By on June 30, 2012

The AMC Eagle must have sold better in Colorado than in any other part of the world, because I see so many of the things in Denver junkyards that I don’t even bother photographing most of them. This ’80, however, is a hyper-Malaise two-door with vinyl top and purple-and-red tape stripes, and that makes it special.
See, purple and red stripes! After this ’79 wagon, this ’81 SX/4, this ’82 hatchback, this ’84 wagon, this ’84 wagon, and this ’85 wagon, it was time for a proper Eagle coupe in this series.
Members of the Brown Car Appreciation Society will love this interior.
It was 106 degrees in Denver when I shot this photograph, and even the valve cover looked comfier than this scalding brown vinyl.
The good old AMC 258-cubic-inch L6, the most famous version of a family of engines built from 1964 through 2006. One of the better engines to come out of Detroit, er, Kenosha.
While cars don’t rust much in Great Plains Colorado, what with the single-digit humidity, the high-altitude sun is murder on vinyl tops. Someday I’ll add a selection of Peeling Vinyl Top images to my computer desktop wallpaper collection.
Because most drivers are just confused by the choice between two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive, AMC used a center differential in the Eagle and left it stuck in four-wheel-drive at all times (later versions could be purchased with an optional selector that enabled a fuel-saving rear-wheel-drive setting). This is a four-speed car, but it has “Automatic 4.W.D.” according to this dash emblem.
Even by the tolerant standards of 1980, this was a homely-looking car. But try taking your Fairmont or Cutlass up a 45-degree grade in the mud!


The Eagle has landed… on all fours. Huh?

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42 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1980 AMC Eagle Coupe...”


  • avatar
    DisTurbo

    Were all Eagles 4 wheel drive, or was it only an option?

  • avatar
    joeveto3

    Watching that commercial gave me a funny feeling inside, like, I want an AMC Eagle now.

    With a brown vinyl interior.

  • avatar
    Joe McKinney

    Necessity is the mother of invention. Like Studebaker 20 years before, in the late 1970′s AMC was near broke and had to make the best of outdated platforms. It is to their credit that these independents were able to hold on as long as they did with what they had. By the time Renault came to AMC’s rescue its only real assets were Jeep and a few assembly plants. Renault certainly wasn’t interested in these dolled-up, 4×4 Hornets.

  • avatar
    carbiz

    Seeing this photos brings back memories: I inherited my first car, a 1967 Dodge Polara because its owner, my friend, bought a brand new one of these AMC things. I don’t get AMC buyers of the day. Most of their products were so ugly that when I was hitch hiking and an AMC stopped to pick me up, I’d drop to one knee and pretend to be tying my shoes. (The 2 door Matador was the only non-embarrassment in the bunch, but they were rarer than hen’s teeth on the road.)
    Another friend’s father traded his ’68 Chrysler Newport coupe, in absolutely pristine condition, to buy a brand new AMC Hornet in 1976. It was fire engine orange with black vinyl seats that had cloth checkerboard inlaid cloth. I may have been 15, and it might have been the ’70s, but AMC clearly could only hire designers that couldn’t work for Tonka.
    My grandmother traded her ’69 Pontiac Parissienne in for a ’71 Gremlin. There was talk amongst the family to have granny put away.
    AMC and me have a history, sort of. During my mandatory driver’s ed course, we were dragged through the factory in Bramalea, Ontario that built these horrid specimens of the Malaise Era. I never understood the purpose. I thought perhaps we were going to burn the place to the ground as a public service, sort of like a new Scouts Badge. By today’s standards, the Peel County Board of Education was abusing us. We could have sued.
    The Malaise Era produced some pretty gawdawful examples of the lowest point in the auto history, but AMC would have been a medal contender with its entire vehicle line up, possibly with the exception of their Jeep line up.

    • 0 avatar

      “AMC clearly could only hire designers that couldn’t work for Tonka.”

      Dick Teague and his design team probably did more with less than any other car stylists in history. Remember, automotive styling is a collaborative process and you have supervisors as well. Howard Payne, who had a role in what became the ’61 Continental told me, “It works like this. The head of the studio goes out to lunch with his boss. They have a few. He comes back and tells you, “Do this!”, so you do this.”

    • 0 avatar
      gearhead77

      I’m thinking you might have been able to deal more on AMC’s lot queens over Big Three as to why people bought them? My father in law had a few AMC’s and he doesn’t buy anything unless you can get it for a steal.

    • 0 avatar
      GoesLikeStink

      My parents were both from Kenosha. My Grandfather put together AMCs for 30 years. My parents never owned one though. They moved to California and became Mopar fans. I have always wanted a 69 AMX in Big Bad orange with the Go package though.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    There are still days I daydream about one of these cars with the old I6 replaced by a FI version of the same engine from the end of production… More power, smoother running, but still keeping that funky I6 vibe.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    Yes, Denver is AWD central. Half of all Audi allroads were sold in Colorado, I’ve heard. A saleslady told me proudly that 10% of all cars registered in the state are Subarus, and I see no evidence otherwise. Because necessity is the mother of invention, as you said. Plenty of us who have steep driveways, or miles of unpaved roads to our house. Even more Coloradans imagine themselves as rugged cabin-dwellers on the frontier (and now, can be– want to buy a cheap cabin in a dried-out pine forest?).

