Welcome to Little Car in the Big City, where we highlight fascinating cars we’ve found walking around a town that is known for being bigger than everything else, but where every car is fighting to stand out: New York, New York.
Walt Whitman edited the Brooklyn Eagle for two years. The paper closed in 1955, nearly 25 years before the AMC Eagle would launch, and a full 30 years before this particular one would launch. Despite all that time, I think this Brooklyn Eagle is exactly the kind of car Whitman would put to use bounding over around his Brooklyn of ample hills.
The wagon with a substantial four-wheel drive system is a pretty conventional configuration these days, with the Subaru Outback, Volvo V90XC, Audi Allroad, Buick Regal TourX and Volkswagen Golf Alltrack all fighting for their piece of the American market these days, and plenty of others in the fight across the Atlantic as well. They all owe something to the AMC Eagle, though.
Based on the AMC’s midsized Concord, the Eagle was available in a surprisingly wide array of bodystyles, including a wagon (the most popular version), a sedan, a kammback, a coupe, and even a convertible known as the Sundancer. When launched, the Eagle was the first mass-production car on offer in the United States with independent front suspension, which might have scared off some 0ff-road enthusiasts but certainly anticipated the trends in the crossover segment today.
Fuel economy was poor, one of the bigger sticking points for buyers, but AMC considered their car a competitor for larger trucks and SUVs, the only other four-wheel drive option back then.
The Eagle is sitting parked in Gowanus, a Brooklyn neighborhood named for the putrid polluted canal running right through it that was once an important lifeline to the industrial sites in the area. Today the neighborhood is changing, with a Whole Foods and bars with $9 Bud Lights replacing factories and warehouses, and apparently Eagles taking over the streets from the heavy trucks that once owned this place.
This particular Eagle is a 1985 model, which was two years before the last Eagles rolled off the line in Brampton, Ontario (the last few Eagles were built after Chrysler took over the plant in full during its acquisition of AMC).
Once Chrysler was in charge, the Eagle name actually stuck around, mostly for rebadged Mitsubishis but also for some other fun things. Even though the Talon and the Renault-based Premier were pretty cool, it’s a shame there was never a follow-up to this model (as we’ve mentioned before), because plenty of people are still buying these taller wagons with a bit of mettle in the mud and maybe Eagle would still be with us if they kept buying the tall wagon that started it all.
My dad’s favorite automotive take is that the Eagle was too good for its era. A legitimately capable raised four-wheel-drive wagon that went out of production seven years before you could buy a Subaru Outback? The ‘80s were not worthy.