By on September 8, 2011

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.
The pushrod Iron Duke was standard equipment on ’81 Eagles, and it clattered out a noisy, rough 82 horsepower. The optional 258-cubic-inch six-cylinder made 110 horsepower and orders of magnitude more torque, but was much thirstier than the four. That’s the Malaise Era for you!
The SX/4 was marketed as a sporty car, but AMC couldn’t really pull off that marketing trick with its $4.98 advertising budget. Buyers of these cars got them so they could drive through the snow and mud, period.
This one has been picked over pretty well, which is always less distressing than the sight of a complete, solid Eagle fixin’ to get crushed. Its parts will live on.

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23 Comments on “Junkyard Find: Iron Duked 1981 AMC Eagle SX/4...”

  • avatar

    My mom had one of these and she loved it. It was like a CJ-7 with a real hardtop. I want to say she paid $1300 for it and sold it 2 years later for $1500.

    And I LOVE that litte 2.5L iron duke motor. friggin thing is indestructible. I had one coupled to a 4 speed in my old 85 S-10 blazer and it would not die. I even tried to kill it once by filling it full of Mobil 1, draining it dry, and driving it for 140 miles on the Garden State Parkway. It didn’t even run hot. I put oil back in it and drove it for another 3 years before selling it to a guy that drove it for years thereafter.

    • 0 avatar

      I killed one. Had the 90HP “Tech-4” version in my first car, an ’86 Chevy Celebrity. Drove it with a rod knock for about a week and it finally seized up on me.

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        The non-tech 4 version in my 82 Celebrity needed a complete rebuild right around the 100,000 mile mark. Now the 3 speed auto transmission on the other hand didn’t even get a fluid change during the 200,000+ miles that car was on the road. Still shifted great.

  • avatar

    I’ve spent time in self-serve, um…”recycling yards”, and have enjoyed every moment there. Especially when I find what I need. While I’ve been in them it always occurs to me that that this could EASILY become a hobby. For no other reason than to just see what is there. I’m just wondering how you find so much time to BE in these places….not a criticism….more like, this could be a secret club….lol…

    • 0 avatar

      Well, before getting married my old-car-driving hobby put myself in one of these yards at least once or twice a month (but I never took a camera with me). It can be very adddicting! I’ve still got a garage full of “spare” almost brand-new parts to prove it!

      (Opens back of panel van) What’s this? Hey, it’s a GM Quadrajet carburetor, recently rebuilt, and the throttle shaft bushings are tight too (goes into 5-gallon bucket). (Walking further down the GM row) Ooh, there’s a brand-new $175 alternator for my Buick (three bolts removed, goes into bucket). Oh, what’s this? It’s a Racor integrated diesel fuel filter and water separator (aftermarket item, and pricey too, placed into bucket in upright position as it is still full of diesel). Now bucket is getting heavy, my Slurpee is long past melted, the sun is getting really hot, so time to call it a day . . . until next week!

  • avatar

    That’s not the Iron Duck, AMC used them for a while, but that’s the AMC 150. Duck has intake manifold on passenger side.

  • avatar

    The SX/4 lasted decades longer than the Chrysler Cirrus next to it.

  • avatar

    It’s a “Light Duty Truck”

  • avatar

    I always liked the look and concept of the Spirits. But the one time I drove one I couldn’t believe how crude it was and how awkward the driving positing was. A lot like driving a Gremlin… because it was basically the same car!

  • avatar

    I have been looking for an SX4 in the Denver Area for a long time. I want to jack it up and take it to Moab. If you see any others, please continue to post. I love SX4’s and in the 20+ year’s I’ve been off-roading, I’ve still never seen one. I think they’d be great. I don’t want a spirit, I want an SX4.

  • avatar

    Was this car really the first “crossover”?
    It made me long for a car as I had never done before. I just wanted one, but booze, girls and…well, whatever…took all my money at this dark period of my life.
    Ditto for the Jeep Wagoneer with the wood sides.

    Both had me.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Back around 1990 I looked at one of these w/the 6cyl in black w/SX sport pkg. I decided not to since the transfer case had a small leak or weep. Given that Jeeps had transfer case issues I figured it was not worth the chance. I kick myself to this day.

  • avatar

    My father bought one of these new in 1982. 258 I6, SX/4, black on black. For some reason it had Spirit badges on the fenders from the factory but was definitely an Eagle SX/4.

    The stock 727 torque-flite trans was rebuilt at about 100k, otherwise no mechanical issues. The drivers seat frame broke, causing dad to rig it in upright position, and some Honda-style rust on drivers qtr panel that he fixed using spray-paint undercoating.

    Other than that, his malaise-mobile lasted 12 long Minnesota winters. I look back very fondly of that car.

    He drove it daily until 1994 when he sold it to a coworker with about 170k on the clock. He proceeded to drive it to, no less, COLORADO, where he immediately blew the engine within a week somehow going up towards the Eisenhower.

    To this day I am mad at him for not keeping the car so it could be my first.

    Subaru doesn’t have sh** on the AMC Eagle!

  • avatar

    I spotted the first Spirit-based Eagle I’ve seen in a long time.

    How about spotting a Sundancer convertible?

  • avatar

    I haven’t seen one of these in a coons age, more like 20 years prolly.

    That said, this one looks to been in excellent condition when it came into the yard but alas, is well picked over now.

  • avatar

    A friend built one for Rally in the 80s. He referred to it as the “John Deere Quattro”

  • avatar

    I’d like to get one of these and swap out the engine for something more powerful.

  • avatar

    I REALLY want one of these, preferably in wagon format. Some shade of brown, with the plaid seats and wood interior.

    Same goes for the Grand Wagoneer. Love to have a garage off to the side with two proud AMC products in it.

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