By on August 16, 2021

Today’s Rare Ride combined Italian design and French running gear in a full-size sedan marketed under an all-new brand: Eagle.

It’s time for the Eagle Premier story.

As mentioned above, the Premier was a multinational sort of car. Developed by AMC while Renault was a major stakeholder, the Premier was created in the relatively brief time span which gave us cars like the Renault Alliance built in Wisconsin, and the French-built Renault Medallion that was later rebranded an Eagle.

The Premier was to take the flagship position in the AMC-Renault North American lineup, and it spent several years in development. Renault bought into AMC in 1979, and the pair started work on a new front-drive sedan in 1982. With code name X-58, the jointly-developed sedan was slated to enter production in 1986.

AMC hadn’t fielded a larger car for quite some time, as the brand’s last entry in the full-size space was the Ambassador 1974. AMC hadn’t even offered a true midsize car since the Matador lineup of 1978. Big stakes, but as expected AMC was not exactly flush in the wallet region, so some cost-saving measures occurred right at the start of the X-58 project.

AMC’s all-new car would in fact use an existing platform, from the full-size Renault 25. The 25 entered production in 1982 and was the largest passenger car produced by Renault. The 25 was sold in Europe’s executive luxury car space above the 21 family car (Medallion). A modern monocoque chassis, the 25 was a much more advanced platform than anything AMC had in production at the time. The 25 chassis would be lightly reworked for American use and featured an independent suspension straight from the Medallion.

Early in development, design work began on the X-58 and its sister car the X-59. The X-59 had a planned introduction two years after the sedan, in 1988. A midsize two-door coupe, X-59 was intended to be more sporty and exciting than its sedan sibling. AMC called their favorite long-time designer, Dick Teague, and asked him to work up designs for both the X-58 and X-59. Teague drew sleek aerodynamic shapes and included hidden headlamps on the coupe. AMC went as far as a full-size mockup of the X-59, which adopted the name Allure at some point and wore Renault branding. Even after the launch of the sedan the media believed a coupe was coming to production, given statements made in the Premier’s MotorWeek review.

In the end the X-59 never saw production, and Teague’s X-58 sedan design was scrapped in favor of a three-box shape created by Giorgetto Guigiaro at Italdesign. Given the influence Renault had over the end product and the pervasive feeling among domestic car makers in the early Eighties that “The desirable customers want European-type cars!”, the design choice was not surprising.

With that call, the platform and exterior design were cemented. In Part II we’ll dive deeper into the hugely successful car that was Premier.

[Images: Chrysler]

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31 Comments on “Rare Rides: The Eagle Premier Story, Part I...”

  • avatar

    If this car was being built today, I’d buy it on looks alone. Wouldn’t even give a thought to what was under the hood.

    We may someday return to an era of clean lined, minimally “styled” cars, but I’m afraid I won’t live long enough to see it.

  • avatar

    As I recall they made a Dodge version of this as well.

    The Eagle brand had some interesting stuff (this, the Talon, and the Vision, in particular) but man, did it bomb.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, the less expensive Monaco. We will cover that perhaps in Part III.

      • 0 avatar

        A blue ‘91 Monaco was my high school drivers Ed car. I remember thinking what a strange dashboard & turn signal. Luckily the high school football coach/drivers ed instructor had a second brake pedal was or I would have turned left in to an coming dump truck

      • 0 avatar

        I knew a man in 2001 who looked like he was 1,000 years old who sold his Dodge dealership around this late 80s/early 90s period, but whose retirement gift to himself was a dark cherry Dodge Monaco. I have never seen one before or since.

  • avatar

    The engine has Swedish heritage as well, being a derivation of the “PRV” V-6 that was jointly developed by Peugeot, Renault, and Volvo. The DeLorean DMC-12 used the same engine family, and some DMC-12 were re-powered by the 3.0 from the Premier.

    Mother had a Premier, and aside from an expensive failure of the electronic instrument cluster, it was a solid car.

    • 0 avatar

      Pardon – PRV V-6, as used in Volvo = POS
      Volvo replaced many camshafts in these under Warranty, amongst other things.
      Repair “Kit”” included rubber plugs for firewall, as camshafts remove to rear. Normal repair procedure = Engine R&R/Heads R&R.
      This about time Self losing faith in Volvo. Procedure pretty complete now.

