By on July 13, 2011

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.

This one is much more 70s-looking than the others I’ve seen; note the disco-friendly two-tone brown paint job and tape stripes.

The interior is pretty nice for a 32-year-old car. Oh, well. Next stop: The Crusher.

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15 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1979 AMC Eagle...”

  • avatar
    Sam P

    Another factor that could be filling the old Eagle slot: the 1990s XJ Cherokee. With the 190 hp 4.0 liter “High Output” and curb weight of sub 3500 pounds, that was a quick little SUV – unlike the Eagle which at best had the old 4.2 liter relative of the 4.0 liter (which had 115 horsepower but loads of torque).

  • avatar

    This car made have been built in 1979, but the Eagle was introduced for the 1980 model year, when the Concord got wrap-around rear lights.

    • 0 avatar

      This is correct. The Eagle didn’t debut until the 1980 model year. Manufacturers routinely started production for the next model year during the summer, in preparation for a fall debut.

      While this car may have been built in 1979, it was officially a 1980 model. There were no 1979 Eagles.

    • 0 avatar

      Crap, that’s what happens when I go by the date-of-manufacture on the build tag.

  • avatar

    A local Eagle-ite told me there’s a few guys out west that have opened “Eagle Preserves”, where they buy up as many of these old carcasses as possible and plop them there. Some get restored, most get used for parts. But they’re being saved, or helping to save more of these old birds.

  • avatar

    By 1979 AMC was looking for a way out of the auto business. The previous year demonstrated to Kenosha that it had no future. It’s share of the US auto market went from 4% to almost 1% in five years. The new CEO and management was charged with finding a partner or buyer. It was their job to make AMC profitable and to make AMC look attractive enough to sell at a profit for it’s shareholders.

    AMC hit the skids in 1966. The Federal government bailed them out by using the US Postal Service to buy up the AMC vehicles sitting on lots across the US. This gave AMC enough cash to move on for another twenty years. But AMC was a one trick pony after 1966 and only the AMC American kept it in business. When AMC blew through all the cash the American, and it’s replacement, the Hornet, gave AMC every year, AMC disappeared. From 1966 until it’s sale to Renault and then Chrysler, AMC struggled to find another profitable vehicle line besides the American/Hornet-Gremlin. The Matador never earned it’s keep compared to the American/Hornet-Gremlin line, and we all knew what happened when AMC tried launching the new Matador and Pacer. When it was time to redesign a Hornet-Gremlin replacement, AMC was out of cash thanks to it’s ill-fated Matador Coupe and Pacer. So, AMC was a sick puppy for a generation before it’s eventual end. It was living hand-to-mouth after 1966 while the Detroit 3 were still riding very high. So, by the late 1970s the Hornet was too stale to sell, as was it’s chopped off little brother, the Gremlin. Worse, AMC was still stuck with two unpopular vehicles, the Pacer and Coupe, which lost money.

    The Eagle is a sow’s ear. AMC took Jeep, which it owned, and combined 4WD Jeep parts with it’s obsolete decade old bread-and-butter car, the Hornet Sportabout, upon which the Eagle was based, was paid off. Sticking Jeep 4WD parts under it and charging full optional prices for it, brought in needed cash to AMC. AMC also did this to the Gremlin, and called it the AMC Spirit. AMC then optioned-up the Hornet line with 1970s luxury crap and named it the AMC Concord. It also brought in cash.

    The plan worked. At the end of 1979, AMC earned a profit. It demonstrated that it had attractive market niches in mountainous parts of the US. It showed that Jeep could provide parts towards an auto maker interested in pursuing 4WD and AWD cars. AMC showed that it had something to sell. Renault bit at the bait and they partnered up for a Hornet replacement, the AMC Alliance.

    So I see this vehicle as a pitiful Hail Mary pass from a dying auto manufacturer. The Eagle was really never new, even when it was fresh off the Kenosha assembly line. It was a pretty dependable car compared to that era’s quality and dependability. But it was attractive only to drivers looking for a novel 4WD vehicle with AMC value – not the latest thing in 1979.

