Rare Rides: The First-ever Crossover - a 1987 AMC Eagle Wagon

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides the first ever crossover a 1987 amc eagle wagon

The Rare Rides series has dabbled in AMC previously, cataloging some of the fun ideas generated by the good people of Kenosha, Wisconsin. We’ve featured the luxury targa Concord Sundancer, the unrealized Van, a baroque Matador Barcelona, and the Renault-by-AMC Alliance GTA. But none of those represents the AMC brand quite as well as today’s Rare Ride. It’s a pre-CUV crossover. A luxurious Subaru Outback, before there was such a thing.

It’s of course an Eagle 4×4 wagon, looking Limited in black over tan.

Introduced for the 1980 model year, AMC’s Eagle was a complete range of vehicles. Body styles included four different two-doors: coupe, liftback, hatchback, and convertible. There were also two four-door models: sedan and wagon. As usual, AMC was all about saving cash, and the Eagle lineup was no exception: most models were, underneath, variants of the Concord that debuted back in 1978.

The exceptions were the smaller SX/4 and Kammback models. These models were two liftbacks based on the Spirit — a car which rode on a revised 1970 Gremlin platform.

Underneath all Eagles was rear-wheel drive, or optional four-wheel drive. Ahead of their time, AMC offered four-wheel drive on most of its passenger cars in the 1980s. Unlike other contemporary manufacturers that mandated a manual transmission with their four-wheel drive vehicles, AMC offered an optional three-speed TorqueFlite automatic.

Customers who were shifting-inclined could have either a four- or five-speed manual in their various Eagles. Speaking of various, engine choices were either an AMC inline-four, GM’s Iron Duke, a turbodiesel unit from VM Motori, or the 4.2-liter inline six present in today’s example.

At the time, Eagles were the only American-produced passenger cars equipped with four-wheel drive. Providing the comfort of a standard road car, but the capability of a four-wheel drive utility, AMC didn’t have a catchy marketing acronym to use in its advertising.

Was it a cross-purpose vehicle, a CPV? Yes. Subaru was playing a similar game on a smaller scale, but the simple, agricultural GL wagon did not have the refinement, ride height, size, or luxury desired by middle-market America. At the other end of the scale, AMC’s Jeep brand already offered the larger and more luxurious Grand Wagoneer for the well-heeled utility customer. Eagle soared down the middle of the canyon (road) toward suburbia with its various offerings.

Though the Eagle found a customer base, it was not enough to save the usually-ailing AMC brand. The company and its attractive Jeep properties were ready to be swallowed up by Chrysler. In fact, the last few months of Eagle production, Q4 of 1987, took place under Chrysler management at the Brampton, Ontario plant.

Today’s Rare Ride is the top-trim Limited model from 1987. Lovely in solid black and without a hint of exterior wood tone, this one’s done 130,000 miles. Currently listed on eBay, bidding has sat around $5,100 for a day or so as of writing. That amount is still under the reserve, but they don’t come up in this condition very often.

[Images: seller]

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  • Brandloyalty Brandloyalty on Jul 12, 2018

    I was under the impression that these Eagles had no low range, but had front, rear and centre limited slip differentials. This allowed them to be driven on dry pavement while also acting as a traction control system. They were very capable. I once drive a 4-door sedan version with summer tires, up a steep snow-covered logging road. The road had already defeated a number of cars, including the crude 4x4's of the day. People watching were astonished that a normal-appearing sedan just breezed up the road. Every time I saw a Hogan advertising a Subaru as "the world's first sport utility wagon", I wondered how Subaru could say that with a straight face.

    • 83AMCEagle 83AMCEagle on Jul 12, 2018

      What allowed them to drive on dry pavement with 4 wheel drive was the Viscous Coupling in the transfer case. 80 through 81 were all wheel drive (NP119 transfer case), 81 through 88 were selectable between 2 and 4 wheel drive (NP129 transfer case). 86's had a NP128 transfer case that had a Open Differential.

  • OzCop OzCop on Jul 13, 2018

    I liked these wagons...could not afford one for myself, but as fleet officer for our police department, I ordered half dozen of these for our canine officers...they had their issues, most any police vehicle had issues. Guys loved them for their 4 WD drive train and ease of entry and release of canines...I also ordered 10 sedans for our detective bureau at the time...again, they served well in that capacity...

  • Funky D I despise Google for a whole host of reasons. So why on earth would I willing spend a large amount of $ on a car that will force Google spyware on me.The only connectivity to the world I will put up with is through my phone, which at least gives me the option of turning it off or disconnecting it from the car should I choose to.No CarPlay, no sale.
  • William I think it's important to understand the factors that made GM as big as it once was and would like to be today. Let's roll back to 1965, or even before that. GM was the biggest of the Big Three. It's main competition was Ford and Chrysler, as well as it's own 5 brands competing with themselves. The import competition was all but non existent. Volkswagen was the most popular imported cars at the time. So GM had its successful 5 brands, and very little competition compared to today's market. GM was big, huge in fact. It was diversified into many other lines of business, from trains to information data processing (EDS). Again GM was huge. But being huge didn't make it better. There are many examples of GM not building the best cars they could, it's no surprise that they were building cars to maximize their profits, not to be the best built cars on the road, the closest brand to achieve that status was Cadillac. Anyone who owned a Cadillac knew it could have been a much higher level of quality than it was. It had a higher level of engineering and design features compared to it's competition. But as my Godfather used to say "how good is good?" Being as good as your competitors, isn't being as good as you could be. So, today GM does not hold 50% of the automotive market as it once did, and because of a multitude of reasons it never will again. No matter how much it improves it's quality, market value and dealer network, based on competition alone it can't have a 50% market share again. It has only 3 of its original 5 brands, and there are too many strong competitors taking pieces of the market share. So that says it's playing in a different game, therfore there's a whole new normal to use as a baseline than before. GM has to continue downsizing to fit into today's market. It can still be big, but in a different game and scale. The new normal will never be the same scale it once was as compared to the now "worlds" automotive industry. Just like how the US railroad industry had to reinvent its self to meet the changing transportation industry, and IBM has had to reinvent its self to play in the ever changing Information Technology industry it finds it's self in. IBM was once the industry leader, now it has to scale it's self down to remain in the industry it created. GM is in the same place that the railroads, IBM and other big companies like AT&T and Standard Oil have found themselves in. It seems like being the industry leader is always followed by having to reinvent it's self to just remain viable. It's part of the business cycle. GM, it's time you accept your fate, not dead, but not huge either.
  • Tassos The Euro spec Taurus is the US spec Ford FUSION.Very few buyers care to see it here. FOrd has stopped making the Fusion long agoWake us when you have some interesting news to report.
  • Marvin Im a current owner of a 2012 Golf R 2 Door with 5 grand on the odometer . Fun car to drive ! It's my summer cruiser. 2006 GLI with 33,000 . The R can be money pit if service by the dealership. For both cars I deal with Foreign car specialist , non union shop but they know their stuff !!! From what I gather the newer R's 22,23' too many electronic controls on the screen, plus the 12 is the last of the of the trouble free ones and fun to drive no on screen electronics Maze !
  • VoGhost It's very odd to me to see so many commenters reflexively attack an American company like this. Maybe they will be able to find a job with BYD or Vinfast.