Earlier this week in his Question of the Day, Matthew Guy asked everyone to share a favorite vehicle from their year of birth. An interesting walk through history ensued in the days following, and I encourage each of you to head there and read through the comments if you haven’t done so already. You’ve probably already guessed from the title above where I’m going with this particular question.
Today’s inquiry is all about the worst, steamiest pile of junk on sale the year you were born. Let’s get down and dirty.
Today marks the third and final entry in our Domestics Abroad miniseries. This is where we take a look at the models proffered around the globe that wear a domestic company’s badge on the grille, but are not offered in the brands’ domestic markets. This is ground zero for “you can’t get that here.” All nameplates you’ll see in this series are current production models.
We kicked off this series with Ford and its 13 qualifying models. Second was Chevrolet, which had 9 models accounted for, and one which I forgot (you can see it below the jump). The Unmentionables will cover the remaining international offerings from Buick, Dodge, and Ram.
There comes a dreaded moment in many automobile enthusiasts’ lives when the reality of having a family and the need for practicality outweighs all other considerations.
Enter that dreaded “V” word.
Getting a van — especially a minivan — is for many the automotive equivalent of getting neutered. You’ve given up, capitulated. Your desires to apex corners and outrace sports cars are now parked firmly in the third-row tier of importance, and haulin’ ass has been replaced by just hauling asses.
But getting a people-hauler doesn’t have to be all bad. In fact, there are quite a few vans people claim are “good to drive.” While I’ll take their word on such things for the time being and soldier on with my wagon addiction, let’s take a look at some more inspired options for heavy-duty hauling that made the prospect of a van actually seem quite cool.
Chances are, if you read TTAC as part of a balanced breakfast, you probably had more than a few toy cars scattered around the house like rice at a wedding when you were an OshKosh B’gosh-clad tike. These diminutive metal replicas lurked deep within the shag-pile carpeting, lying with their pointy sides up, waiting to rend bare feet asunder.
In later years, these toys were supplanted by trips to real dealerships, where I no doubt made a nuisance of myself as a prepubescent boy who was interested in examining the new metal for that model year. There are three models whose image remain firmly imprinted on my mind after seeing them for the first time through the lens of a youngster’s eye. Surely, you’ve got one too.
I live in Colorado, where the AMC Eagle sold as well in the 1980s as the Subaru Outback does now, and so I see the all-wheel-drive versions of the American Motors Concord and Spirit everywhere here. This means they show up in Denver-area self-service wrecking yards like clockwork, and I photograph them when they do (and I walk right by most air-cooled Beetles, which I know is wrong).
So far, I have documented the demise of this ’79 wagon, this ’80 coupe, this white-with-plaid-interior ’80 wagon, this GM Iron Duke-powered ’81 SX/4, this ’82 hatchback, this ’83 SX/4 Sport, this ’84 wagon, this ’84 wagon, this ’84 “woodie” wagon, and this ’85 wagon. Now we’ve got this gloriously brown-and-tan-and-beige-and-brown example of Malaise Era proto-crossover Kenosha goodness.
For me, certain car brands evoke strong emotions. Nissan is certainly one that will always get the benefit of great memories, even if some of their current products are less than memorable. Conversely, I have reservations with Ford. As much as I enjoyed the Fusion I drove last month, the Focus I owned at the turn of the century had so many failures and recalls that I struggle to consider the Blue Oval without shivers.
Mitsubishi, on the other hand, doesn’t really register with me. There were at least two of them in the household as I was growing up — a 3000GT and an Eclipse Spyder — but I never drove them, and never bonded with them like the other sports cars to grace our garage. Perhaps the cheap prices and seemingly-disposable nature of the cars effectively blocked them from my memories.
At times, I’ll start a new week with a theme for my Digestible/Crapwagon pieces, such as last week’s “what could I legally import if I had money” saga. Other weeks, I’m lucky to stumble upon any interesting cars at all, so any imagined thread tying them together is absolute happenstance. Like this week’s “Obscure, from Detroit” theme. I never planned it, but it is what it is.
Today brings a car that’s perhaps the most deserving of any to wear the Crapwagon label. No rational enthusiast would ever take this particular car on as a project. Yet, I really want this, or something like it.
Like I said, no rational enthusiast would touch it.
