By on August 30, 2017

AMC Eagle (public domain)

Roy Lunn passed away recently at the age of 92, not long after being named to the Automotive Hall of Fame. The name may be unfamiliar, but any one of his manifold achievements probably would have merited inclusion in that august institution.

Lunn was in charge of creating the Aston Martin DB2, progenitor to the James Bond cars. Moving to Ford, he had a seminal role in the development of the Anglia 105-E, Ford’s first postwar hit in Europe and the foundation of much of the brand’s later success on the continent. At Dearborn he engineered the first Mustang concept and was then put in charge of Ford Motor Company’s all-out assault on Ferrari at LeMans with the GT40, developments of which won that race four years in a row.

With LeMans conquered, he became chief engineer at American Motors, going from a virtually unlimited budget with Ford Racing to having to turn AMC’s pigs ears into silk purses, and come in at budget, too. At American Motors, Lunn helped make the original XJ Cherokee arguably the most durable American vehicle ever made.

Lunn didn’t know it at the time, but he also invented what we today call the crossover, or CUV — the UV standing for Utility Vehicle, not ultraviolet. In a sentence, a crossover is a vehicle based on a passenger car but with more ground clearance, a long, station wagon-like roofline, a rear hatch, and some kind of drive system that puts motive force at all four wheels.

sol_lunn-4-600x588

While this describes the hottest segment in the automotive market now and for the foreseeable future, it also describes the vehicle Lunn pitched to his bosses at AMC, later named the Eagle 4X4. The Eagle was basically a marriage of the ultimately Rambler American-based Concord platform with a four-wheel drive system lifted from AMC’s Jeep division. Particularly in wagon form, it fits the modern definition of a crossover so much so that one has to credit Lunn with the idea. At least, I think so.

Inventors like to keep early sketches of their creations, in part to establish intellectual property rights. Nobody owns the idea of a crossover vehicle, but we do have something akin to Roy Lunn’s early sketches. We have his July 1977 Product Proposal titled 8001 + Four, 8001 being AMC’s internal code for the Concord, earlier known as the Hornet.

In the early 1970s, not long after AMC’s acquisition of Jeep, Jeep engineering put together a 4X4 Hornet as a feasibility study. It was a one-off affair featuring a specially constructed transfer case with a straight-through drive, a unique frame-mounted front axle made by Warner Gear, CV joints made specially for the project by Dana, and some modifications to the independent front suspension. The vehicle was tested for a few thousand miles before being stored away or crushed. However, it was an adequate proof of concept that the Hornet platform could be turned into a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

roy lunn amc

The 1970s saw a cascade of new federal automotive regulations for both emissions and safety, of which AMC had limited resources to respond with. Light trucks saw lighter regulations for both of these categories, and Lunn saw turning the Concord wagon into a 4X4 trucklet as a way of allowing AMC to create a vehicle that would be legal well into the 1980s (but without having to use too many of those limited resources). Lunn was a smart man, pointing out that advertising and marketing for the vehicle would need careful crafting to keep the car they were selling as a truck legal.

The idea was revisited at the end of 1976, this time with a slightly different recipe of components. UK-based GKN Ltd. was tasked with developing a new viscous control unit for the transfer case that would allow for full-time four-wheel drive without tearing up the drivetrain. FF Development, a British all-wheel-drive pioneer, was given $34,000 and three months to design and build a concept prototype.

While FF was building the concept vehicle, both Jeep and AMC Passenger Car Engineering started total vehicle design feasibility studies. The concept was finished in May, tested briefly in the UK and then shipped to Detroit. Design development continued, along with cost analysis and negotiations with suppliers, resulting in Lunn’s proposal in July of 1977, with a target date of Job 1 in 1980.

All three body styles of the platform — sedan, hatchback, and station wagon — were part of the proposal, though the resulting Eagle 4X4 is best known in wagon form. The new vehicle would be marketed with safety and security in mind.

Before the Eagle nobody had combined four-wheel drive and unibody construction. Lunn’s tour de force XJ Cherokee was still years in the future and hanging 4WD components on a vehicle without a frame was a challenge in terms of both packaging and retaining the NVH characteristics of a passenger car.

It’s a complete proposal, with listings of all the variant components needed as well as a full cost breakdown of the project. (You can read the complete proposal in PDF format here.) Lunn estimated that adding four-wheel drive to the 800 series platform would add $695 to the cost of building each car, with a total cost for the project of $6,480,000 and about a million dollars going towards the engineering of the vehicle.

