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A Hooniverse swan song: Matching your lifestyle with the right Eagle

Eric Rood September 1, 2015 Cars You Should Know, Meet Your Hoons 27 Comments

Lede-Brochure

This is a long overdue post and a tough one to write. Literally, it’s been difficult to write; I’ve started and revised it dozens of times. Also, notice that I didn’t say “story” or “report.” It’s a post and probably not a very good one and…

Look, I’m just here to say that I very recently accepted an offer to write elsewhere and, at least for me here and now on Hooniverse, things are just like Jeff Beck sang: “This is the end.”

That said, of all the hundreds of things I’ve written here in the last two years, my favorite by far was the Ford Tempo Buyer’s Guide in 2013 and I’ve always meant to follow that up. I struggled to figure out what completely unwanted car should be next and I eventually settled on the full line of Eagle, the orphaned brand caught between the worlds of failing American Motors Corporation and their pseudo-saviors at Chrysler. Follow the jump for the only guide you’ll ever need to buying an Eagle product.

Eagle

If you read this article’s introduction—and why wouldn’t you have? Although, I guess the world is a funny place (and by “the world,” I mean “the Internet” and by “funny place,” I mean “conceptual meeting ground full of things that would be impossible to explain to the original owner of a 1988 Eagle Eagle”)—hey look, this aside came back on-topic even if the outerjection makes no grammatical sense. Or rather, the aside finally arrived on topic, although I’ve gone and wasted what would have been (had this been printed media) probably five or six column inches that would have drawn the theoretical ire of a theoretical editor.

Anyway, here we are.

There are quite a few great histories of Eagle on the Internet (AllPar’s is pretty good, for example), but here’s the nut of the brand: When AMC—bolstered for much of the 1980s with a purchase by Renault—finally shuffled up to the brink of eternity in 1987, Lee Iacocca and Chrysler swooped in to buy the brand’s earthly remains. Mostly, Chrysler wanted the AMC-owned Jeep nameplate, which history has proven was a Good Move, but that property came along with several Arcturan megatons of contractual baggage, namely that Chrysler would have to fulfill obligations to build the remaining Renaults that AMC was contracted to produce.

Iacocca certainly had no interest in retaining the sullied AMC nameplate on these cars and he also sure as hell wasn’t going to tarnish his legacy by making them Dodges or Plymouths, so he instead created the Eagle brand, which would house misfit imports and, throughout its entire existence, only sell one domestically designed car (the Vision, although its underpinnings were Renault-based). The offerings were somewhat varied and unflinchingly forgettable.

But you, the enthusiast, are a true Hoon and appreciate all things automotive. So I’m here, one last time, to help match you to the perfect Eagle.

 

Eagle Wagon

amc_eagle_wagon_1988

You love things long before they get popular and have no misgivings about telling the world that you loved them first—even if they sucked at the time—and why the things you loved first are so incredible and rare while leaving huge gaps of explanation about what they actually are.

“That’s a first pressing of ‘CB Savage‘ signed by C.W. McCall,” you patiently explain to fellow partygoers whose palpable boredom only surpasses their confusion about why you’d carry an artifact like that with you to a house party. You sigh. “It’s the only one left in the world. I saw C.W. McCall live in 2008 and he autographed it. It was completely amazing. Best show I’ve ever seen. Better than the time I saw Bright Eyes play an unannounced show in a Tucson Motel 6.”

You require a 1988 Eagle Eagle, which isn’t actually badged as an “Eagle Eagle,” but it makes for a good story, right? [Pause for laughs.] The final year of AMC Eagles was really just leftovers from the proto-crossover’s production run, the AMC name quickly jettisoned by its new Chrysler overlords. The Pentastar cult made Eagle its own brand on the basis of these parts-bin remnants and sold the remaining Eagles only as a wagon—innovatively called the Eagle Wagon—and only with the ubiquitous 258 cubic inch straight-six equipped with a two-barrel carburetor. Because only 2,300 Eagle Eagles were built, you know the arduous task of finding a rare ’88 will be worth it at your next party.

 

Eagle Medallion

eagle_medallion_white_wagon_1989

You’ve made a lot of bad decisions in your lifetime, but you always justify them as “making sense at the time.” Somehow, you have the world’s only remaining 10-10-321 cell phone plan, but that 16-year contract with them locked in your monthly cell bill at only $99.99 per month with 170 anytime minutes.