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    Well Carbiz, please reserve a bed for me at the same place as your Granny. Just yesterday I ran across an 81 concord with 258/auto that was still ticking. My own concord was a 78, the same color as the vinyl top on this one. I found AMC to be dependable as any other and tough enough to hang around past the time you actually wanted them.

    I’m a sucker for orphan brands. Maybe because I have no love lost for most of what we have out there today.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    The Landau roof totally rocks!

  • avatar
    Gannet

    Not on-topic, but related: we had a Hornet for awhile, a 2-door coupe, 6 auto with air. It was actually pretty sprightly, and I found it quite fun to drive. It didn’t weigh much at all and had a sort of basic-car honesty that I admire. Good car. If I could find another one in really nice shape, I’d buy it.

    • 0 avatar
      dutch45810

      My brother had a $600 ’75 Hornet that he drove in college, and I drove a $500 ’75 Matador Coupe for a few years in the late 90′s (Dad loves his AMC’s). Both had factory A/C with the “Desert Only” setting. It was ice cold in both cars even after almost years on the road. I enjoyed them both, and they were fun to drive at the time, but the fuel system on the Matador needed some sorting out (it would stall at random, then wouldn’t restart for hours) that we never got to before the undercarriage finally rusted out after nearly 25 years on the road.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Well, it’s fun to mock the car’s 1980s styling, etc. but you should at least give AMC credit for the idea of putting 4wd in a car — something that is now widespread. Prior to that, if memory serves, if you lived in, say Climax, CO (highest Post Office in the US) and felt the need for 4wd, you were in a truck, or at least a trucklet. AFAIC, the original Jeep Wagoneer was a more of a truck than it was a car.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      I wonder, to what degree, this car killed the IH Scout…

      • 0 avatar
        Joe McKinney

        1980 was the last year for the Scout and the first year for the Eagle. International was getting out of the light vehicle market and had previously discontinued its pickups and the Travelall in 1975. The Scout would have been dropped anyway even if the Eagle had not appeared.

  • avatar
    SuperACG

    I WANT THIS! I always thought these 2-door coupes were more rare than the SX4…and I’m a wagon guy!

  • avatar
    fredtal

    In high school a friend had a car where the headliner came unglued and he didn’t fix it. We were drunk one night (okay lots of nights) and we ripped it down. He got mad and later we helped him glue a new one up. Which we got high again on the fumes. God were we stupid.

  • avatar
    FromaBuick6

    The commercial reminded me of what a mess AMC’s branding was. Dropping “Rambler” was every bit as short-sighted, costly and arrogant as the Datsun/Nissan switch, yet AMC managed to mishandle it even worse than Nissan.

    Until the early ’70s the cars were marketed simply as “American Motors’ Rebel” or whatever. No Exterior branding whatsoever. Eventually the circa-1954 “AM” logo started inconspicuously appearing on steering wheels and trunklids. Then they debuted the AMC name and logo around ’72 and marketed the cars as such. By ’79-’80, the advertising emphasized “American Motors” again, but the badging didn’t change. The cars were also advertised as “The American Eagle” (seen here) or “The Tough Americans” (Spirit/Concord). They didn’t think this would confuse buyers?

    • 0 avatar
      chicagoland

      The Red/White/Blue logo was actually new for 1968, on the Javelins. And they started AMC brand then, too.

      First year Hornets and Gremlins had new logo too. AMC History sources verify this.

    • 0 avatar
      Joe McKinney

      I think you do have a point about the confused branding. After the Nash and Hudson names were dropped in 1957 AMC’s brand was Rambler. As the line-up expanded in the 1960′s all of AMC’s cars remained under the Rambler umbrella even if the Rambler name did not appear on the cars. Then, in 1969, the Rambler name was dicontinued and everything was labled an AMC. In a span of 12 years American Motor’s retail brand went from Nash and Hudson to Rambler to AMC.

      I am sure most people realized all of these brands were from the same company, but there is something to be said for consistency and for sticking with an established and recognized name. Dropping the Hudson name made sense as its cars were just rebadged Nashes. The Nash name should have continued as AMC’s car brand.

      What if, in 1957, General Motors had dropped the Chevrolet name and renamed the division BelAir? As the line-up grew in the 1960′s other model names were added – Corvair, Malibu, BelAir II, Camaro, etc. Some of these had BelAir badges, others did not, but all were sold by BelAir dealers. Then, in 1969 the BelAir name was dropped and from this point on all of the dealers and cars used the GM name and logo. Had this happened it would have been as confusing as it was unnecessary.

