Crapwagon Outtake: 1983 AMC Eagle

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn

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.

Indeed, I’m drooling over a rusty 1983 AMC Eagle wagon. If I could find a good one, I’d be all over it, but there seems to be a shortage of Eagles on the market, I’m afraid. The success of this car likely spawned the Subaru Outback, after all.

Sadly, this rough example doesn’t wear the “wood” paneling that seemed to be on every Eagle I ever saw growing up, though the $500 parts car might be so equipped. And I’ve seen (and purchased) cars that are in worse shape than this. No undercarriage photos are included, but I can’t imagine that it’s too far gone.

Mechanically, this can’t be too bad to work on. The always-underfunded AMC had to pull from so many parts bins that most pieces should be readily available with research. The 258 ci six-cylinder engine is under the hood of so many Jeeps that any number of donor engines could be dropped into the Eagle with little work. The pioneering all-wheel-drive system might be tough to repair, but it otherwise looks like a great, easy project car.

The problem is there is no way one can get any money out of this. This is a $2,500 car that would take, at least, $5,000 of parts, paint, and labor, after which you’d have a car worth about $3,500. That said, had the Powerball numbers come my way, an Eagle would have been one of my first automotive purchases.

Chris Tonn is a broke classic car enthusiast that writes about old cars, since he can’t afford to buy them. Commiserate with him on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

Chris Tonn
Chris Tonn

Some enthusiasts say they were born with gasoline in their veins. Chris Tonn, on the other hand, had rust flakes in his eyes nearly since birth. Living in salty Ohio and being hopelessly addicted to vintage British and Japanese steel will do that to you. His work has appeared in eBay Motors, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars, Reader's Digest, AutoGuide, Family Handyman, and Jalopnik. He is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, and he's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.

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  • Wheeljack Wheeljack on Jan 16, 2016

    The Denver Police department had a number of Eagle 4WD sedans in service for years after they went out of production. It was always funny to see one of these in Police livery since they couldn't outrun anything. Too bad they didn't offer the 304 V-8 out of the CJ in these - I'm sure it would fit as they offered the 304 briefly in the AMC Spirit.

  • LXbuilder LXbuilder on Jan 16, 2016

    I always envisioned having one of these with a set of BFG all terrains, and a off road light bar on the roof. Not sure why exactly, but it might come from day dreaming on the line as a young autoworker, and trying to think of how to make the cars I built look "cool" enough for a 21yr old to actually own.

  • Lou_BC Was he at GM for 47 years or an engineer for 47 years?
  • Ajla The VW vote that was held today heavily favored unionization (75/25). That's a very large victory for the UAW considering such a vote has failed two other times this decade at that plant.
  • The Oracle Just advertise ICE vehicles by range instead of MPG and let the market decide.
  • Lou_BC Collective bargaining provides workers with the ability to counter a rather one-sided relationship. Let them exercise their democratic right to vote. I found it interesting that Conservative leaders were against unionization. The fear there stems from unions preferring left leaning political parties. Wouldn't a "populist" party favour unionization?
  • Jrhurren I enjoyed this