Any. Time.

You are destined for an Eagle Medallion, the car that was built and sold in the United States entirely out of contractual obligation. The remnants of Renault’s AMC ownership dictated that the Renault 21 captive import, the AMC (and also Renault) Medallion, still be sold stateside.

Eagle launched its brand in 1988 with the Medallion among its initial offerings. Its Renault 2.2-liter inline four produced 103 horsepower and rated upwards of 33 mpg with the standard five-speed manual (choked down to about 26 mpg with the optional three-speed automatic). The somewhat-reasonable $10,700 base price also included Eagle’s seven-year, 70,000-mile warranty, almost certainly a regrettable set of circumstances for Eagle’s Chrysler overlords and for Medallion buyers who would soon exercise the warranty like the 12-month Sweatin’ to the Oldies VHS subscription they paid in full during January. Wait, not like that all.

You’ve somehow managed to find a Medallion (out of maybe 12 remaining in the U.S.) and know it’s a great deal.

[Author’s note: A dear Hooniverse reader informed me via email a couple weeks that he had found a running Medallion Wagon and had offered the owner $700 for it. I’ve yet to hear an update and earnestly hope it’s not because he bought the car at my urging and has had the inevitable mental breakdown that follows such decisions.]

 

Eagle Premier

eagle_preimere_silver_top_1989

While you enjoy being the early bird at the proverbial popular worm, you aren’t full-on Eagle Eagle crazy. You enjoy obscure things with actual, theoretical refinement, like John Cage or Godzilla vs. Biollante. You want the roomiest MF’er in the class and the most aerodynamic—preferably one with a coefficient of drag better than the same-era Ford Taurus that the automotive press gushed over—the one with the 150 horsepower PRV V6 and a four-speed automatic transmission at a time when slushy three-speeds were the norm.

You, of course, want the Renault 25-based Eagle Premier because you want the finest things that the unrefined masses didn’t know they wanted before they went away. AMC, Renault, and their post-buyout owners Chrysler saw the Premier as a complement to the Jeep, whose Grand Wagoneer was the vehicle to own for the well-to-do. They priced it somewhat competitively at $13,000 for the four-cylinder base model (and added a meager $1,000 for the V6), but the builders scarcely seemed to know what to do with Eagle. Naturally, Chrysler bungled it all, selling only 140,000 Premiers in a five-year run and unloading the final 1992 models for as little as $11,000 off the lot.

Still, it’s not an awful car, theoretically, but like most John Cage pieces, it’s likely a cool idea that drags on long after the novelty’s worn off.

 

Eagle Vista

Eagle_Vista_Sedan

You live in Canada and you converted your Canadian cash assets to dimes whenever possible, trucking unassumingly across the U.S. border to rest stops where you’d identified that particular model of vending machine that mistook Canadian dimes for American ones. You’d pump examples of that machine full of dimes and hope the coin return spat out American dimes in exchange, reaping you a tidy 20 percent profit until Uncle Sam’s cronies caught onto your dime-laundering racket. Your checkered past behind, you proclaimed yourself an investor and then submitted grant proposals for concepts that make a 200-pound bearproof suit seem reasonable. You are thrifty and have little time to spend on car choices but wish to remain non-descript.

Because the Hyundai Scoupe was too conspicuous, you instead plunked down a small stack of Canadian bills for an Eagle Vista, the replacement in AMC’s purchased line for the Renault Encore and also the only way to buy second-generation Mitsubishi Mirage in Canada (Mitsubishi had no sales in the country at the time). The GT- and LX-trim models with the turbocharged 1.6-liter 4G32 and accompanying five-speed manual were a bit pricey, so you instead opted for the base-model 69 horsepower 1.5-liter 4G15 with one fewer gear in the transmission. Modern technology has thwarted your attempts at dime laundering anyway, so it’s on to legitimate business attempts for now.

 

Eagle Vista Wagon

Eagle_Vista_Wagon

Same as above, except you have to truck around a couple of kids before attending to Legitimate Business. Like the Honda Civic Wagon or Nissan Stanza Wagon, the Eagle Vista Wagon is based on a completely different platform, the Mitsubishi Chariot, from the non-Wagon car. With a bit more to haul around, the early version of the naturally aspirated 4G63 (Yes, that 4G63) pulls a tad harder than the base-model Vista sedan with 98 horsepower on tap.