For $6.5 million, Roy Lunn created a market segment worth billions of dollars today — a market so popular it has people predicting the death of the traditional sedan.

My guess is that had Mr. Lunn lived a few years longer, he might have reinvented the sedan as well. Rest in peace.

[Images: Ford Motor Co., American Motors Co., Lunn Family, Automotive Hall of Fame, Ronnie Schreiber]

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81 Comments on “How Roy Lunn Invented the Crossover for Just $6.5 Million...”


  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Such a long list of accomplishments. And an article on what has become an underappreciated vehicle.

    The Eagle 4×4 Wagon was a staple for the ‘ladies that lunch’ crowd in Toronto and Ottawa. Style icon Mila Mulroney was known to drive one. I believe in the very colour scheme with wood applique as the one in the top picture.

  • avatar
    FalcoDog

    Excellent article.

    Lunn was a true Genius.

  • avatar

    Well done. I think most people outside car circles forget about the Eagle 4×4. One of those “Yeah but who bought that?” footnotes.

    But so very important.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      It was sold as the Concord Eagle, not the Eagle brand that Chrysler used after buying AMC. A LOT of people bought them, especially in the West. That basic Hornet wagon architecture lasted a very long time in different guises, and was a perfect example of how AMC managed to stay in business so long.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    I’ll put up the gen 1 Mazda MPV as another contender for being a crossover before crossovers were cool:

    Based on 929 luxo sedan unibody underpinnings with very competent ride and handling and overall refinement for the time, However it had a solid rear axle and some other pieces from a B-series pickup, optional full-time 4wd, interior room of a minivan, and in later iterations, attempts at SUV looks (fatter tires, pseudo grill guard, fender flares, two tone paint, ‘All-Sport” moniker).

    • 0 avatar

      I like the later ones, with the goofy offset front and rear wheel cladding, leather interior, big sunroof.

      Seriously, have you noticed the different heights of the wheel well trim on All-Sports?

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Yep, once you see it, you can’t unsee it. That wheel well trim hides the rotting metal underneath pretty well to boot LOL. I actually just drove my brother’s ’89 from PA to Indy as a loaner while he works on the Ranger. 243k miles, he just put in a fresh junkyard transmission. It’s a real eyesore with peeling clearcoat and a ton of rust holes, but mechanically quite excellent. The 4cyl with the fresh transmission got me a solid 26.5mpg on the drive home going 70-ish mph. Super comfortable seating position in the captains chairs, and actually fairly competent road manners for its size and age. The lighter/older RWD van with the 4cyl is frankly not much worse up hills than the newer 4wd V6s with all the extra weight from all the gingerbread options.

    • 0 avatar
      Oberkanone

      Dodge Colt Vista aka Mitsubishi Chariot preceded the Mazda MPV by five years.

      It had already crossed over.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        That’s a good one! Our family friends had one, with a 5spd and third row. Traded in on a…. ’98 MPV Allsport!

        • 0 avatar

          Was there a 4WD Vista Colt?
          Was the Civic 4WD Wagovan first?
          Stanza Prairie?

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            There definitely was a 4wd Colt Vista, that’s what our friends’ was. As I recall it had a button on top of the shifter to engage 4wd (like old Subarus IIRC). Civic Wagovan was more wagon than anything else, Stanza Prairie now that’s a good one too.

          • 0 avatar

            I bet along the way Daihatsu had some little crossover thingys based on cars, for the JDM.

          • 0 avatar

            Here’s one – does the Golf Country count as crossover?

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            Corey, When I purchased or Civic Realtime 4WD Wagovan, I cross shopped with the Tercel ‘tallboy’ 4WD wagon, Colt/Vista 4wd wagon (3 rows of seats!), Nissan Multi/Axxess and from left field an Isuzu Trooper.

            Think that I made the right choice. However A/C had to be dealer installed as Mr. Honda was still not allowing factory A/C.

            It had a 6 speed manual with the 6th speed being a ‘super low’ gear that locked in the 4WD system.

          • 0 avatar

            Wow, three rows of seats in that little tiny thing.

            (Lol, no AC for North America. Come on Honda.)

