Did We All Make A Grave Mistake By Not Buying This AMC Eagle Wagon?

All images: Bring a Trailer
All images: Bring a Trailer

The answer to the question in the headline is, of course, “yes.” We are all fools, for this 1981 AMC Eagle Wagon appears to be in excellent shape. Despite that, and the fact that this lifted AMC Concord sold on the For-Ballers-Only website Bring a Trailer, the final price was somehow a modest $6,200. Here’s a look at what we all missed out on.

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Bring a Trailer isn’t my favorite place to browse car listings because I’m a cheap bastard, and the cars on the site sell for far too much money. (I thought spending $2,000 my Golden Eagle Jeep Cherokee was pushing it; Meanwhile, someone on Bring a Trailer dropped $20 grand for one that was admittedly in a bit nicer shape than mine, but definitely not $18,000 nicer. At least, I don’t think). The site is wild.

Still, it’s a cool place to check out pristine examples of old cars that normally wind up as rotten carcasses in a junkyard. Among those is this 1981 AMC Eagle.

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Illustration for article titled Did We All Make A Grave Mistake By Not Buying This AMC Eagle Wagon?

The Eagle was a brilliant decision by AMC to essentially take a single vehicle architecture and stretch the crap out of it until it became something that the average person considered a vastly different machine. The base vehicle was the AMC Concord wagon, which had roots that stretched back to the early 1970s AMC Hornet.

Illustration for article titled Did We All Make A Grave Mistake By Not Buying This AMC Eagle Wagon?

The whole program, led by the late Roy Lunn, was all about getting the most out of one set of bones (that was AMC’s M.O.), and also about skirting regulations, as The Truth About Cars notes in its 2017 story. It all began with Jeep building a 4x4 version of the Hornet in the early 1970s as a feasibility study, which AMC’s official project proposal describes thusly:

This vehicle employed a specially constructed [Quadra Trac] I transfer case unit with straight through drive, a unique frame mounted Warner Gear front axle, specially constructed Constant Velocity front drive shafts by Dana, and modifications to the basic independent front suspension.

The vehicle, although only a brief exploration exercise and only tested for a few thousand miles, did establish design feasibility of applying 4-wheel drive to a Hornet with relatively minor modifications to the basic vehicle structure.

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Illustration for article titled Did We All Make A Grave Mistake By Not Buying This AMC Eagle Wagon?

The idea grew wings later in the decade, with TTAC writing:

The 1970s saw a cascade of new federal automotive regulations for both emissions and safety, of which AMC had limited resources to respond with. Light trucks saw lighter regulations for both of these categories, and Lunn saw turning the Concord wagon into a 4X4 trucklet as a way of allowing AMC to create a vehicle that would be legal well into the 1980s (but without having to use too many of those limited resources). Lunn was a smart man, pointing out that advertising and marketing for the vehicle would need careful crafting to keep the car they were selling as a truck legal.

The idea was revisited at the end of 1976, this time with a slightly different recipe of components. UK-based GKN Ltd. was tasked with developing a new viscous control unit for the transfer case that would allow for full-time four-wheel drive without tearing up the drivetrain. FF Development, a British all-wheel-drive pioneer, was given $34,000 and three months to design and build a concept prototype.

While FF was building the concept vehicle, both Jeep and AMC Passenger Car Engineering started total vehicle design feasibility studies. The concept was finished in May, tested briefly in the UK and then shipped to Detroit. Design development continued, along with cost analysis and negotiations with suppliers, resulting in Lunn’s proposal in July of 1977, with a target date of Job 1 in 1980.

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The result was one of the world’s first mass-market unibody 4x4s, and it was glorious.

Illustration for article titled Did We All Make A Grave Mistake By Not Buying This AMC Eagle Wagon?
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This particular AMC Eagle for sale on BaT looks great. Per the listing, a previous owner repainted it 10 years ago (one of the commenters, who claims to have been that former owner, says it’s “Rossa Corsa PPG”), and also rebuilt the three-speed automatic transmission and 4.2-liter inline-six. Why that motor had to be rebuilt, I’m unsure, since the AMC inline-six is normally an unkillable motor.

Illustration for article titled Did We All Make A Grave Mistake By Not Buying This AMC Eagle Wagon?
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The vehicle has apparently had damn near everything replaced or serviced, including the axle shafts, bearings, springs, ball joints, tie rod ends, grille, rubber seals, shocks, exhaust system, and seat upholstery.

Illustration for article titled Did We All Make A Grave Mistake By Not Buying This AMC Eagle Wagon?
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If the car is as nice as it looks in these photos, $6,200 seems like a hell of a deal. It’s too bad it’s got the slushbox and not a manual, but you can’t always have it all.

I should have bought this. We all should have.

Sr. Technical Editor, Jalopnik. Always interested in hearing from auto engineers—email me. Cars: Willys CJ-2A ('48), Jeep J10 ('85), Jeep Cherokee ('79, '91, '92, '00), Jeep Grand Cherokee 5spd ('94).

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DISCUSSION

dead-elvis
Dead_Elvis wishes ill upon the herbs

Why that motor had to be rebuilt, I’m unsure, since the AMC inline-six is normally an unkillable motor.

I’m just spitballin’ here, but maybe some dumbass ruined the engine by getting swamped in a mud pit & hydrolocking (or then letting it freeze with water inside)?