By on August 23, 2021

Today we wrap up our Rare Rides series on the orphan Eagle Premier (other five parts here), and discuss the boxy sedan’s important legacy at Chrysler.

Though praised by the automotive press at the time, the Franco-American Eagle Premier fit in neither with Chrysler’s K-everything lineup nor with the Japanese and French Eagle offerings. By the time it was introduced, the early Eighties Renault 25 platform underneath it was also fairly dated. As a result, Premier was on sale for just five model years before its cancellation.

At debut in 1988, Chrysler still promised another variant of the Premier: the Dick Teague-designed coupe referenced previously. While the base LX had minimal exterior trim and was the truest to Guigiaro’s design, Chrysler added cladding to the upscale ES version. ES also used bucket seats, a firmer suspension, and offered a console shifter. 1989 was the last time the Premier coupe was promised, announced by Iacocca himself in an attempt to prop up Eagle sales. While the coupe never launched, an ES Limited trim appeared and made the Premier monochromatic.

Halfway through its run, Premier was reworked for 1990. Disc brakes arrived alongside a stainless steel exhaust system. Chrysler threw out the Renix (Renault-Bendix) electrical system for a Chrysler one. Of note, Renix also supplied the electronic fuel injection on the Jeep 2.5- and 4.0-liter engines. Chrysler fiddled with the Premier’s exterior this year too and took away the Guigiaro badging from the front fender trim. The true base four-cylinder model went away as it was unpopular (and inconvenient, see below), leaving only the V6.

This year also saw the introduction of the slightly downmarket Dodge Monaco, a resurrection of a nameplate that was dormant since 1979. In the Dodge lineup, Monaco was a replacement for the recently deceased midsize Diplomat. Like the cancellation of the four-cylinder engine, Monaco was created for one specific reason: Chrysler needed to shift more PRV V6 engines. The company was contractually obligated to buy 260,000 engines, but Premier sales had totaled under 90,000 for its first two years of production.

The Premier and Monaco continued through 1991 and 1992 relatively unchanged, as their future had already been sealed by Chrysler. By then the company fulfilled their PRV engine contract and had a new line of cars: the LH platform Eagle Vision, Dodge Intrepid, and Chrysler Concorde.

Chrysler appointed a new VP of product engineering in 1988, François Castaing, who was formerly with Renault and AMC and was very familiar with the Premier. Late in 1989, it was decided Chrysler would use the Premier as the basis for its upcoming sedans, as it was the most modern vehicle in the company’s lineup. Castaing used many of the Premier’s characteristics to develop the LH, specifically its longitudinal engine layout. The layout was a Renault hallmark, and different from the transverse front-drive tradition at Chrysler.  Also ported over to LH were the Premier’s suspension design and select components of the braking system.

Paired to the longitudinal engine was a new Chrysler four-speed automatic transmission that was very similar to the Premier’s automatic. And when Chrysler sent out LH prototypes for road testing, they used Premier body shells. LH cars went into production the ’93 model year and took up the space at Brampton Assembly formerly occupied by Premier. LH was designed with flexibility in mind and accommodated front- or rear-wheel drive. The rear-drive version was eventually named LX and was used in the new Chrysler 300 of 2005-2010.

The Premier behind these Rare Ride entries was for sale via well-known eBay dealer Rover Classic at some point. A 1989 of ES Trim, this example was white and gray over red velour, and in superb condition. Looks like it was donated to a car auction with a broken indicator lens, and Rover Classic cleaned it up for sale. Easy money, eh?

[Images: Chrysler]

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34 Comments on “Rare Rides: The Eagle Premier Story, Part VI (The End)...”


  • avatar
    tane94

    “Important legacy”?! I hope that is snark. These models are barely a footnote in Chrysler’s history, the dregs that came along with the Jeep purchase. The K-cars that saved Chrysler and the cab-forward era that again made Chrysler a design leader bookend the dismal Eagle years.

    • 0 avatar
      StudeDude

      It’s not snark because it’s accurate. The LH cars could not have been developed as quickly without the Premier or the AMC engineering team that came with the purchase. Castaing and Lutz implemented the platform engineering team which put it together. The LH cars were not perfect but were clearly the style and engineering leaders in their segment during the early- mid ’90s.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        Agree that it is accurate regarding this begetting the LH cars. And I have said it before and will say it again, when the Eagle Premier was first put into production little, underfunded AMC had a product line-up that was a better fit with today’s market than any of its competitors.

        The Cherokee XJ which was the precursor of the type of vehicle that dominates the current market, the unibody SUV.
        The Eagle the first mass market AWD vehicle, available in both sedan and wagon form.
        The Grand Wagoneer, the first luxury, 3 row SUV.

        Compare those to what other manufacturers were selling at the time and you have to wonder if AMC had some sort of crystal ball.

        • 0 avatar
          APaGttH

          And the AMC team changed the direction of the development of the new Ram pickup. The launch in 1994 made Dodge trucks relevant again and paved the way for the Ram standalone spin-off.

