|1979 to 1988|
|Body and chassis|
|Class||Compact / crossover SUV|
|Layout||Front engine, rear-wheel drive / four-wheel drive|
The AMC Eagle is a compact-sized four-wheel drive passenger vehicle that was produced by American Motors Corporation (AMC) from 1979 to 1987. The AMC Eagle line of vehicles inaugurated a new product category of "sport-utility" or crossover SUV.
Introduced in August 1979 for the 1980 model year, the coupe, sedan, and station wagon body styles were based on the AMC Concord.
The AMC Eagles were the only four-wheel-drive passenger cars produced in the U.S. at the time. They were affordable cars offering a comfortable ride and handling on pavement together with superior traction in light off road use through AMC's innovative engineering and packaging.
In 1981, the two-door subcompact-sized AMC Spirit-based models, the SX/4 and Kammback, joined the Eagle line. The Sundancer convertible conversion was available during 1981 and 1982. For the 1988 model year, the Eagle was manufactured by the Chrysler Corporation retaining the AMC badging. Production of the Eagle continued until December 14, 1987, and the vehicle was marketed through early 1988.
The initial proposal for production of what would become the AMC Eagle came from Roy Lunn, the chief design engineer for AMC Jeep. "Project 8001 plus Four" was Lunn's code name for a new "line of four-wheel-drive vehicles with the ride and handling conventions of a standard rear wheel drive car" built on a unit-body platform. In February 1977, AMC contracted FF Developments to build a prototype vehicle based on a production V8 powered AMC Hornet with drive torque split 33% front and 66% rear. Testing and further development proved the feasibility of a vehicle with greater ground clearance, larger 15-inch wheels, as well as a torque split closer to 50% - 50%, with Lunn recommending using the AMC straight-6 engine coupled to an automatic transmission.
Thus, the AMC Eagle came about when Jeep's chief engineer joined a Concord body with a four-wheel-drive system.Such a vehicle was a logical step for AMC, according to then CEO Gerald C. Meyers, as a second energy crisis had hit in 1979, and sales of AMC's highly profitable truck-based Jeep line dropped in part to their low fuel efficiency, leaving AMC in a precarious financial position. The Eagle provided a low-cost way of bridging the gap between AMC's solid and economical, but aging, passenger car line and its well-regarded, but decidedly off-road-focused, Jeep line, as the Eagle used the existing Concord (and later, Spirit) automobile platform.
The Eagle also bridged the sizable price gap between the low-end imported 4WD Subaru and the large-sized domestic four-wheel-drive vehicles like the Jeep Wagoneer. The Eagle models provided the biggest new boost to the automaker's profit mix. Sales were brisk since Day One, with the manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) for the basic 2-door model starting at $6,999 (US$20,033 in 2014 dollars) and the 4-door station wagon at $7,549 (US$21,607 in 2014 dollars). The Eagle represented a "burst of AMC's genetic creativity...quickly captured the attention of many American drivers who found its unique union of four-wheel drive safety and security with the comfort of an automobile."
A first in mass production passenger cars, the early AMC Eagles came with a true full-time automatic system that operated only in permanent all-wheel drive. The four-wheel drivetrain added approximately 300 pounds (136 kg) to the Eagle's curb weight. The AMC Eagles were also the first mass-produced U.S. four-wheel-drive vehicles with an independent front suspension.
The AMC Eagle's central differential behind its TorqueFlite automatic transmission was single-speed (without a low-range option) and used a viscous fluid coupling for quiet and smooth transfer of power to the axle with the greatest traction, on wet or dry pavement. The central unit consisted of closely spaced, wavy clutch plates operating in a "honey-like Silicone fluid" performing a "limited-slip function" between the front and rear drives, as well as under adverse driving conditions sending torque to the axle with the most traction.
Designed as "reasonably size[d] passenger cars" offering a comfortable ride and handling on pavement, the AMC Eagles "behave more like mountain goats" when off the road The value of four-wheel drive in the AMC Eagle was apparent when driving in slippery conditions, and they were used in America's first ice-driving school. The Eagle models provided the comfort and appointments expected of passenger models with off-road technology offering an extra margin of safety and traction. The Eagle was designed for customers that "must get through regardless of road or weather conditions (doctors, police, emergency personnel and so on)" as well as those living areas of bad weather or roads, and adventurous hunters and fishermen. The AMC Eagle did not compete with traditional, rudimentary four-wheel-drive vehicles. Not built for off-road performance as a Chevrolet Blazer or a Jeep Cherokee, the Eagle "will overcome mud, sand, snow, and obstacles that would stop ordinary sedans cold."
