was pruned, with only the station wagon remaining by 1988, the final year. I’ll likely do a more detailed post on the Eagle at some point, but for today, let’s focus on this Eagle coupe – a real oddball, even by AMC standards. According to the old listing, the car had a mere 50,000 miles on it at the time. And though you would think perpetually cash-strapped AMC would have used Jeep 4×4 components, they developed a new system for the new car. Unlike a CJ with transfer case, it was an all-the-time 4×4 system.
Per my buddy Sean Flanagan: “The Eagle used 3 different transfer cases. All similar to the Jeep counterpart. 119 transfer case was a full time viscous coupling. 128 transfer case was full time with an open differential in place of the viscous coupling.129 was full time 4wd or 2wd with a viscous coupling. The 129 was named Selec Trac. The first number in the case model number is the transfer case gearing. So a 119 is a single speed, 219 (QuadraTrac) a 2 speed (low range).” UPDATE: I’ve since been informed that the Eagles never came with a 2-speed transfer case. I think I’ll be doing a more elaborate post on the Eagle some time in the future, haha.
Not to mention floating-pillow leather seating, woodtone trim in abundance…and a four speed manual! What dealer ordered this car with this equipment? Two door body style, plush Limited interior and…envelope please…manual transmission? Had to have been special ordered, otherwise this likely would have sat on the lot for months. Unless some salesman had a three martini lunch and filled out the inventory order immediately afterward. If so, I imagine he was canned shortly after this came off the truck.
This car was identified as a 1980 Eagle in the auction, but the bold checkerboard grille identifies it as an ’81 or newer. The car was in Janesville, Wisconsin at the time, not very far from AMC’s home base in Kenosha.
Behind that grille lies the time-tested AMC/Jeep 258 six. Not the most efficient engine for the early eighties, but stout and stone-reliable. It survived for years after AMC itself was absorbed into Chrysler Corporation, remaining available in Cherokees through the ’90s. I believe the last car with it was the outgoing 2001 Cherokee.
When these cars were new, they were essentially in their own category, a car with Jeep on- and off-road traction and Jeep-like capabilities. As time wore on, and people who gobbled up SUVs in the ’90s and bitched about the handling and ride advanced, auto manufacturers started adding the tall bodies and AWD/4×4 systems onto passenger car platforms (it wasn’t because it was cheaper to do so, honest!) and resulted in the silver silvermist and beige beigemist, tortured sheetmetal mobile objects commonly seen cutting off motorists, ass-end up in a ditch during snow storms, and tailgating you on the way to work this morning.
Yup, AMC did it first. Not that it really helped the Wisconsin auto manufacturer in the long run!