          Chucking Chrysler’s updated truck platform work in the trash, and Lutz wanting a more radical design language than another square body pickup that other makers had, did slow down the launch of the new Ram by a solid 3 years. The end product launched in 1994 was worth the wait.

          The undoing of Chrysler was a series of disastrous quality mistakes (2.7 V6 is arguably one of the top 5 worst engines of the last 40 years) and the Dahlimer-Benz merger. Lee did a tremendous job of squeezing every last drop of blood out of AMC.

          • 0 avatar
            Tele Vision

            @APaGtth

            I was a Production Assistant on the shoot for the new Dodge Ram. It was shot in The Badlands of Southern Alberta. There were two V6 2WD trucks with nearly blacked-out glass and – wonder of wonders at the time – a V10 Viper. Only the transport driver and the precision driver ( Jason Glass ) could drive or even sit in the star cars but I stood next to the Viper as it idled. Pretty cool.

            There weren’t many expenses spared on that shoot: Chrysler execs were choppered in and out from The Palliser Hotel all day long; there was a separate helicopter for aerial filming; Craft Services onsite; and accommodations and transport for the crew in Drumheller. The $300 per diem was fairly hefty for the time, too!

            My title sounds lofty but in reality I opened and closed a farm gate when told to do so over the two-way.

    • 0 avatar
      eng_alvarado90

      You didn’t read the article, did you?

      This was the base for LH cars which introduced the cab forward design. And although the LH FWD cars were not great in reliability, Chrysler sold a bunch of these. Both the Ram, LH cars and the Grand Cherokee were what brought the money for Chrysler through the 90s.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    There was a reason why the running (somewhat) joke around the halls of Chrysler’s HQ was that “LH” stood for Last Hope. They realized that the K-car had run its course, The Bobs were trying to run Lee out of the door (but being a “stubborn old mule,” he clung onto the door frame for as long as possible) so they could put their ideas into play instead of stodgy Imperials and old Le Barons, and they needed the cash and the experience to make it happen.

    The Premier was in no way perfect, but it was lightyears better than any Dodge Ares or Plymouth Acclaim. Roomy, more modern, better driving dynamics, and a more European feel than the old K-cars. It took the influx of new talent, ideas, and platforms to make the LH cars a reality and they rode that wave of good press and ideas all of the way through the Daimler debacle.

    Two things still crack me up about the press photos and ads:
    1. Probably not the best idea to show six people crammed in that car. The people in the middle look like they will lose feeling in their extremities in less than 30 minutes.
    2. Advertising the robo-belts as a good thing. Funny… Chrysler did one thing right, even with the K-cars, and slapped a driver’s air bag in almost everything starting in 1990.

  • avatar
    dwford

    I had thought that the 2005 Chrysler 300 and Dodge Magnum were built on a reworked old Mercedes platform all this time.

  • avatar
    Johnster

    One little tidbit to add is that, in initial advertising touting the merger of AMC into Chrysler and the wonderful future Chrysler would experience, they showed pictures of the upcoming Dodge Viper and of a U.S.-bound Renault Alpine sports car that probably would have been sold as an Eagle.

    Apparently, AMC had plans to import a small number of Renault Alpines into the U.S., but the plan was cancelled after the Chrysler buy-out and the Alpine was never officially imported into the U.S. It probably would have stolen sales away from other vehicles, such as the Chrysler TC. One does wonder how it made its way into Chrysler advertising, though.

  • avatar
    Jeff_M

    I enjoyed the series because–with the exception of the PRV engine–I found the European design of the Premier to be intriguing. Disclaimer: I never owned one.

  • avatar
    Imagefont

    Thank you for this very interesting series and I look forward to more such articles in the future.

  • avatar

    Sad story considering that AMC made better cars than Chrysler.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    Cladding makes everything better. I mean worse.

  • avatar

    “LH was designed with flexibility in mind and accommodated front- or rear-wheel drive. The rear-drive version was eventually named LX and was used in the new Chrysler 300 of 2005-2010”

    Absolutely incorrect. The LX cars were going to originally be based on a RWD configuration of the LH platform. The original engineering plan, and the approved designs, were scrapped by Daimler. In a cost-cutting move, and as a way to promote a cross-cultural relationship between Daimler and Chrysler, Daimler required that the LX cars be based on the out-going M-B E-Class platform. Engineering and design approval for the RWD cars started over. New models and designs were approved starting with the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Magnum in 2005. The Charger, with its controversial 4-door design, would be added in 2006.
    The LX cars share absolutely nothing with the LH cars other than the plant that manufactures them.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I’ve heard various stories on this. Were you involved in the project, or do you have some third party verification of this info, by chance?

