By on May 2, 2012

When Chrysler took over the tattered remnants of AMC in 1987, they created the “Jeep-Eagle” division in order to sell Kenosha-ized Renaults such as the Medallion and the Premier. Chrysler back then wasn’t content unless Mitsubishi got involved, and so they slapped Eagle badges on a Mitsubishi Mirage built by DSM in Illinois. This was very similar to the Geo-ization GM applied to Toyota, Isuzu, Suzuki, and Daewoo products sold in North America. You don’t see many Summits these days (you also didn’t see many of them 20 years ago) so this find in a Denver junkyard was a rare event.
Pretty generic early-90s interior here.
By 1990, most car companies had found a way to integrate the “Libby Light” into the decklid or rear package shelf, but the Summit still had the 1985-style “Oh, crap, the Americans require a center brake light— quick, take this 100,000 yen budget and make something!” afterthought light.
Will there be Eagle Summit clubs meeting for cruise nights in 2049?

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42 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1990 Eagle Summit...”

  • avatar

    The gauge pods with the switches around the perimeter, in easy reach of the steering wheel were a good idea.

  • avatar

    The only interesting Summit was the three-door tall wagon with the sliding door. The sole reason I could see buying this unexciting sedan in 1990 over a Civic or Protege would be a really special price and even then I’d have my doubts.

    • 0 avatar

      If you enlarge the CHMSL pic, you can see one of those in the next row.

    • 0 avatar

      In the summer of ’89, I worked at a dealership that sold Chryslers, Dodges, Plymouths and Hondas as well as a few other brands. The price difference at our stores between a Civic and a Colt was huge. A new Colt with A/C was about $7,000 while a new Civic was well over $10,000 no matter what price Honda advertised nationally. The Civics, most of them white, still spent no more than a few weeks on the lot while the Colts often received their second annual state inspection before being sold as new cars.

    • 0 avatar

      DUDE! Look at the picture that was taken from the inside through the back window. Now look through the back window. There, my friend is the Eagle Summit Wagon. Sliding door on the passenger side. How did I so easily spot it? Because I owned one ’till 2010.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      Otherwise known as the Mitubushi Expo.

  • avatar

    By the way, you’re going to show us that Valiant tomorrow, right?

  • avatar

    These from the outside anyway, didn’t look bad.

    Seems to me I see on occasion an Eagle Summit wagon still floating around Seattle though I more likely see either the LRV or Expo (a car I’ve always loved for it’s style and practical van like design on a small subcompact FWD frame).

    Looked like the right front fender may have been replaced and repainted as it’s paint looks very good compared to the rest of the car which now has a soft patina of dullness and as a softer shade of red.

    Unless that car had a 5 digit odometer, it didn’t make it too far. 151K or so on the clock and judging by the motor and general condition, I suspect the last owner didn’t drive much and didn’t care for it either so off to the junkyard after something blew is my guess.

  • avatar

    While the rest of the world was busy tootling around in generic, yet completely capable, small cars, Americans were driving around in four wheeled drive body on frame car-trucks, aka, SUVs. SUVs were where the profit was, just as in earlier times, huge land barges with 1960s technologies were loaded up and sold for high profits. Auto manufacturing is supposed to be profitable and there are still many in the industry who believe building vehicles buyers want to buy is an honorable thing to do. The era of applying auto zoning ordinances through the federal government as though you bought a corner lot in downtown Manhattan, was yet to come.

    This interest in buying large obsolete truckish vehicles, overshadowed the advances made regarding small cars. Small cars were no longer engineered to be disposable. Materials were improved, engines became frugal and more powerful, squeaks and rattles disappeared, interior comforts improved, and prices made buying a new small car possible for first time buyers.

    Consequently, we see a glut of perfectly fine small cars during these years. The SUV boom was a major market shift, and auto manufacturers weren’t caught flat footed, yet the years of improving small cars in the expectation that there would be a need for good small cars, was put on hold as Americans lined up to buy Ford Explorers with Eddie Bauer designed interiors. This glut created many small car orphans.