          • 0 avatar
            bullnuke

            Yep. Dodge Colt Vista. I owned on in ’85. Gray, 5-spd, 4WD, three row for all the spawn. Maybe 85 or 90 hp but would do its thing in snow. Four wheel drive at the touch of a button on the shifter. My negative memories were the ultra thin sheet metal in the doors (would dent if looked at too long) and the Crayola crayons melted into the weave of the fabric in the second row seats…

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            No the Colt Vistas I’ve seen and worked on did not have a button to engage 4wd, they were AWD cars. To allow the necessary slip on dry pavement they used a viscous coupling in the driveshaft to the rear axle. They were very very loose to start off with and once they had a few miles on them and had leaked some of their fluid they were pretty much FWD cars.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            @Scoutdude see below:

            barnfinds.com/2700-4wd-5-speed-1986-dodge-colt-vista/

            But by ’91 seems they switched to a viscous coupling type system:

            http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/junkyard-find-1991-dodge-colt-vista-4wd/

    • 0 avatar
      brandloyalty

      Worth mentioning is that the first generation awd MPV also had a low range and lockable transfer case. The awd version was raised an inch or two, rewuiring the plastic flares to fill the wheel arches. In addition they had skid plates. All these things made them pretty capable off road and I thought they would have sold better if they had a rear-mounted spare tire.

      And to cap off my trivia about them, about 1% of them imported to North America had a standard transmission with a great long shift lever. I wouldn’t have believed this had I not known someone who had one and saw it for myself. He used it for abandoned logging roads and it held its own against the 4Runners and Pathfinders of the day.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        No factory A/C from Honda until the end of the 1980’s. Mr. Honda decreed that they were first an engine building company and A/C detracted from the engine’s performance.

        Had the dealer installed A/C fail on my ’86 Accord. A common early failure. Every dealer in the city informed me that they required one part that was out of stock in N.A and that I would have to wait 3 to 4 weeks for said part to arrive.

        Luckily Honda Canada was one of my clients as the time. Arranged with my contact to have my part air shipped from Honda Head Office in Japan. Arrived a few days later back at the dealership with the part in its packaging. Needless to say that dealership provided me’exceptional’ service thereafter.

        • 0 avatar
          ToddAtlasF1

          In the US, the first Honda with standard air conditioning was the 1978 Honda Accord LX hatchback. Honda was frustrated by the dealers making more money off their success than they were and came up with the LX as a way of getting a bigger percentage of sale prices, which were well above base MSRP. Your 1986 must have been a DX, or Canada had a different set of equipment levels. I worked at a Honda dealer in 1989, and dealer installed A/C hadn’t been a common sight in a while. About the most involved dealer installed option we saw much of was a cassette deck.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            @Todd, yes Canadian. An 86 Accord EX (dealer demo). Was informed by my contacts at Honda Canada regarding Mr. Honda’s comments. The Wagovan was an ’87 and still no factory A/C for Canadian models that year.

            Also had a dealer installed 3rd brake light on the Accord as they were not factory installed at that time either.

            Believe it was either ’88 or ’89 that factor air arrived in Canada on Hondas. Possibly as a result of Accura arriving in ’86 and stealing some of their sales.

          • 0 avatar
            dukeisduke

            I remember reading that some ’80s Hondas used a/c compressors made by Diesel Kiki, and that compressor failures on those cars spread contaminants through the system, causing a syndrome called “black death”. Supposedly, “black death” required replacement of all the components and lines through which the R-12 ran. True story?

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            duke Honda CRVs and Elements right through ’06 had exploding compressor internals that would scatter shards and contaminate the whole system. Honda was definitely behind the times in regards to A/C development both in terms of output and reliability for some time, given their resistance in adopting it in the first place.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        The low range was 5spd only, but yes the center locking diff feature was nice, in that 4-Hi-unlocked was very practical around town and especially at higher speeds on the highway with mixed traction.

        No skid plates really, I guess there was one on the tank but the front just has a lame plastic mud guard.

        I’d say it was the solid rear axle coupled with a true mechanical 4wd system that made them half-decent offroad. You had rear end articulation that FWD crossovers of today sorely lack, and didn’t have to worry about some wimpy viscous coupling to transfer power to the rear end (since it was RWD inherently).