      • 0 avatar

        I was involved with the project from its earliest beginnings. The LH-based RWD car project was literally scrapped in favor of the using the E-class platform. The floor, rear suspension module, front suspension/cradle, and cowl were all directly from M-B. Chrysler, forced to cut cost as much as possible, used some steel suspension stampings over the better cast aluminum pieces used on the E-class, but the LX is an E-class design underneath. Absolutely nothing was carried over from the LH cars.
        Not
        A
        Thing
        It was even the first Chrysler car (Durango not included) to showcase Chrysler’s first full use the new CAN electrical architecture. The truly hideous 04 Durango had it first, but not to the extent of the LX cars.
        Early first-gen development mules indeed did use a LH cars as the basis, but they were LH bodies riding on LX/E-class platforms. They were used mostly for early powertrain and electrical development. If you saw or drove any one of those mules you would know that just by the odd-looking rocker panel height. Chrysler was known for cobbling weird development mules together like this for years (remember the Prowler-Wrangler?).

    • 0 avatar

      Autojunkie your take is in direct conflict with the interview at Allpar here, with a man who worked on the LX team.

      https://www.allpar.com/threads/burke-brown-lx-car-leader-creating-the-300c-magnum-charger-and-challenger.237013/#post-1085245426

      The LX cars were in development before Daimler, and said development was supported via some E-Class parts bin stuff.

      Please provide citation for your argument.

      • 0 avatar
        StudeDude

        The Burke Brown piece in Allpar was very interesting. It contradicts many of the writings out there regarding the origin of the LH cars. It also confirms when Daimler stated that it would never platform share with any Chrysler built cars as not to dilute the Mercedes image. Modeling certain components is certainly not platform sharing.

      • 0 avatar

        @Corey Lewis

        I still have reams of engineering data and technical drawings somewhere on a CD-rom from when I worked on the project. I’m not about to start looking for all of it (I don’t even have a CD player in my current computer) and I’m also not going to share proprietary documentation that could thrust into legal issues with one of my clients. However, I can tell you that I was involved with this project as far back as when the LH platform was already having technical design drawings created to accommodate the new RWD cars. The three cars to be built on the RWD LH platform were nothing at all of what reached production. The original plan called for a production version of the 300C convertible concept, a production version of the Dodge Charger concept, and a truly beautiful and “swoopy” Chrysler tall wagon/crossover. All three of these projects were killed, before proper mules could even be developed, and the E-class platform-based LX project began from scratch.

        • 0 avatar

          It’s fine if you want to claim this, but on the record sources (which you cannot provide) disagree. That then is an end to the argument.

          • 0 avatar

            If you’re talking about the Burke Brown interview on Allpar then you’ve completely misconstrued what he said.
            The 2005 Chrysler 300
            was
            not
            based
            on
            the
            LH
            platform

            Maybe you should actually interview Burke Brown yourself or re-read his interview. To simply dismiss my facts, to save face for your shoddy journalism, is completely unprofessional. I knew there was a reason I stopped coming here years ago. “The Truth About Car” is really not interested in the truth.

          • 0 avatar

            You don’t have facts, but rather wish to scream and wave arms (without evidence) and hurl personal insults.

            If I cared about “saving face” I’d just delete your comments, easy as that.

            I wish you a very good day.

    • 0 avatar
      Tele Vision

      @Autojunkie

      My 2002 Chrysler/Dodge Intrepid was FWD but it still had a driveshaft tunnel through the car. The 2.7L was the end of that particular car. Great highway cruiser, mind – until it ‘sploded.

      • 0 avatar

        @Tele Vision

        It wasn’t a driveshaft tunnel. even my Dodge Aries technically had a “driveshaft tunnel”, but these were actually stamped into the floor of most FWD cars to maintain structural rigidity.

  • avatar

    Welcome to an age old automotive argument. From what I have read from former Daimler Chrysler employees it seems it’s somewhere in the middle. The rear end rear suspension and transmission are mostly MB. The dimensions and parts of the front end geometry are LH. Apparently to add to the confusion pre MB Chrysler built some rear rive testmule LH cars and internally called them LX.

    • 0 avatar

      Those “LH test mules” were actually just LH bodies on the LX chassis, which were modified M-B chassis. I’m unable to find actual photos of those mules, but I had one parked right across from my desk for about two years that I used for my part in the project. These cars sat taller over all because of the taller cowl height/seating position. It was mostly noticeable in the oddly tall rocker panel that was cobbled together under the doors.

  • avatar
    Steve Cohn

    I really enjoyed my new ’88 Eagle Premier, for the first 1 1/2 years that is. After that not so good. The ride & handling were better than the GM & Ford sedans of the day, but persistent electronic gremlins in the engine computer ruined the experience in my 3rd year of ownership.
    My new ’91 Acura Legend greatly overshadowed the Premier so I sold it for $5000, and I think I was lucky to get that amount.

  • avatar
    plee

    I was a salesman at a Jeep/Eagle dealership back in 89 and my demo was an 89 Premier ES. It was very roomy and I felt that it drove nicely. Only trip made was from Wilmington, DE to Washington DC with the family and my recollection was that it was a very good cruiser on interstates. They were a very slow seller, just were not on people’s shopping lists. It was much easier to sell Grand Cherokees and Wranglers but we had no idea back then how popular these two would eventually be.

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