Because the Honda Dustbuster is too reliable: Eagle Vista Wagon.

 

Eagle Summit

eagle_summit_4door_1995

In a neverending quest to make a name for yourself, you’ve sent a few dozen letters to the Guinness Book of World Records asking if they’d be interested in your undiscovered talents. Sadly, each has resulted in a rejection letter because those high-fallutin Irish purport to show no interest in the Most Oranges Stuffed Into a Discarded CRT Monitor or Most Cat Selfies In 24 Hours (and subsequent: Most Blood Loss From Cat Scratches In 24 Hours). No bother, you know in your heart of hearts that obscure titles matter most to those hold them, official or not. That’s why you drive a Eagle Summit, known stateside as the Last Captive Mitsubishi Mirage Import. Other motorists see it and think someone cobbled together Toyota Corolla and Chevy Cavalier bodywork, but it’s worth the backorder of new-old stock parts at every parts store to talk to that one person who understands why you brought it to the local car show.

 

Eagle Summit Wagon

eagle_summit_wagon_4wd_1992

Just as the Vista Wagon had nothing in common with the Vista, neither does the Summit Wagon—a rebadged Mitsubishi RVR—share anything mechanically with the Summit. While the lowly Summit got the 4G93 engine, the RVR-based Summit Wagon got a naturally aspirated 4G63, meaning that this is only a few bad ideas from being a shadetree Summit Wagon Evo. Luckily, you’re just the shadetree mechanic for it so you went ahead and purchased it with your moderately lucrative job at the local Auto Parts Haven. You’re sure to put out “subtle” feelers to anyone who enters Auto Parts Haven to see if they’ve wrecked a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo or know anyone who has. You’re just a lucky break away from the ultimate sleeper, accentuated perfectly by rust on the wheel arches and the horrific noises coming the worn-out chassis. “That’s just how they all came from the factory,” you reassure your alarmed imaginary passengers.

 

Eagle Talon

eagle_talon_1992

Yeah, people actually want these so it’s no fun to write about these. Fun exercise: Find one for sale that hasn’t been mercilessly “tuned.”

 

Eagle 2000GTX

Eagle_2000GTX

You live in Canada and you’re a big Robocop fan (the original, of course). You’ve always dreamed of owning a 6000SUX that you could buy for a dollar and with some gentle manipulation and borrowing, you know you could make that dream come true with an Eagle 2000GTX, also known as “the only way to buy a sixth-generation Mitsubishi Galant in Canada.” You head on down to the junkyard looking for a “6” and an “SU” trim level every week, hoping to mine gold for that one great pop culture reference to complement your sweet “ED 209” license plate and make you an Internet sensation.

That’ll show Dad.

 

Eagle Vision

eagle_vision_esi_1993

“I only need it to run a couple more months,” you’ve told yourself every day for the last three years. The Vision’s clearcoat has long since worn off, leaving unsightly white runs blotted over the teal paint like so many sinned-on sheets. Under the hood, you know the surprisingly burly 3.5-liter V6 shamed even the supercharged JuggaLambos when you raced them. The Chrysler LH platform’s exhausted suspensionoriginally soft and floaty long before you inherited it for $300 (plus title fees, what a ripoff) from when your cousins put the late Great Uncle Bert in the homebounces a bit, but it’s better than your Suzuki Esteem’s jarring ride. Little do you know or care that the soft rides you remember as a kid in Bert’s wedge-shaped Vision were a result of Chrysler deriving the LH platform and its cab-forward design from the Eagle Premier.

You’re similarly unaware what those jerk auto reviewers mean when they say things like “steering is vague” because you seem to navigate potholes just fine. Some weird kid at Auto Parts Haven told you last year that the check engine light was for a bad oxygen sensor, but the car rattles on just fine, bad sensor and all. “Just a couple more months…” you say every morning when you turn the nubbed ignition key and mash the Increase Volume button on the department store head unit. The ticking, the grinding, the clanking…It all gets lost in the glorious din.

You are living the life you always enVisioned. [Pause for laughs]

 

Eagle Jazz

1995-eagle-jazz3

You’re an avid collector of one-off cars, but you’ll have none of that super-clean, numbers-matching muscle car nonsense that seems so popular at big auctions. No, you go to Barrett Jackson for the over-the-top SEMA cars; you need a car that stands out. Maybe you’re even just a rich person who likes to present himself/herself as an eccentric. Your garage already hosts Ford’s T-Drive Ford Tempo, so why not add the Eagle Jazz Concept Car to complement it? The styling cues hint at the second-generation Chrysler LH platform, but you know you’ve seen that form somewhere else…You must have it.

