By on January 31, 2011

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.

It took Subaru quite a while— say, well into the 1990s— to build a four-wheel-drive (no, I’m not going to get into the AWD-versus-4WD terminology debate, which is about as much fun as the “tomato: fruit or vegetable?” debate) car that didn’t clatter off the road in shuddering paroxysms of mechanical suckitude within a year or two after manufacture, but once they got it right, they got it right (disclosure: I own— or, more accurately, married into— a late-model Outback). That means that the devoted Colorado Eagle owner, confronted with a cascade of 30-year-old-car headaches and truck-ish ride, is often tempted to give up on the ol’ AMC and give in to the Subaru peer pressure.

I may have to go the other direction, though; the Outback is a helluva competent machine, but it just hasn’t won my heart. I’ve been eyeballing Eagles, so it’s good to see that used parts won’t be terribly difficult to find.

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16 Comments on “So Many Eagles In Colorado, But Not All Can Fend Off The Subaru Hordes...”

  • avatar
    SVX pearlie

    How are you loving those wiper heaters? Awesome, eh?

  • avatar

    “It took Subaru quite a while— say, well into the 1990s— to build a four-wheel-drive car that didn’t clatter off the road in shuddering paroxysms of mechanical suckitude within a year or two after manufacture”

    I disagree. My ’79 wagon was all too tasty to midwestern rust bugs, and may have seriously lacked charisma, but mechanically it held it’s own for the seven years that I owned it, and I know that the next owner kept it going for at least a couple more.

    I do remember recommeding an Eagle to my boss when she got sick of sliding around in her RWD wagon. She loved it so much that her husband and son both got one as well. There weren’t a lot AWD/4WD options in the early ’80s, and the Eagle filled a significant niche in the market.

  • avatar

    If you want something more with more heart winning potential and look here.

  • avatar

    I knew somebody in Indiana during my college years in the 1980s that bought one of these new.  A number of times while driving it (low-mileage too, under 30K IIRC) the transmission would either lock up or go into reverse all by itself, which can be pretty exciting when you are travelling at highway speeds!  The dealer could never replicate the highly intermittent (but even more hazardous) failure, so I think they either sold it or traded it in.

    These cars were 15-20 years ahead of their time (with respect to the AWD, not vehicle quality).  Oh well . . .

  • avatar

    I had one of these in highschool, and at the time it was a relatively new car, it was bright red, very comfortable and made a lot of noise.  It was powerful but slow, got really terrible gas milage and it was constantly in the shop.  You could really off road with it in a way you never could with a Subaru, but other than that and the big comfortable seats there was noting about this car that was “better” than a Subaru in any way.  I eventually cracked the bell housing by jumping it and landing on a rock.  Fixed it but it never ran the same again. Thanks for the post! Brought back some memories.

  • avatar

    Funny thing about these if I remember was the two handed 4WD switch to the left of the steering wheel. You had to simultaneously pull and slide it at the same time, or something to that effect, very awkward

  • avatar

    That must have been a beautiful car when it was new. I love the two tone color on the fender flares! The car still looks pretty nice. Is that a leather interior? And a manual transmission? I bet 90%+ of these were sold with automatics, and the manual option may have been dropped before the end.
    I’d also say that the Subaru DLs and GLs of the 70’s and 80’s were plenty reliable. I saw one the other day up here in snowy, road-salty Maine! I think the Loyale was the nadir of Subaru reliability.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    I still dream of getting an Eagle and replacing the mechanical bits with the one’s lifted out of a late 90s Cherokee for a more stout/reliable off roader.  I always loved the “lifted station wagon” vibe of the Eagle.  Sometimes I’ve even wondered how hard it would be to take an AMC Concord and make it what it always should have been. 

  • avatar

    Dan, you can swap the head from a 4.0 onto the 258 and use the fuel injection setup.

  • avatar

    “no, I’m not going to get into the AWD-versus-4WD terminology debate, which is about as much fun as the “tomato: fruit or vegetable?” debate”

    Well it’s not a boring debate, so much as a bollocks debate. There is no difference between a 4wd and an AWD. AWD was only invented as a term due to the stylised ‘4’ on early subarus looking like an ‘A’ and thereafter some creative marketing work picking up the ball and running with it.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Back in 1990 I was looking for a used car and went to look at a clean early 80’s AMC Eagle SX4 in black for $1200 or so. I was very tempted to buy it but what made me shy away was the transmission/transfer case had a leak. I probably could have fixed it but was wary and had heard about the various transmission/transfer case issues with 70’s-80’s Jeeps. So I went for something else. I still kick myself to this day. One of those cars you wished you bought.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    Some  of   my Jeep  SJ ( Grand  Wagoneer) buddies down  around  Mesa Verde  have  an  up graded Eagle with a  fuelie 4.0, a 727 Tourqueflite  tranny with a NP 229 transfer case. I am  sooo jealous.   In  stock  form Eagles made decent  beach buggies. Prolly  because  the  weight   was  distribut4d well  front and rear like  the  wags are

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    One of my brothers-in-law had one , bought new, with the same copper two-tone but a whiter colored body. He got it when they briefly moved up to th snow belt. It also had a stick shift but I don’t remember ever seeing another one with a stick. It was also fairly stripped and didn’t have A.C., possibly why he sold it after they moved back to Texas but as I recall he really liked it.I always preferred the kooky looking coupe version which had a rather peculiar looking vinyl top.Eagles were always rare here in Texas but when I lived in Denver in the eighties saw quite a few.

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