        I’ve taken the MPV everywhere I’ve taken my ’96 4Runner, which is to say, I’ve never taken the 4Runner on terrain that would truly test its full capabilities (aside from one particular water crossing). The 4Runner has atleast 3 inches more ground clearance under most parts of the underbody, with a sturdy frame and true skid plates everywhere that matters, bigger wheels, better articulation (front AND rear), shorter wheelbase and a true low range. The MPV’s macpherson front end is also more fragile than the 4Runner’s double wishbone. But for anything a casual outdoorsy owner might do including logging roads to trail heads and such, the MPV does just fine, and excels in interior room. I’ve taken my ’98 with 5 people inside camping gear (including 5 30 racks of beer, yes THAT kind of camping trip), a canoe on the roof and it was perfect. My brother’s hauls mountain bikes and people down to the Smokey Mountains every year, still ticking. Keep the rust monster at bay and they are very long lived and easy to work on cars. Parts can be pretty pricey and occasionally hard to find.

    • 0 avatar
      brandloyalty

      It never quite had the interior room of the other minvans because of the space needed for the rear drive. They carried a weight penalty too. And had a pervasive cylinder problem of some sort. I recall they had hinged rear doors while all the other minivans had sliding doors.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        Can’t edit my previous comment!

        Honda Canada possibly started getting factory A/C due to:
        1) Accura stealing sales
        2) The start-up of production in Alliston

        So perhaps my vehicles were among the last produced under the old ‘regime’?

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        In 4WD guise and after the ’96 update for crash safety yes they ended up fairly porky (4050lb iirc), but the earlier RWD vans are really no heavier than a V6 Caravan of the time as far as I can tell. Yes the floor was higher than FWD vans, and there was no “grand” longer wheelbase version so cargo room behind the third row was fairly limited. ’89-95 had a single large hinged door on the passenger side, which switched to more conventional smaller doors for both rear sides of the car in ’96. The dash also grew outward into the interior for the ’96 update, making it feel somewhat less airy and spacious than before.

        No pervasive cylinder problems that I’ve ever heard of, the JE 18 valve 3.0L is a bit of a low-tech dog, but quite a durable and understressed one (low compression ratio, free-wheeling head design). Many got junked by misinformed mechanics that assumed the worst when they saw torn timing belts. The Jatco-sourced automatic transmissions are generally average. With occasional partial fluid changes they live to 200k+ miles.

        When our family cross-shopped our ’89 MPV with 90k miles at time of purchase back in the mid 90s against a newer 2nd gen Caravan, the MPV was the clear winner in terms of refinement and quality, it wasn’t even close.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          I should also mention, the 2.6L 4cyl which is commonly mistaken for being a “silent shaft” derivative borrowed from Mitsubishi, is a very good motor as well. Likewise a three valve per cylinder motor (12 total) it actually doesn’t give up a whole lot of usable torque to the 3.0L V6, but is definitely more gruff in how it goes about its business. They like the V6s are regarded as quite durable, although my brother did end up overheating his (clogged radiator and/or failing fan clutch) which ultimately required both a headgasket replacement and a remanufactured head (old one cracked). That happened at about 175k, it’s at 243k now. Uses about a quart every 1500 miles, the original rings must be letting some by.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I still want one – dinoc wood and all.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Genius, that man.

    I love the directness of the product proposal, which contains the line “American Motors has functioned most profitably in situations where its products were unique in the market place.”

    Mitsubishi could learn a lesson from that, as could a few other mfrs. Too many ‘me too’ products out there.

  • avatar
    cicero1

    Agreed he invented the crossover. As to the SUV, thats Henry Ford, or his designers. The Model T is much more similar to an Explorer than any regular 50s-90s car. The fact it had to be high clearance to deal with the terrible roads only adds to the argument that it is the first SUV.

  • avatar
    jimmyy

    First crossover sold in the US was 96 Rav4. It was sold in Japan in 1994. The AMC vehicle above is a station wagon, not a CUV. The Japanese invented the CUV. Detroit does not invent anything anymore.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Good thing AMC was headquartered in Kenosha, WI.

      • 0 avatar
        dukeisduke

        It’s true that AMC referred to the Eagle Wagon as a wagon. Its predecessor, the Hornet Sportabout, is referred to in the 1972 AMC brochure as “…a sporty car – that carries things”, but then in the 1973 brochure, says, “It’s a wagon. It’s a compact. It’s Sportabout.” So, a wagon, by AMC’s own admission.

    • 0 avatar
      iNeon

      Changing a vehicle’s ride height does not reclassify that vehicle’s body style. These things are all wagons and hatchbacks.

      *uv is just marketing.