The AMC Eagle was the first production car to use the complete "Ferguson Formula" (FF) full-time all-wheel-drive system from Britain's Ferguson Research. Other four-wheel-drive automobile-type vehicles - the Subaru DL/GL (1972 for the Japanese domestic market and two years later in the U.S.), and much later the Toyota Tercel SR5 Wagon (1983) - only had part-time four-wheel-drive systems that could not be engaged on dry pavement.The Eagle was also years ahead of Subaru's simplistic, part-time front-drive/4WD system, due to Roy Lunn's creativity and Jeep's experience producing 4WD vehicles.Another feature was the Eagle's independent front suspension, accomplished by mounting the front differential to the engine block with universal joints and half shafts to drive the front wheels.
As the first mass-produced American passenger car with four-wheel-drive of any type, automotive industry analysts were taken by surprise at the fact that AMC, a company most had deemed past its ability to produce competitive vehicles, turned the best of what they had into a revolutionary, novel, and all-around competent vehicle. In doing so, the small American manufacturer was seen as having cleverly pioneered a new market segment - one that would grow wildly over the next 25 years and beyond, as evinced by Four Wheeler magazine's conclusion in 1980 that the new AMC Eagle was, indeed, "The beginning of a new generation of cars." Even as the automaker was struggling financially, "AMC's reputation for developing vehicles on the cheap is only exceeded by its legacy of midwifing the SUV", including the Eagle to be the precursor to one of the most popular vehicle types on the market.Indeed, the Eagle's basic concept - that of a station wagon with AWD, raised ground clearance, full range of power options and automatic transmissions, as well as rough-road capability - has inspired vehicles like the Subaru Outback and Forester lines, the Audi Allroad, the Volkswagen Passat Alltrack, the Volvo XC range, and many others. Similarly, motoring journalist Marty Padgett described AMC's car-based 1980 Eagle, combining all-weather capability with better gas mileage, as "the first crossover," that was succeeded by whole generations of Subaru vehicles and other models.
AMC Eagle side view
Based on the AMC Concord, the 1980 AMC Eagle was available as a four-door sedan and station wagon, as well as a coupe. Standard equipment included power steering and power front disk and rear drum brakes, as well as 15-inch
Production for the 1980 model was: 9,956 4-door sedans, 10,616 2-door sedans, and 25,807 station wagons with a grand total of 45,379 units. The Eagle models helped AMC increase total car production to 199,613 units, an increase of 18% over the previous year.
Production was: 5,603 Kammbacks, 17,340 Liftbacks, 2,378 two-door sedans, 1,737 four-door sedans, and 10,371 station wagons for a total of 37,429 units.
Even with the choice of two wheelbase versions and five body styles, the most popular model was the wagon with 20,899 built out of total Eagle production of 37,923 for the 1982 model year. Other production was: 520 Kammbacks, 10,445 Liftbacks, 1,968 two-door sedans, and 4,091 four-door sedans.
Production was: 2,259 Liftbacks, 3,093 four-door sedans, and 12,378 station wagons for a total of 17,730 units in 1983.
Production was: 4,241 four-door sedans and 21,294 station wagons totaling 25,535.
Production was for the 1985 model year: 2,655 four-door sedans and 13,335 station wagons, for a total of 16,990 units.
Production was: 1,274 four-door sedans and 6,943 station wagons, for a total of 8,217 units. The Eagles were now built in AMC's Brampton Assembly in Canada alongside AMC's new Jeep Wrangler.
Production for the 1987 model year was: 454 four-door sedans, and 5,468 or 4,564 (varies with source) station wagons, for a total of 4,564 to 5,922 (varies with source) units.
Total 1988 model year production was 2,306 units, all station wagons.
1981 AMC Eagle Griffith Convertible
In 1980, AMC entered into an agreement with the Griffith Company for a convertible body style Eagle, and a prototype version was developed. The cars were marketed during the 1981 and 1982 model years as the Sundancer conversion. The Eagle's monocoque (unibody) body was reinforced and a steel targa roll bar was welded to the door pillars for passenger compartment protection. The front portion of the roof was a removable lightweight fiberglass hatch, while the rear section of polyvinyl material and the back window folded down and had a boot cover when in the down position.
The conversions were approved by AMC with the cars ordered through select AMC dealers in the customer's selection of options and exterior colors. The conversion cost approximately $3,000 and the dealer's list price was $3,750.The conversion was performed by Griffith, which was originally established to build race cars based on the English TVR sports car. Headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the cars were shipped from Kenosha for the conversion.The company was also responsible for the similar "Sunchaser" Toyota Celica convertible. Both of these Griffith conversions are considered coach convertibles.
Another factory-approved conversion was the 1980 turbo-diesel. The 219 cu in (3.6 L) engines producing 150 hp (112 kW; 152 PS) and 224 pound force-feet (304 N·m) of torque were supplied by VM Motori. Only about seven are thought to have been manufactured; two are accounted for in one of the AMC Eagle clubs. The literature for the conversions noted the cars would be equipped with larger fuel tanks, which together with diesel economy and an optional overdrive transmission, would give the cars up to 1,500-mile (2,414 km) range. The $9,000 price tag for the conversion limited its market appeal and it was discontinued.
1984 AMC Eagle rear view