    A Kia made Mazda 121 sold as a Ford. An Illinois made Mitsubishi sold as an Eagle. A California made Corolla sold as a Geo. An Australian made Mazda sold as a Mercury. A Yugoslavian Fiat sold as a joke. A Daiwoo Pontiac. While global auto manufacturers executed complex small car alliances in order to bring the latest to the small car market in the United States, school parking lots in Peoria Illinois looked more like trail head parking lots in Leadville Colorado. The immense profits derived from selling trucks with leather heated reclining seats offset the small car marketing debacle at the time.

    It seemed that no one wanted an Eagle at the Jeep Eagle dealer. Folks showed up there to buy a JEEP Cherokee, not a Mitsubishi or a Renault. When it came time in the lifecycle of a model to build a new generation, all these dull, capable and fine small cars were snuffed out. Memories die hard when they are served red hot and smoking, so it should not come as a surprise that American car manufacturers roll their eyes when gas prices rise and there is an outcry for small cars. American car companies have rarely benefitted from doing the “right thing”.

    The US small car market is like medicine. When buyers need them, they complain incessantly about how bad they taste. Then when profits are sunk into coming up with new flavors, buyers aren’t sick. It’s enough to drive anyone crazy.

    • 0 avatar

      How much of the market shift to SUVs was because the government introduced and then ratcheted up CAFE during the ’70s and ’80s so the auto industry couldn’t sell the large, powerful cars people wanted?

      • 0 avatar

        How much of the “demand” for large SUVs was because the government offered the insane tax break for “farm” vehicles?

        Maybe I’m conflating though…an Explorer might not have weighed enough to qualify its owner for the tax break.

        I’ve always been suspicious of the idea that people necessarily WANTED the big American boats. Absent viable smaller options, what choice did they have (besides abandoning American makers for European and Asian brands — which they did in abundance)?

      • 0 avatar

        The tax breaks didn’t apply to the Explorers, Grand Cherokees, Cherokees, Blazers, Pathfinders, Troopers, Rodeos, and 4-runners that dominated the sales charts during the SUV boom. They were just jacked up wagons of similar capability to the ones that people bought before the government started meddling. Suggesting that the government provided the market with the cars it really wanted is obscene.

      • 0 avatar

        You are asking a good question somewhere in the middle of all that supposed government interference.

        Between 1960 and 1970, we see new kinds of vehicle, especially regarding sizes. We end up with subcompact cars, compact cars, muscle/sports cars, personal luxury cars, family vans, premium family cars where before we saw family Fords, Chevys, Plymouths with a halo car, like a Corvette, a Thunderbird, or an Imperial.

        The Market grew remarkably fast. Families needed a family car, and a grocery getter. We drive in Suburbia. Mom needs a car. Teens worked and could afford wheels. Buyers had needs and the ability to buy to fulfill those needs and desires.

        Families went from six or more in a large wagon to two in a minivan. Boomers may have been many, but between divorce and The Pill, they didn’t procreate like their parents. The minivan boom meant the death of the family wagon.

        If you were growing a family by 1988, your default choice was either Grandpa’s Crown Victoria, or the Plymouth Voyager all your neighbors drove. Then there was a new kind of vehicle – the SUV.

        There is a lot to like in an SUV in 1990. You got a vehicle that appears on television perched on cliffs above mountain and desert scenery. You got a vehicle that does everything you could throw at it, tow anything, and let you escape Suburbia. Instead of an iffy domestic family car, you got a truck built to take the Rubicon. Instead of a faux wood paneled Caravan you could lose at the corner McDonalds among all the other Caravans, you could drive something that could crush a Caravan.

        What’s not to love?

        We saw SUVs getting as little as 12 mpg find homes. It didn’t matter what any government said, buying or leasing a mini-truckster for a couple of years was the thing to do.