    Colorado’s climate preserves cars. It’s dryness and altitude preserved these old freaks. There are probably quite a few Eagles still permanently parked in back yards across the Mountain West.

    The Eagle and the Subaru proved that there were market niches available to collect a profit. The Subaru was an obsolete tin can of a car that plopped 4WD under it and found similar success in the same mountain locations in the US. Neither the Subaru wagon, or the AMC Eagle were new vehicles, just a couple of worn-out auto designs looking for a profitable niche. Both vehicles appeared rugged due to their 4WD chassis, and their vehicle’s dated and worn appearances actually factored into their appeal because dependability was not a given in that auto era. Buyers looking for a dependable mountain vehicle was attracted to a 4WD vehicle built with proven dependable parts like the Subaru and the Eagle.

    • 0 avatar

      The Subarus you’re referring to didn’t become “old tin cans” until well into the late 1980s. The original Subaru 4WD wagons, in the early 1970s, were based on a car that was already state of the art for the era – the first-generation Leone, which was remarkably similar to the first post-VW Audis which appeared at the same time or a bit later, the 80 and 100. The Leone started out already more modern than the AMC Hornet, and then it was completely redesigned twice, in 1979 and 1984.

      Subaru had the advantage of coming from a country which was enjoying a meteoric rise in the 1970s, which is really what saved it from becoming Japan’s AMC.

      The Loyale was certainly obsolete by the end of its lifespan, when it was only kept around as a low-end model to slot below the Legacy. But the Leone/GL in its 1970s-early 1980s heyday as Subaru’s main product wasn’t far removed from the Toyota Corolla or Nissan Sunny.

      • 0 avatar

        OLD Can O’ Tin

        This was a 1971 vehicle passing itself off as a 1975 model! This was an old can of tin when it appeared as “new” in the US.

        Subaru kept pumping out this old thing for a decade. It wasn’t until 1981 that this generation ended. Maybe new to you, but not to anyone else.

        And quite frankly, the second generation wasn’t much of an improvement. It was still a narrow claustraphobic tinny car whose only redeeming value was it’s 4WD feature. I had one. Yellow. Got stuck with it. So not-fun to drive, I always preferred by old Falcon to it.

        They rusted faster than they accelerated. Old. Tin. Can.

    • 0 avatar

      My impression of AMC is that it was often correct about the market niches it was aiming for, but failed in execution once the imports stepped up their game. For example, AMC had an early Kammbach design in the Gremlin, but Honda got it right with the 1984 Civics. The Pacer was somewhat forward thinking in concept, but couldn’t get the weight or powertrain anywhere near what was required to be successful even in the late 1970s. The Eagle had the right idea, which Subaru eventually made profitable. Then there was the awful alliance with Renault, trying to capture some European sophistication on the cheap. The list goes on.

      • 0 avatar

        Being a small company gives it an advantage in catching a trend and responding quicker than a bigger company.

        When AMC decided to mimic the Big Three after Romney left, they spent their profits turning towards cars and markets that did not return to them the money they put into it. By 1966, the game was over. AMC’s management did not want to be small car players. Their roots were in Nash and Hudson, not Rambler. They wanted to drive AMC versions of Chryslers and Buicks, not Ramblers. Romney understood how to harvest profits humbly, his replacements did not.

        Instead of a Mustang, AMC launched a new Ambassador, even though AMC had been shown how to create a small sporty car using American parts. Instead of a sporty Tarpon, they chose the Marlin. AMC wasted money it did not have launching a car line it could not support. AMC management continued to focus on full sized cars when the market was turning towards small cars – their specialty. But the cars AMC offered small car buyers were wrong. By the time Javelin was issued, AMC was an also-ran when it should have led.

        AMC lived hand-to-mouth after 1966. Any profit needed to go towards keeping their edge in the compact and subcompact car fields. But by 1970, they were spread too thinly with a Matador which sold to fleets and an Ambassador their management preferred over the Rambler even though there was no market for the Ambassador.

        AMC management hated the Rambler image so much they euthanized it in 1970 for the Hornet, which was a refreshed Rambler but not a new one. Instead of lauching a completely new compact that would have served them and any spin offs into the 1970s, AMC punted with a Hornet that was by no means new.