      • 0 avatar
        Higheriq

        *uv is NOT “just Marketing”. But you are correct in that ride height does not change a body style. And “body style” is different from “classification”; *uv is a classification.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      The AMC has much more in common with an SUV than did the Rav4. It was a 4wd car-based utility vehicle. If that isn’t a CUV, then what is?

      But, it must have been Japan because Japan.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        Subaru had their raised-ride-height, car-based 4wd Leone wagon in 1972 and introduced it to the US market in 1974 as a 1975 model. Why wouldn’t that be the first CUV by your criteria?

        • 0 avatar
          stingray65

          The Subaru 4WD of that time was not full-time, you could only engage it in slippery conditions. I think the Eagle was likely the first tall wagon with full-time AWD.

          • 0 avatar
            spookiness

            I think some years of Eagles had a full-time system, but they also had a “Select Drive” part-time system. I distinctly recall commercials with a closeup of fingers flipping the switch from 2wd to 4wd.

          • 0 avatar
            StudeDude

            The Eagle started out with a full time AWD system for the 1980 models. Because of fuel economy concerns, AMC switched to a Select Trac system which had a vacuum operated slide switch on the dash. which allowed 2WD or full time AWD. The switch was identical to the one used on the Wagoneer.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        “But, it must have been Japan because Japan.”

        Yeah, pretty much. No one else ever thinks of anything. /s

      • 0 avatar
        Higheriq

        You are correct – SUV: must include body-on-frame design; CUV: must include unibody design. While the generic term “SUV” can include both classifications (similar to QTip meaning any cotton swab).

    • 0 avatar
      bikegoesbaa

      “Detroit does not invent anything anymore.”

      Here’s the top 3 automakers for number of patents in 2016:

      1) Ford
      2) Toyota
      3) GM

      It would appear as though Detroit is still inventing.

      http://www.autonews.com/article/20161209/OEM01/161209844/ford-leads-automakers-in-patents-for-first-time

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Ronnie posted an excellent article on Roy Lunn, on TTAC back in 2014.

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/car-guys-gals-you-should-know-about-roy-lunns-resume-ford-gt40-boss-429-mustang-jeep-xj-cherokee-amc-eagle-4×4-and-more/

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    My grandma, may she RIP, had one of these in two-door hatch form – black, if my memory serves me right. After her death my perennially broke uncle took the poor little Eagle over. It didn’t last long after that.

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    I miss working with the folks at JTE (building in the picture), they were the best I ever worked with in two plus decades. And yes, they really did routinely make a silk purse out a sow’s ear. I don’t where they found these people, but there wasn’t the likes of them at The Tubes, Dearborn, or CTC – they were a special breed.

  • avatar
    spookiness

    I always admired the resourcefulness of AMC. I did not grow up in the snow belt, but we got snow, and there were a few of these around. As with CUVs (Viking ranges, most pickups, etc) many people bought them for what they aspired to doing with them rather than what they actually did with them. I know a family that had an Eagle and a Grand Wagoneer of the Era. Both loaded to the gills, a rather posh garage for the time and place.

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    I once drove a borrowed sedan version of the Eagle up a snow/ice covered climb that was defeating all sorts of awd vehicles. Their occupants stared in amazement as this seemingly normal sedan with all season tires breezed up the hill. The secret was three limited slip differentials, the best setup in those days for those conditions.

    I was always dismayed by the Hogan commercials for the original Subaru Outback. Calling it “the original sport utility wagon” was a shameless lie. Subaru was never called on it.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      “The secret was three limited slip differentials, the best setup in those days for those conditions.”

      Front and rear diffs were regular open type, only the center diff had some limited slip function derived from the properties of the viscous coupling and the clutches and thick silicone fluid inside of it.

  • avatar
    jimble

    Were the 4WD Subarus from the 70’s not unibody?

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    I liked the article, although I might not share the same definition of CUV as you do. I’ve never heard anyone refer to the XJ Cherokee as durable before though, and for any number of good reasons. What makes it particularly durable, since it isn’t any of the mechanical components, quality of interior materials, body integrity, or resistance to rust?

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      The straight-6, maybe?

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        I’ve seen plenty of them fail, and I can’t recall seeing one with over 200K miles. Besides, the XJ launched with an I4 and a GM V6 of no distinction.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          I too don’t fully understand the reverence of the I6 for its durability/longevity. I’ve seen more than a few crest 200k, but have also seen heads fail near the 100k mark (’99-00 years), and low oil pressure issues abound, not to mention crappy cooling systems.