        During this time, we still had large powerful cars. But folks who bought Explorers didn’t want Roadmasters. It wasn’t just because the Roadmaster looked like a wooden whale with the world’s cheapest nastiest interior at that price range, it was because the SUV was simply more attractive to millions more buyers. And, a million buyers cannot be wrong, regardless of what a constipated professor in a DAF may claim otherwise to his adoring classes of youthful idiots.

        You could spot the SUV trend from the mid-1980s right up to the HUMMER, if you knew what the auto trends were. Government had nothing to do with it. CAFE was irrelevant regarding the reality.

    • 0 avatar

      SUVs had not really taken off yet when this car was built. I think the Explorer kicked it off. SUVs were still for farmers and rednecks at that point.

      Actually Jeep kicked it off with the Chorokee, just as they kicked in general.

      • 0 avatar

        I definitely think CAFE played a part in distorting the vehicle market for the Big 3. You can only make so much money off small, fuel efficient vehicles (at least in that era) and since the Japanese dominated that segment, the Big 3 was forced to push profitable SUVs in order to survive. Smaller cars were just an annoyance like the Eagle Summit so Chrysler could sell Jeeps.

        Personally, I’m in the camp of letting the market and consumers decide fuel economy standards for themselves, especially since at the end of the day, it usually ends up being that way anyway.

      • 0 avatar


        Lets be honest with ourselves here. Nobody stopped Detroit from engineering good quality small cars. At the time the Big 3 dwarfed the Big 5 of Japan in terms of cash, engineers, and R&D. There was no reason they couldn’t develop a good small car they just had no real incentive to because their business/marketing departments felt that the oil would remain cheap long into their golden years. With gasoline now finally reaching the levels where our capitalism society has to respond the market still is flooded with poor-mileage SUVs.

        To assume the “market” is an actual thing besides a handful of manufacturers who plan their engines years in advance is ludicrous. We could easily be developing sub-2.0L turbocharged engines but we’re still playing around with 3-6L V6/8s because the manufacturers are offering it as the only options. Much like making wheat bread taste awful intentionally to keep selling the cheaper to manufacturer white bread the increase in gas mileage is off-set by higher manufacturing costs or development costs. Ultimately the government as the governing body has to implement rules that force the monopoly to move on new tech. That’s why we’re seeing smaller SUVs hit the market with essentially econo-car engines that are slowly eating into the big SUV sales.

      • 0 avatar

        –To assume the “market” is an actual thing besides a handful of manufacturers who plan their engines years in advance is ludicrous.–

        There’s a problem here. The Market is the buyers, not the manufacturers. You have it backwards. The need exists before the manufacturers manufactures. When a manufacturer fails to meet that need, then there would be no buyers. No one is holding a gun to the head of the buyers forcing them into vehicles that do not meet their need. Manufacturers cannot force buyers to buy.

        This is an important difference. Buyers are responsible for purchasing vehicles you may not approve of. If the manufacturers are forced into making vehicles buyers do not want, buyers will buy something else. This is what is being suggested with postings about CAFE. The suggestion is that CAFE forced buyers from large cars into SUVs. I don’t agree. Buyers wanted fancy trucks after tooling around in minivans.

        Trying to control the manufacturers with governmental policies won’t force buyers to buy. The Market is the buyers, not the manufacturers.

        You got it backwards.

  • avatar

    I have a Japanese friend who is an engineer for Mitsubishi Automotive Engine Group. He told me in the mid ’90’s “We have – problems with our engines”. For a Japanese, that was saying a LOT.

    This wouldn’t have been a bad econobox if not for the Mitsubishi mill.

  • avatar

    Interesting that the brake master cylinder and booster are over on the passenger side, and the image doesn’t appear to be reversed.

  • avatar

    Seems to me that a lot of Mitsu-engined vehicles (including 1990’s era Chrysler products) now have smokey exhausts…burning oil?