        There was no plan for the Gremlin. The Gremlin was a hacked off Hornet. Had there been a plan for a subcompact, then we would not have seen a Gremlin. Kammbach? The Gremlin was so poorly designed, there was no hatch. AMC could only make it possible to reach behind the rear seat by making the rear window a mini-hatch. AMC saw the subcompact market as a cheap car for cheap drivers, so they didn’t design a subcompact. Chopping off a compact car and calling it a subcompact, doesn’t make it a subcompact.

        AMC’s first real design after 1966 ended up becoming the Matador Coupe. At a time when everyone else was marketing a baroque personal luxury coupe, AMC unveiled a car for that market that could not become a luxury coupe. The Matador coupe was a fastback when the money was in landau roofs. Instead of a stand up grille, it had stand up round headlight bezels. When the market was square, AMC’s car was round. A complete miss, and an expensive one too! This car only confirmed that AMC should never have pursued the Intermediate or Full Size car markets at the expense of it’s profitable niche, the Compact market.

        Instead of a Matador coupe, AMC clearly should have built a new engine for a new Hornet.

        The Pacer was a rolling mistake. Instead of redesigning the Hornet, AMC sunk valuable money into the Pacer. The Pacer could not be a four door sedan when AMC needed a new four door sedan. The Pacer could not be spun off as a subcompact because it was a compromised design. The Pacer was too wide because AMC did not have the money for retooling their factory. The Pacer was round when the market was going formal. Not only was the engine unavailable, had it been available the engine designed for the Pacer was not owned by AMC.

        Instead of an AMC version of Chrysler’s K-car, AMC put out the Matador Coupe and the Pacer. Major fail.

        The Eagle was a Hail Mary pass. AMC had no money to compete in any market with a new product. So they stuck Jeep parts under the poor Hornet and gave it a new name. For a two decades, the Rambler/American/Hornet had been AMC’s bread and butter. Instead of ensuring that it kept it’s bread and butter fresh, AMC management wasted the profit chasing the wrong trend.

        AMC failed to offer a personal luxury coupe when that market boomed. That market was pure profit. It chased it’s tail instead of ensuring that their Hornet was the best in the compact car field. A new Hornet in 1975 instead of a Matador Coupe or a Pacer would have kept AMC alive right into the 1980s small car boom. A new engine owned by AMC could have been profitable, instead of buying GM, Audi or whatever was available by competition.

        So I cannot agree with you. AMC zigged when the market zagged – repeatedly. They went from a respected compact car to an ignored compact car that did not keep up with it’s competition. It had a management that hated it’s compact car, except for the profits it brought in. Can you imagine Honda letting it’s Civic, or it’s Accord go for a decade? Can you imagine Toyota letting it’s Corolla or it’s Camry go for a decade? AMC’s history shows that you do not turn your back on your profitable product, chasing after markets that are only wet-dreams to executives in the head office.

      • 0 avatar

        Thanks for reminding me that the Gremlin did not actually have a hatch, VanillaDude. I had totally forgotten that miserable detail.

  • avatar

    When I first saw the pix, I thought it looked something like my brother’s old Eagle… but looking more closely I can see that it’s older. By the time my brother’s 84 was made, they had changed the interior (door panels & such) around a bit.

    It was a crotchety old beast, but it ran everytime he started it, and kept on going for 16 years. Not a bad run for all of those Western Pennsylvania winters. And the horrible roads.

  • avatar

    I actually have a soft spot for these. VanillaDude, you are correct in how they made a profitable vehicle out of assorted existing hardware. Is that the classic Borg-Warner A/C compressor?

    I find it soo cool to find old stuff like this…sometimes you forget what the car looked like because all the examples you see have had half the features rusted away…

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Those door handles were always ahead of their time. I think they debuted in the 67 Ambassador and Rebel. I know on your previous Junkyard Finds someone got them, probably an AMC fan or a rodder.

  • avatar

    I’m looking for this car-parts like the backlights, forelights and any more things… Could you give me any information? Regrets

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