Rare Rides: The Eagle Premier Story, Part V

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides the eagle premier story part v

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]

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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.

  • Tassos SNAAB shot itself in the foot when it BASTARDIZED its unique brand by BADGE ENGINEERING its vehicles with GOD DAMNED GM, OPEL, CHEVY, LANCIA and who knows what other automotive RIFF RAFF. I know of no Saab Enthusiast (they do exist) who felt sorry when the stupid maker went BANKRUPT.
  • 28-Cars-Later Example is located in Coldwater Michigan, so..." needs work -- including new brakes."Brakes, brake lines, probably fuel lines. Probably should hit the master cylinder too unless there are seal only kits for it."It has an automatic transmission."Likely needs a new one of those as well."an exhaust leak"Add an exhaust to the list."an inaccurate speedo."Wow and TMU to boot!These days five to six bills isn't too horrible but this example could turn into a headache really quick due to parts availability. The right buyer for this is a small time tradesman, the HVAC guy who was just leaving my house is rolling a late P80 Volvo 850 sedan in manual which he treats like a truck. Said he'd love a wagon if he ever came across one... if you're local to Coldwater Michigan this is a nice work beater. Annual inspection/registration tax probably costs nearly as much as the car.
  • 2ACL Amazing price, but that's (IMO) a reflection of the interest in an old 2.0T repmobile made interesting only by being a wagon. The Epsilon 9-3 was a sanitized take on the Saab formula. That's not to say it lacks interesting variants, but this isn't one of them. If it had a stick, maybe. But this generation's automatics are sealed and known to become temperamental if not serviced. If the owner can't provide proof of regular servicing, run.
  • Tassos The 3 lt turbodiesel should be FAR, FAR more efficient than the 6.2. ANything that walks would be more efficient than the 6.2. Are you kidding me?The 3 lt turbodiesel in my 4,000 lb+, 208 HP, 400+ LBFT E320 Bluetecs is more efficient than even the 2.2 lt ICE with its meager 125 HP in my 1990, only 2,822 lbs, Accord Coupe 5 speed LX. 100%. I have the full detailed records to prove it beyond any doubt. I consistently get over 35 MPG HWY, which I never got with the Accord (usuallt 32-33 tops)The big question is, will GM ask $5k more for the diesel than for the gas version, as usual? Mercedes only asked $1k m ore for the diesel, $51k vs $50k for the gas back then, which you would recover in just ONE YEAR of average miles driven.
  • Cprescott Lucid has the right idea about building cars - I agree that these have a presence to them and certainly make all Teslas look like cheap golf carts with doors in comparison. I hope Lucid survives because they actually build luxurious products and not pretenders like Tesla.