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Yawn…shoulda done the Dart. Or the Concorde.

  • avatar

    Gazing at the “luggage rack” upon the trunk cover I am unable to envision any method of safely securing a load upon it.

  • avatar

    My friend’s mom had one of these fine automobiles. About 3 years into her ownership of it, she went to fill up at the gas station. When she opened her driver’s door, it fell off – hinge rusted through entirely. Good stuff.

  • avatar

    Was this car a prop in a NuFinish infomercial? The front end is sho shiny, lets spill lighter fluid on it and see if fire can damage the finish!!

  • avatar

    I’m going to guess this suffered engine or trainy failure. It appears to otherwise be in driveable condition. The interior has not held up as well as other Junkyard Finds. Wondering if it spent some time in extreme heat given the severe heat damage to the dashboard and the cloth separated from the foam on the seats. Or it was more than likely just crappy material.

    The one thing Eagle made that was intriguing during this era was the badge engineered AWD Talon.

  • avatar

    As always, impressed by the solid body on these Colorado cast-offs.
    If you were adept mechanically and didn’t care about appearance, these things look like they could go many decades.

  • avatar

    Friend of mine had a couple of these, ’91 Dodge Colt/hatch flavored. FOUR speed manuals. We ‘rallied’ one of them, bombing down farm roads surrounding his parents house. It literally came apart at the seams…

  • avatar

    I Have a different view of these a number of years back I picked up a very clean 91 summit sedan (with 4 speed auto) with 60k on it. I drove it 100+ miles a day for three years. Guess what all I changed was a wheel bearing welded the exhaust and once in a while the oil. The thing simply never broke and mine had no rust either (odd here in CT) I hated the car as my 6’3″ did not fit well and it had no power but returned 31 mpg at 70 all day long.

  • avatar

    I forgot that the sedan version even existed. Nearly every Summit I’ve seen (or at least remember seeing) has been the mini-minivan bodystyle.

  • avatar

    ”The one thing Eagle made that was intriguing during this era was the badge engineered AWD Talon”

    The only thing Eagle “made” were the badges on the Talons, ;-)

    The roots of SUV’s go back further with the Chevy Blazer/Suburbans. Some families were moving from station wagons to them and big vans in the 70’s. The mini-van concept came from Ford and followed Lee I. Also, ‘Cowboy Cadillac’ trucks with fancier trim caught on.

    Nothing was ‘foisted’ on anyone, buyers got what they wanted and it was available.

    Anyway, back to Eagle, the Summit was fairly popualr here in Chicago around 89-92, since the cars were built near by. They were advertised with cheap prices, and got some in the seats. But, eventually, Honda and Toyota prices came to earth, and also, Eagle was cut, thus no ‘Eagle Neon’.

  • avatar

    The Summit family weren’t uncommon sights in New Hampshire during the ’90s. Most of ’em were hatchbacks or three-door vans, though, and most of those were light blue, with the occasional teal example or (shockingly) even red like today’s sedan.

  • avatar

    I like the juxtaposition with a Valiant and a Concorde. Throw in a new Charger and a K-car and you’d have Chrysler’s past 50 years in a nutshell.

  • avatar
    Just Mark

    I own a 1990neagle summit it had 84,000 + when i got it and now has 92,000+. Its a good running car ive never had any complaints till recently when the car was going down the road and just died, i replaced the fuel filter thinking that would solve the problem,and is still down after 1 1/2 weeks with a search for the fuel pump really which is going no where. Wondering if anyone can help?

  • avatar

    I looked at these when they were new. The Eagle Summit was available in a higher trim level than the otherwise identical Mitsubishi Mirage or Dodge/Plymouth Colt sedans, with extra equipment, plush upholstery in real colors like red or blue, and the more powerful engine otherwise only available on the sporty 3-door hatch model. It was a solid competitor to the better-known Japanese brands, but the marketing was terrible as was dealer support at any of the four brands that sold these.

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