I live in Colorado, where the AMC Eagle sold as well in the 1980s as the Subaru Outback does now, and so I see the all-wheel-drive versions of the American Motors Concord and Spirit everywhere here. This means they show up in Denver-area self-service wrecking yards like clockwork, and I photograph them when they do (and I walk right by most air-cooled Beetles, which I know is wrong).
So far, I have documented the demise of this ’79 wagon, this ’80 coupe, this white-with-plaid-interior ’80 wagon, this GM Iron Duke-powered ’81 SX/4, this ’82 hatchback, this ’83 SX/4 Sport, this ’84 wagon, this ’84 wagon, this ’84 “woodie” wagon, and this ’85 wagon. Now we’ve got this gloriously brown-and-tan-and-beige-and-brown example of Malaise Era proto-crossover Kenosha goodness. (Read More…)
At times, I’ll start a new week with a theme for my Digestible/Crapwagon pieces, such as last week’s “what could I legally import if I had money” saga. Other weeks, I’m lucky to stumble upon any interesting cars at all, so any imagined thread tying them together is absolute happenstance. Like this week’s “Obscure, from Detroit” theme. I never planned it, but it is what it is.
Today brings a car that’s perhaps the most deserving of any to wear the Crapwagon label. No rational enthusiast would ever take this particular car on as a project. Yet, I really want this, or something like it.
Like I said, no rational enthusiast would touch it.
I understand the logic behind the modern crossover, especially in Sweden.
Sweden’s 360,000 mile network of public and private roads is only 30-percent paved. That leaves some 252,000 miles of unpaved glory to explore. This high percentage of unpaved roads explains why Volvos have long had reasonable ground clearance, why the Swedes invented the headlamp wiper, why the XC70 exists and why Haldex was founded there.
The concept of the crossover is to give you the efficiency of a traditional “car” blended with some offroad ability normally found in a truck-based SUV. (Of course, the modern American crossover is little more than an all-wheel-drive minivan with less practical seats.) While other companies created boxy crossovers like the Highlander and CR-V, Volvo took a European approach by starting with a station wagon, adding all-wheel drive and jacking the ride height up to create the first V70 Cross Country. The result was more aerodynamic than an SUV, had the ride height of a crossover, the practicality of a station wagon and the driving position of a car. Hold that thought.
Ahh, the AMC Eagle! So much car-industry history wrapped up in the Eagle, which was a highly innovative machine made during the very last gasps of American Motors (and continuing as a Chrysler product, briefly, before Chrysler killed the Eagle and kept the name for its new marque, which was then slapped on a rebadged and modified Renault 25). Since I live in Colorado, I see Eagles on the street all the time— there are several daily-driver Eagles living within a few blocks of me— and I see them in the local wrecking yards. So far in this series, we’ve seen this ’79 wagon, this ’80 coupe, this GM Iron Duke-powered ’81 SX/4, this ’82 hatchback, this ’84 wagon, this ’84 wagon, and this ’85 wagon. The AMC Spirit-based SX/4 is much less common than the larger AMC Concord-based Eagles, so today’s find (in Denver, of course) is quite interesting. (Read More…)
Roy Lunn (on right) receiving an award from the Society of Automotive Engineers for the Eagle 4X4
You may not have heard the name Roy Lunn, but undoubtedly you’ve heard about the cars that he guided into being. You think that’s an exaggeration? Well, you’ve heard about the Ford GT40 haven’t you? How about the original XJ Jeep Cherokee? Lunn headed the team at Ford that developed the LeMans winning GT40. Later as head of engineering for Jeep (and ultimately VP of engineering for AMC) he was responsible for the almost unkillable Cherokee, Jeep’s first unibody vehicle, a car that remained in production for over two decades with few structural changes and could be said to be the first modern SUV. In addition to those two landmark vehicles, Lunn also was in charge of the engineering for two other influential cars, the original two-seat midengine Mustang I concept and the 4X4 AMC Eagle. If that’s not an impressive enough CV for a car guy, before Ford, he designed the Aston Martin DB2 and won an international rally. After he retired from AMC, he went to work for its subsidiary, AM General, putting the original military Humvee into production. Oh, he also had an important role in creating one of the most legendary muscle cars ever, the Boss 429 Mustang. So, yeah, you should know about Roy C. Lunn. (Read More…)
The AMC Eagle may have disappeared from public consciousness decades ago outside of Colorado, but Eagles are still all over the place in the Mile High City. I can think of a couple of daily-driven Eagle survivors within several blocks of my house (not to mention several VW Vanagon Syncros, but that’s another story), and fallen Eagles show up in Denver-area self-service wrecking yards with great regularity. In this series, we’ve seen this ’79 wagon, this ’80 coupe, this ’82 hatchback, this ’84 wagon, this ’84 wagon, and this ’85 wagon. As for the very rare AMC Spirit-based Eagle SX/4, we’ve seen just this Iron Duke-powered ’81 prior to today’s find. (Read More…)
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. (Read More…)
I find a lot of AMC Eagles in Denver, both in and out of the junkyards, but almost all of them are wagons. During a recent junkyard visit, I spotted the first Spirit-based Eagle I’ve seen in a long time. (Read More…)
Since I’ve only been wandering about in Denver junkyards for a year, I have no way of telling whether the current glut of junked AMC Eagles I’m encountering (e.g., this ’84, this ’84, and this ’82, plus a few more that I haven’t photographed yet) is a recent development or a trend that’s been going on for many years. Eagles are still plentiful in Denver, but a cheap used Subaru becomes more attractive once the youngest possible Eagle has turned 24 years old. (Read More…)
With the AMC Eagle being such a historically significant car, let’s hope at least a few of them survive the next decade. We saw this brown ’85 Eagle wagon last week, and this black ’84 wagon will join it in a Fujian steel plant soon enough. (Read More…)
How many Eagles did AMC sell? According to the Standard Catalog, 24,535 Eagles rolled out of AMC showrooms in 1984… and I betcha that 20,000 of them were sold in Colorado. You still see plenty of Eagles on the street here in Denver (I can think of a half-dozen within a few blocks of my house), but you also see plenty of AMC’s before-its-time all-wheel-driver in Denver junkyards. (Read More…)
Yes, there’s a place where you’ll see AMC Eagles on a regular basis; there are several parked on the street in my Denver neighborhood, and you see even more when you go into the mountains. Even the ahead-of-its-time Eagle can’t last forever, however, and this one has begun its journey back to the steel mill. (Read More…)