It’s hard to keep track of all the twists and turns of the drama involving Chrysler, Mitsubishi, and American Motors vehicles and branding during the last quarter of the 20th century — and that’s without even bringing Rootes Group stuff into the cast of characters.
The Eagle Summit Wagon, which was a left-hand-drive Mitsubishi RVR slapped with the badges of a marque named for a long-defunct AMC vehicle and not much related to the Mirage-based Eagle Summit car, is a good example of an obscure Mitsu-Chrysler sold just a few years before a bunch of Daimler DNA got added to the Chrysler genome.
We saw this ’93 Eagle Summit FWD Wagon a couple of years back, and now here’s an AWD example that I spotted in Denver last month.
Ahh, the AMC Eagle! So much car-industry history wrapped up in the Eagle, which was a highly innovative machine made during the very last gasps of American Motors (and continuing as a Chrysler product, briefly, before Chrysler killed the Eagle and kept the name for its new marque, which was then slapped on a rebadged and modified Renault 25). Since I live in Colorado, I see Eagles on the street all the time— there are several daily-driver Eagles living within a few blocks of me— and I see them in the local wrecking yards. So far in this series, we’ve seen this ’79 wagon, this ’80 coupe, this GM Iron Duke-powered ’81 SX/4, this ’82 hatchback, this ’84 wagon, this ’84 wagon, and this ’85 wagon. The AMC Spirit-based SX/4 is much less common than the larger AMC Concord-based Eagles, so today’s find (in Denver, of course) is quite interesting.
As with so many things surrounding the bewildering swirl of Renault/AMC- and Mitsubishi-derived products sold by Chrysler brands during the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Eagle Summit wagon is something of a puzzler. The Eagle Summit car was a rebadged Mitsubishi Mirage, which itself was the same car as a Dodge/Plymouth Colt. But the Summit wagon was actually a Mitsubishi RVR, sold in the United States as the Mitsubishi Expo LRV and the Dodge/Plymouth Colt Wagon. In Europe, this thing was known as the Space Runner. Space Runner!
A reader sent me these parameters for picking his next vehicleI’m at a crossroads. I’m looking for a cheap – laughably cheap – like less-than-$3,000 cheap – car for my next daily driver. It’s got to be economical (near 30 mpg hwy) and fun to drive, with decent aftermarket support (so I can throw a couple mods at it – I’m a gearhead). Oh, and since I’m 6’1″ and have a 1-year old daughter, it needs a back seat.We can skip the DSM/Mitsubishi reliability warning.
The AMC Eagle may have disappeared from public consciousness decades ago outside of Colorado, but Eagles are still all over the place in the Mile High City. I can think of a couple of daily-driven Eagle survivors within several blocks of my house (not to mention several VW Vanagon Syncros, but that’s another story), and fallen Eagles show up in Denver-area self-service wrecking yards with great regularity. In this series, we’ve seen this ’79 wagon, this ’80 coupe, this ’82 hatchback, this ’84 wagon, this ’84 wagon, and this ’85 wagon. As for the very rare AMC Spirit-based Eagle SX/4, we’ve seen just this Iron Duke-powered ’81 prior to today’s find.
Here are a few books I consider required reading for Transportation Design students: The Reckoning, Rude Awakening, All Corvettes are Red and Car: A Drama of the American Workplace. These show what it takes to make a car…to make a designer’s work come to fruition.
Sadly, during my (short) time at the College for Creative Studies, we focused on creativity at all costs: pay no attention to the business behind the curtain. So while the Honda Crosstour is a curious stylistic exercise, does this dog hunt in the real world?
The AMC Eagle must have sold better in Colorado than in any other part of the world, because I see so many of the things in Denver junkyards that I don’t even bother photographing most of them. This ’80, however, is a hyper- Malaise two-door with vinyl top and purple-and-red tape stripes, and that makes it special.
When Chrysler took over the tattered remnants of AMC in 1987, they created the “Jeep-Eagle” division in order to sell Kenosha-ized Renaults such as the Medallion and the Premier. Chrysler back then wasn’t content unless Mitsubishi got involved, and so they slapped Eagle badges on a Mitsubishi Mirage built by DSM in Illinois. This was very similar to the Geo-ization GM applied to Toyota, Isuzu, Suzuki, and Daewoo products sold in North America. You don’t see many Summits these days (you also didn’t see many of them 20 years ago) so this find in a Denver junkyard was a rare event.
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