Wednesday, November 26, 2014

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1981 AMC Eagle 4WD Wagon

As Thanksgiving approaches, we pause to reflect on things we're thankful for in life. Which begs the question, what cars are we thankful for? One of many I'm thankful for is the AMC Eagle.

The Eagle is one of the first crossover-type vehicles, a domestic alternative to a Subaru. Not many four-wheel-drive passenger cars were available on the market, so the Eagle was something pretty special in its time. It was available as a station wagon, sedan, coupe, Gremlin-based "Kammback", SX/4 hatchback and even a limited-production Sundancer convertible by Griffith Company coachbuilders. Two-wheel-drive versions of the wagon, coupe and sedan were also available as the Concord, and the Spirit hatchback was a twin of the Eagle SX/4. AMC had to be clever with product given their shoestring budget, so most of these cars were restyled and rebodied versions of the 1970s AMC Hornet, and featured inline-six engines developed from 1964. Economy models were available that used AMC or GM 2.5-liter fours, and even a diesel conversion was offered in its first year. The diesel sold all of seven units. A total of 197,449 Eagles were built from 1980 to 1988.

We've looked at an Eagle here before, a modified trail rig, but I really wanted to shoot a stock one. I got my break while driving through San Francisco, oddly enough while tailing a vintage Rolls-Royce. I lost sight of the Rolls but happened to glance to my left while crossing an intersection and spotted a tan Eagle going the other way, one block down. I looped around and there it was, pulling in to park. I've found a lot of great street sightings this way.

The 1981 Eagle was the first to adopt the typical Eagle look with a plastic chrome eggcrate grille (the inaugural model used horizontal bars similar to the Concord), and featured full-time 4WD and a choice of 2.5-liter four-cylinder or 4.2-liter straight-six power. This one wears the original Cameo Tan over Dark Brown paint and styled wheelcovers. These are tough cars and this one seems to have run into a lot of things with relatively little damage except all the bumper end caps are gone and the front fenders are beat up. This could be a fairly easy restoration project. I'd be tempted to make it a Sport package clone with blacked-out grille, foglights and AMC 5-spoke aluminum wheels in place of the hubcaps which I've never liked. I love the Eagle wagon despite its slightly awkward styling and dated technology. It's just a cool old beast that's practical, spacious, sounds pretty good and can take a trail if necessary.

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