          I’ll take a 3.4L 5VZFE V6 any day of the week for longevity, 200k is simply warming up on one of them.

        • 0 avatar
          dukeisduke

          Ah, but there are plenty of XJ Cherokees, Wranglers, XJ Wagoneers, Comanches, and even Grand Cherokees running around out there with Rambler sixes.

    • 0 avatar
      carve

      I’ve 233k on my 1995 XJ. Other than basic maintenance, all it has required is…

      A starter
      A radiator
      A few water pumps
      A rear axle seal
      A seatbelt latch
      A catalytic convertor
      New liftgate struts

      I just noticed a small crack in the exhaust manifold that’s making it have a slight miss at idle, too, but haven’t gotten around to fixing it. I’ve averaged 21 mpg over the past few months, but it’ll get 24 mpg just cruising around at 60.

      I had a 98 Accord that only required the starter, cat, and water pump by the time I got rid of it at 180k miles, but that vehicle had a MUCH easier life than the Jeep, plus he specified American vehicles.

      It’s never left me stranded or been on a tow truck. I put 20k on it in 2016, often doing 1000 mile road trips. That’s a remarkably small repair bill for almost a quarter century and quarter million miles.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    The existing Rambler American/AMC Hornet front suspension was easy to adapt to four-wheel-drive, since the coil spring was mounted up high, out of the way of a halfshaft and CV joint.

    • 0 avatar
      2manycars

      Both the American and Hornet had high-mounted coil springs, but the Rambler used an upper trunnion instead of a ball joint. That’s the main difference between the Rambler American and Hornet chassis design. (The corporate switch to upper ball joints for all AMC cars took place for the 1970 model year.)

      I owned an Eagle wagon until just a few years ago when the tinworm finally claimed it. I always thought it was clever the way that AMC did an end-run around the federal mafia’s increasingly burdensome gang rules by classifying the Eagle as a light truck.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    Not much doubt the first crossover was the Eagle. All through the seventies you could get AWD on the Big 3 4×4 pickup trucks/ Blazer type vehicles – transfer case was the Chrysler New Process Gear NP203 with a center differential and locks for 4×4 when needed.

    What Lunn recognized was that these heavyweight transfer cases weren’t compatible with a unitized body because the shocks it could deliver were too great for reasonable NVH. He knew about the Ferguson FF system because he was English. Instead of mechanical lockers on the gear center differential, the viscous unit they developed smoothly locked up the center differential as front and rear wheel speeds differed. The prototype Eagle had a Ferguson/GKN transfer case with planetary gear differential plus the viscous locker. Too expensive. Not available in production quantities.

    You can read Roy Lunn’s description here (on the same typewriter as the proposal Mr Schrieber provides, I’d say!). Note that the pictures/diagrams are for the Ferguson FF, not the New Process Gear NP 119 that made it to production on the Eagle.

    http://wiki.amcevolution.com/index.php/NP119_Transfer_Case

    The planetary differential was replaced by a cheaper 4 bevel unit like the one on the existing NP 203 for Eagle production. But the limited slip viscous clutch from FF/GKN was retained and license fees paid. It was ingeniously designed by NPG and the bevel gears and viscous clutch plates were all in a small cylindrical case (copied or licensed by Subaru for their 1988 first manual AWD transmissions – the design is so similar)

    Roy Lunn was indeed a great engineer, and no way would he have authorized an AWD system that relied on just the viscous unit for AWD. Leave that to Honda on the Wag-O-Van nightmare. Those viscous units are lucky to transmit 20 lb-ft of torque by themselves and then only intermittently. Lunn only used the unit to provide smooth differential lockup. This NP 119 unit was far ahead of Audi until 1988 when they essentially copied its center diff viscous limited slip, just like Subaru did.

    The earlier Audi units were just a center differential gears with locks, had one myself. No different from what US 4×4 trucks had in the 1970s for goodness sake – yer basic AWD. Subaru didn’t even bother with a centre differential at all! Cheap, just a lock for front and rear axles when driver selected.

    We had two Ford Anglia 105E cars in our family in the 1960s. Lovely engine. Cosworth thought so too. That’s how they started in Formula Junior, modifying the 105E engine in 1960.

    RIP Roy Lunn.

