Rare Rides: The Eagle Premier Story, Part V

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

The fifth entry in our Rare Rides series on the Eagle Premier brings us to 1988. The Premier was newly on sale after a delayed introduction, and the company building it was not the same company that spent years designing it.

Chrysler was in charge of the Premier’s fate.

After a hasty renaming from AMC to Jeep-Eagle following an early August 1987 merger completion, the Eagle brand was introduced to North America properly. The company’s initial lineup was quite a hodgepodge: The one-year-only Vista (new home for the Colt Vista) was joined by the Medallion, Premier, and the one-year Eagle Wagon, a final vestige of AMC. The old Vista and Eagle were immediately replaced in 1989 by the Summit and Vista Wagon, which were different wheelbases of the new generation Mitsubishi Expo. French, French-American, and Japanese cars were sold under one all-new brand. And Premier led the charge.

Premier was well-received by the automotive press, who lauded its exotic European origins and power, Italian shape, and high-tech Canadian assembly. It was undoubtedly the most advanced car in Chrysler’s passenger car lineup, which in 1988 consisted entirely of K-car derivatives and Mitsubishi Starion clones. Chrysler VP Bob Lutz was impressed with how good the Premier was too, especially given the limited resources of AMC-Renault at the time. He praised Premier among the “…impressive succession of new products” Chrysler obtained via its AMC purchase. Given the Premier was already on sale, it replaced an ongoing Iacocca project at Chrysler called Liberty Car. Liberty Car was supposed to be Chrysler’s direct response to Saturn’s development, and maybe we’ll learn about that at another time.

Though he praised Premier, Bob Lutz was not in charge of things at Chrysler, Iacocca was. And he’d purchased AMC to get access to Jeep branding and the new Grand Cherokee. So while the Premier was good, it was not one of his cars – the K-cars were. Iacocca had been in charge since initial K-car development, and this French-based Premier didn’t appeal like say an extended-K New Yorker or Imperial, or a halo vanity project like the TC by Maserati.

Additionally, the Premier used components not found on other AMC-Chrysler vehicles, a one-off in many ways that was expensive to produce at Brampton. Sadly, the orphan-like Premier wasn’t given much attention after its 1988 initial ad campaign. But Chrysler’s engineers didn’t leave it alone entirely, and it did end up having a larger impact on Chrysler’s future than you might expect. We’ll conclude this saga in our next installment.

[Images: Chrysler]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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  • Johnster Johnster on Aug 21, 2021

    Although not dealing with the Eagle Premiere, the part of your history involving the Eagle Vista sounded strange to me. Apparently, the Vista nameplate was only used in Canada, and not the U.S. From what I can piece together from the dubious source of Wikipedia, there were 2 separate Eagle Vista models, similar to how there were 2 separate Eagle Summit models. There seems to have been a line of rebadged Mitsubishi Mirage/Dodge Colt/Plymouth Colt subcompact cars sold as 2 and 4-door sedans sold from 1988 through 1992. Supposedly they were sold alongside the 1989 through 1992 Eagle Summit. I can’t determine if there was any differences between them. Starting in 1993 they were only sold as Summit sedans. Then there was a second model, the 1989-91 Eagle Vista Wagon, which was a version of the Mitsubishi model sold in the U.S. as the Dodge Colt Vista and Plymouth Colt Vista. Starting in 1992 it was replaced by the shorter-wheelbase Eagle Summit Wagon, which was also sold in the U.S. as the Plymouth Colt Vista and the Mitsubishi Expo LRV. I also see that there was a Canada-only 1991-1992 Eagle 2000GTX, which was a badge-engineered Mitsubishi Galant sedan and something of a replacement for the Eagle Medallion.

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    • Corey Lewis Corey Lewis on Aug 22, 2021

      @Johnster Sorting out the RVR variations is an absolute mess as you've discovered.

  • Cardave5150 Cardave5150 on Aug 23, 2021

    Corey, these write-ups are fascinating, and bring back a lot of memories. The Premier always made me think it was a car stretched to the absolute limits of its platform, because of the massive overhangs. Made me think of a parade float. Front overhangs haven't gotten smaller in the passing years, but designers have been better able to disguise them. I had an Expo LRV, drove the hell out of it for 3 years. Didn't use much gas, could haul lots of stuff, and was a suprisingly comfortable highway cruiser. I actually miss that little car/van when I read mention of it. Would like to see a write-up on them at some point.

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