  • avatar

    Parts were very expensive – a cap and rotor were over a hundred bucks, and that was twenty years ago. The AC tended to go south on them, too, at least on the one that I had the misfortune of working on.

  • avatar

    If you smoothed over the creases, it would almost look like a Mazda 929.
    (Not a bad thing IMO).
    Too bad they did not succeed.

  • avatar

    my grandparents’ neighbor used to have one of these back in the late 90s.
    Needless to say I saw the car running a handful of times at most and I was a regular visitor during my childhood, maybe twice a week after elementary school.

    Eventually the neighbor replaced the Premier with a 95-96 Maxima which I saw running way more often.

  • avatar

    I was following cars back when these (the Eagle and Dodge) were introduced, and I recall almost no real advertising for these cars after the first year, especially with the Dodge. These were actually good cars, very stylish for the time, and with a lot of room. But Chrysler was so deadlocked into using the K-Car platform until there was nothing left, and I recall these withered on the vine.

    What was also odd was that Chrysler was advertising their entire model line having a driver’s side airbag, but these models, being imports, still used robo-belts.

    To me, this is one of those what-ifs in Chrysler history. What if they used the bones on this car more than the older K-car ones and made a coupe and luxury car out of this? By the time the last of the LeBarons – the last of the old K-Car platform cars – rolled off of the line, it was obvious they were so far behind the times (the shake and feel of the convertible made you wonder if it was made of Jell-O) and I think that really hurt them. They had something newer and more modern here and they didn’t use it.

  • avatar

    The car had reliability issues and after Chrysler took over they never put much effort into addressing those, or even into into marketing the car. The heavily reworked platform did form the basis for the later, and much more successful, full-sized Chrysler LH cars.

    A website called BangShift dot com has photos of the Premiere-based “Allure” coupe which featured a flush-mounted wrap-around rear window similar in appearance to that of the front wheel-drive Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme coupe of the late ’80s and ’90s.

  • avatar

    Any illustrations or pix of Teague’s proposed sedan and coupe designs? His Matador coupe was….unique.

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    Back in the late 1900s we rented a Renault 25 at Schiphol and drove it to Northern France. I was lit up by the local constabulary whilst on the Autoroute and began to slow down, as one does. The cops pulled alongside and gestured to speed up. I was doing 140 Km/h when they gave me a thumbs-up and accelerated away. Coming from Suburbans and Parisienne station wagons I was initially alarmed at the 3500 RPM in top gear but soon grew to love the responsiveness of a high-revving small-displacement engine in a car. Dirt bike, sure. Car? Fantastic.

    Oh, better fuel over there, too.

  • avatar

    The first interaction I had with an Eagle was a Premier in Nashville in ’97. I was in college and some friends wanted to go out. I asked if I could drive. The Eagle’s owner said, “sure, just don’t put it in Drive.” So I drove the crew around in 2nd or 3rd gear and asked the owner if anything was broken with the car. She said no, but her dad warned her to never EVER put the trans shifter in drive. Even on I-40.

    “Not broken, but not entirely whole.” Another Eagle tagline?

  • avatar
    Eagle 1

    This was a fun read for somebody who owns one of these cars and just got done taking it on a massive road trip I’ll admit that the instrument cluster is not in perfect working order all the time but the air conditioning does work and it’s one of the smoothest Highway cars I have ever driven and I collect a lot of weird cars

  • avatar

    All I see on this page is that magnificent XJ.

  • avatar

    “Executive luxury car space” Space? I guess we have given up on “segment” or “category” and are not suing “space”. Is this an attempt to sound more sophisticated or just an attempt to be different?
    “Volvo is introducing a new model into the midsize station wagon space”. Eye roll

  • avatar

    I have always thought these where beautiful cars. Still do. I love the simple angular styling and proportions.

  • avatar

    We bought one of these for my aunt when they were new (my family had a real, unexplainable love for Renault and Fiat products– it was a problem). I remember it as a great-looking car, and was sorry to see it go.

  • avatar

    Shares a lot of styling with the Audi C3.

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