    New Process Gear paid GKN a license fee

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      The Wagovan did not have a viscous coupling, it had a hydraulically engaged clutch. There was a pump connected to both the input and output that pumped fluid between each other. If one pump was running faster that the other the pressure would build and cause the clutch to engage. Once it engaged the pressure would bleed off and the clutch release. So the amount of time it could stay engaged was limited and then it would require another slippage to occur. The trick was to drive it like you stole it so that the slippage was high, that would build up more pressure to both increase the pressure on the clutch plates and cause it to stay engaged a meaningful amount a little longer.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    A challenger appears:

    1977 Lada Niva:

    Car based (Lada 2101 AKA Fiat 124) unitized construction. Fulltime 4wd system for on-road use (low range and locking center diff manually engaged with separate levers). It’s typically lumped into the SUV category, but in that same sense I’d be tempted to lump the Eagle into the wagon category based on shape alone.

  • avatar
    3800FAN

    I disagree when it comes to saying he invented the corssover or that the amc eagle started the crossover trend. I remember these back in the 80s very well but they never caught on. Subarus were a nitch player then too.

    The car that really launched the crossover craze was the Toyota Rav4. What made the rav4 (and next year honda CRV) different from the Eagle and subaru wagons was that they were a SUV like bodystyle on a car platform instead of a car bodystyle with 4wd and more ground clearance. I don’t know if anyone remembers how popular truck-based SUVs were in the 90s but nobody but they were what crossovers are today. Toyota just took the idea and dimensions of the truck based suv and applied it to a car platform which is not what the Eagle or subaru wagons were ever designed to be like.
    That still holds true today when you compare the outback to the rav4 but by now they’re so close it’s like you’re splitting hairs but back then it was a huge difference that set the rav4 apart and triggered countless crossovers we see today.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      I think you make a valid point pointing to the Rav4 in ’96 and the CRV and Forester that followed immediately after. That first generation of “cute utes” set the standard for layout follow until today, with ground clearance and off-road aspirations superseded by interior room, refinement, and on-road performance. I’d also point to the first RX300 as truly the most equivalent-to-current-CUV vehicle in that it was positioned with little offroading intentions in mind (CRV and Rav4 were more outdoorsy and rough and tumble, less refined), although worth mentioning Toyota saw fit to offer an optional rear mechanical LSD on both the Rav4 AND the RX300. That and the less-optimized-for-mpg viscous couplings and higher ground clearance made that older generation of CUVs better offroad IMO.

  • avatar
    DweezilSFV

    Not sure the reference to the “ultimately Rambler American based Concord platform” claim is accurate.

    AMC spent 40 million dollars developing the Hornet. Aside from having unit bodies, engines, and AMC suspension [all shared across the line], the Hornet was a brand new car sharing nothing with the American aside from market position.

    Sort of like saying the Cobalt was a re-worked Cavalier.

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks for the correction, though there was still some Rambler DNA in the Hornet, primarily the drivetrain. Engines and transmissions were certainly carried over and I believe the rear axle & suspension was as well.

      The Hornet shared more stuff with the Rambler than the Cobalt did with the Cavalier. As an aside, the original ‘64.5 Mustang had a lot more in common with the Falcon than the Mustang II did with the Pinto, but nobody calls the first gen Mustang a Falcon.

  • avatar
    cirats

    The rest of the criteria look about right, but I’ll argue until I’m blue in the face that, in order to be a CUV, it doesn’t have to propel all 4 wheels. Down here in the South, people really don’t care about or need that, and while I don’t have stats to back this up, my general sense is that most CUVs don’t have it. My sense is that most people buy CUVs instead of sedans, wagons or minivans for the image and (compared to sedans) maybe for additional space and utility, and not for having 4wd.

  • avatar
    scott25

    Don’t forget there were 4 Eagle body styles, not 3. Wagon, sedan, SX4 hatch and Gremlin/Spirit-based Kammback. 5 if you include the completely ridiculous convertible.

    I know most “enthusiasts” associate wood panelling with the Country Squire, but for everyone I’ve ever met with a vague interest in cars (all born in 1990 or later), the Eagle is THE iconic use of wood panelling.

    I agree that this was TECHNICALLY a crossover, but the RAV4/CRV/RX definitely defined the current definition of the segment.

    When FF was mentioned I couldn’t help but imagine a jacked up Jensen Interceptor, which would have probably made one of the coolest vehicles of all time even cooler.


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