 

That’s all folks! Thanks for keeping it fun, Hooniverse. I’ll be around from time to time because this place and you, dear Hoons, are amazing. Until we meet again, you can keep up with my writing on Twitter here and on Facebook here.

 

[Photos: ProductionCars.com  (Most of the grainy press photos), TestDriveJunkie.com (Jazz photo), Curbside Classic (Vista Wagon), Wikimedia (Vista Sedan), Wikimedia (2000GTX), autobrochure on PhotoBucket (Lead photo)]

  • Alan Cesar

    All of these cars are priceless. Or worthless. It’s hard to tell the difference sometimes.

    Is the last, hateful piece of Dots candy in that bowl any more palatable just because it’s the last one?

  • Jofes2

    Tell me if I’m crazy, but why does the Eagle Jazz look so much like the modern Lancia Delta?

    http://www.carstyling.ru/resources/concept/large/95eagle_jazz_03.jpg

    This is actually messing up my mind.

    • ramLlama

      From that angle, it also looks like a concept PT Cruiser…

    • The Rusty Hub

      I see melted late-model (RWD) Chrysler 300.

    • crank_case

      It looks like a Delta that a giant foot stood on.

      • The Rusty Hub

        That’s funny. My wife always says the late-model Dodge Magnums look like a T-Rex stepped on a Durango.

    • Vairship

      Eagle was owned by Chrysler, Chrysler is owned by Fiat, which also owns Lancia. New Lancias are re-manufactured Chryslers. Neither Chrysler nor Fiat has any money for new models, therefore the new Lancia is really an old Chrysler which in turn was engineered by ex-AMC Eagle people. And all of them are six degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon.

  • Manic_King

    Great post….but damn. Sad to see you go, Eric. Hooniverse will be poorer place without you. Don’t be a stranger. Godspeed!

  • dead_elvis

    “I’m just here to say that I very recently offer to write elsewhere”. So you didn’t take a gig as a copy editor? 😉

    Also, I’m enjoying the photo of the very clearly badged Colt Vista wagon.

    • The Rusty Hub

      Fixed the text, left the bad photo so everyone can see how dumb I am.

      • dead_elvis

        I was confused by that, then distracted enough by the mention of Jeff Beck singing that it wasn’t immediately apparent that this was a farewell post. Good luck in yer future endeavors. Maybe I missed it, but did you link your new gig someplace?

        • The Rusty Hub

          Yeah, the Jeff Beck/Beck/Jim Morrison thing is one of my favorite diversionary tactics to the fact that I’m really not very funny.

          Anyway, new digs:

          http://www.24hoursoflemons.com/blog

  • 0A5599

    Eric,

    You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

    Sincerely,
    The Eagles

    • Yeah, but his Maserati does 185, which makes up for it.

      • dead_elvis

        I always wanted clarification if his Maser also served as the limo where he rode in the trunk.

        WWJWD?

        • Cameron Vanderhorst

          For quite a while, my band would warm up (or wind down) with “Rocky Mountain Way,” with our lead singer/guitarist screaming the talkbox part until we all lost our heads laughing. Good times.

    • dead_elvis

      Just because this is by now obligatory doesn’t make it any less true.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-JlmvtAHhnc

  • Cameron Vanderhorst

    We’ll miss you, buddy.

    Eeeeeeev’ry rooooose has its thoooooorn…

  • Citric

    Anyone who can compare an Eagle Premier to Godzilla vs. Biollante deserves all the success in the world.

  • Don’t lift.

    But do tell us where you’ll be writing, so we can flip you the bird send carrier pigeons to ‘follow’ you and retrieve your texts whether they ‘like’ it or not.

    • The Rusty Hub

      Coming to a 24 Hours of LeMons Official Blog near you:

      http://www.24hoursoflemons.com/blog

      (And very likely to another site with that content officially migrating elsewhere in short order)

      • wunno sev

        congrats!

  • tonyola

    Fascinating article and good luck on your new endeavors. One last Eagle that never made it to the showrooms – the second-generation Eagle Vision, which was rebadged the Chrysler 300M.