  • avatar
    potatobreath

    What would the modern Eagle be?

    A Mitsubishi Outlander Sport/RVR?
    A Suzuki SX4?
    A Jeep Patriot?

  • avatar
    markholli

    “Even by the tolerant standards of 1980, this was a homely-looking car.” Ha ha.

    Two questions:

    1) How did Subaru get away with their claim to be “The World’s First Sport Utility Wagon” with the first Outbacks in the 90′s when AMC had the 4×4 Eagle wagon a decade and a half earlier?

    2) Did the I6 live on until 2006 in Jeeps? I always loved Jeep’s torquey 4.0 liter six.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I still kick myself to this day for not buying a black SX4 back in the late 80′s. The vinyl interior in these is actually leatherette with the perforated holes so it actually breathes and your butt does not stick to it. I always liked those AMC flip out door handles, they were ahead of their time. They must have amortized the cost years before because they were using them on late 60′s Rebel’s and Ambassador’s.

  • avatar
    jimble

    This may be a bit nitpicky, but AMC called this car a 2-door sedan (which is what it was), not a coupe. This particular body style was definitely awkward — the tacky landau roof and opera window treatment do it no favors at all — but the original Hornet sedan from which it was derived was a handsome, understated design.

  • avatar
    SilverHawk

    I’ve helped friends restore a few of these over the years. The project cars always begin with the AWD system leaking from one end, to the other, but once you have that in good nick, the rest is quite easy. The Hornets/Concords/Eagles make great, inexpensive project cars for those who seek an entry into vintage motoring. It’s worth a try.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      That was one of the reasons why I passed on the SX4 back in the late 80′s. It had a leaky transfer case and given that Jeeps of that era had issues with Quadratrac it made me leary.

  • avatar
    Geekcarlover

    I miss the 258. I’ve had both a Hornet and a CJ-5 with one. God knows I didn’t baby them and at times openly abused them. But neither of the engines would die. I can see where it and it’s Dodge counterpart, the slant 6, got their reputation for bullet proof reliability.

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    I recognize that precariously perched shed to the east; that’s Arapahoe Auto Salvage. Scan a few hundred yards east of there and you’ll spot a bunch of Pinzgauers, Haflingers, Unimogs and the odd Range Rover on the specialty import dealer lot.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Both our 1970s AMC cars were mechanically bulletproof. Unfortunately the bodies were biodegradable. Perforation rust within five years.

  • avatar
    blowfish

    is not a bad car, mind u we cant expect a perfect car from detroit then. AMC was kind of on life support then, with bottles of saline soln. hanging on the side.

    I bought her for due to the smog test in BC then early 90s,
    being AWD has a loop hole, they cant test the car in speed, only test her in idling mode, idling is easier than doing road test which at the time they have only one roller to test 1 axle.

    2ndly it was cheap as borscht, $300, need front wheel bearing only to find out after, and changed an idler arm, rendered the steering very tight good to tackle the autobahn speed.
    Then the benzene prices were liveable.

    AWD is nice in Van, though we snow every few yrs , when it comes u be home bound!

  • avatar
    StudeDude

    My 1987 Eagle 4Dr sedan is one of the more entertaining cars I have ever owned. Through the 50 inches of snow we had over a 10 day period in 2010, it would go anywhere I pointed it (other than a 6 foot snowdrift) and was reliable to boot. The 4.2 Rambler engine is still smooth as silk and the 3spd Chrysler transmission shifts great. Fuel mileage is 13-19 MPG and starts without fail. Acceleration is leisurely due to the 2:35 rear but they did that to help with the mileage. As someone said earlier, it is a worthwhile project car but watch out for the tinworm.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    These cars had fine engine, but crummy build quality on the bodies and plenty of vacuum lines underneath that could be sheared and ruin the drivetrain.

    Plus, unless if you’re hill-climbing or hitting deep snow theres no real point in all-time AWD.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    one of my brothers-in-law had one , the wagon version, I believe a 1982 or 1983 . It also was a stick-shift in a similiar color scheme but I believe more of a caramel color interior with the white / brownish twotone . He bought it new living in the snowbelt but brought it back when he returned to Texas . I recall a couple of hot rides in summertime visiting them in Austin . It had no A.C. and perforated or not the vinyl interior was boiling hot . He really liked it but I recall it being a bit problematic and my sister-in-law insisted he get rid of it . No surprise that back in the day Eagles were seldom seen here in Texas , particularly the coupes with what at the time the car magazines considered , rightly , the most hideous Landau top in the biz .

  • avatar
    rokop

    I had an AMC Eagle 4 door sedan that I bought in 86 with 11k miles on it. It had the I6 engine and four wheel drive with the same color scheme as this junkyard find. At the time, there were no other American cars with 4 wheel drive and I remember this thing was the best car I ever drove in the snow, and certainly more stable than my brother’s CJ7. It was in showroom condition, even when I sold it. There were a lot of old guys living in the country who wanted to buy it from me.


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