Race, Daily, Restore: Pioneering AWD Passenger Cars

Our second weekly edition of Race, Daily, Restore features three early all-wheel drive passenger cars. There was a time when rear-wheel drive was standard for cars, front-wheel drive was remarkable, and 4WD on trucks meant getting out and locking the front hubs before venturing into the snow and muck. But that changed, thanks to the ground-breaking but rare Jensen FF in the mid ’60s, then the AMC Eagle (in this case, a be-vinyled 1980 2-door Sport coupe), and then Pontiac’s 6000STE AWD in 1988–90. These were not clumsy part-time 4WD systems [Yeah, I’m looking at you, Suzuki X-90], but rather sophisticated, permanent all-wheel drive systems suited to street use, even on dry pavement.
Your job is to tell me which of the three you would:

  • RACE – build into some sort of dedicated racing machine (not street legal) for your choice of competition — any legitimate, sanctioned form of motorsport: road course, rally, drag, LSR, Baja, etc.;
  • DAILY – have as your sole street-registered car, for all your commuting and general transportation needs.
  • RESTORE – do a museum-quality, factory-correct, frame-off restoration, then add to your collection, but not drive on the street.

Just like math class, please demonstrate how you came to your conclusions for full credit.

  1. Assume that you’re given these three vehicles outright, so there’s no acquisition cost, but the cost of race-prepping, maintaining, insuring and restoring them will be on you.
  2. These are your ONLY three cars. You cannot factor in any other cars you might actually own, e.g., “I’ll daily the MR2 because I have a van I can take the kids in…” Likewise, you can’t sell the restored car to buy another vehicle.
  3. You must assign one of the cars to each category. You can’t say, “I’ll race my street car,” or “I’ll drive that one for a season then restore it.”
  4. You can’t half-ass a car you don’t like, such as theoretically racing Lemons or doing a “20-footer” cosmetic restoration.

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16 responses to “Race, Daily, Restore: Pioneering AWD Passenger Cars”

  1. Hillman_Hunter Avatar

    Race: AMC Eagle, because racecar!
    Daily: Pontiac 6000. Having gotten my driver’s license at the wheel of an A-body, I’ve got A-body Stockholm syndrome. How could one not love their CV joint-eating, steering rack-destroying, flaccid handling ways
    Restore: Jensen FF

  2. P161911 Avatar

    Race: AMC Eagle, throw the latest Jeep 4.0L with every performance upgrade possible at it. Rallycross.
    Restore: Jensen FF, too fragile for anything else.
    Daily: The Pontiac 6000STE AWD, GM vehicles of that time will run poorly longer than most vehicles will run. Maybe try to stuff the 3.9L 60deg V-6 with 240HP out of the last Monte Carlo into it.

  3. 0A5599 Avatar

    Restore: Jensen FF. It’s a fantastic, groundbreaking vehicle, with very limited production, and deserves to be in a museum. If I can bend the rules a little here, I’d like mine in survivor condition instead of restoration.
    Daily: The Eagle has landed. I should include this as part of my regular Craigslist search terms starting today.
    Race: Pontiac. I’d build it into the ultimate sleeper street racer. I’d still run license plates and have full street legal trim, but the engine mods would make it not street legal because of emissions equipment.

  4. ptschett Avatar

    Yet again I’d be dailying the GM sedan, racing the AMC, and restoring the European car.

  5. Alff Avatar

    Daily FF because it’s too cool to languish in the garage
    Rally AMC
    Restore GMC because I don’t want to drive it

    1. fede Avatar

      exactly this. I’d want to use the FF, however rare or delicate it may be.

    2. Andrew_theS2kBore Avatar

      Agreed, especially because racing the AMC means you can de-vinyl it. Ugh.

      1. Alan Cesar Avatar
        Alan Cesar

        Piffle. I’d race it Landau style.

  6. theskitter Avatar

    Race: Jenson FF, with probably nothing of the original drivetrain intact.
    Daily: 6000STE. I miss my Accord.
    Restore: AMC Eagle. Most historical significance by far. Not the first AWD. The first mainstream, everyday appliance AWD.

  7. Guest Avatar

    I’m with @Alfisted:disqus with my choices.

    If I came into possession of a Jensen FF, there is no way in hell that it would languishing in my garage, practicality, and reliability be damned!

    Rally the AMC, because Jeep parts, and it would look bad-ass with flares and a slight lift.

    Restore the Pontiac. It’s the most “meh” choice of the three of them, and the only one I haven’t heard of. Therefore it is the least likely to be preserved for future generations, so I guess I’ll take on the role of caretaker.

    1. Alan Cesar Avatar
      Alan Cesar

      And you’d have the Pontiac as a backup to commute to work for when (not if) the Jensen is broken down for weeks at a time.

      1. Guest Avatar

        Yes that could work eventually, but if I’ve learned anything from certain people who restore AWD versions of economy cars, it’ll probably take at least a year of owning the Pontiac until it’s suitable for that.

        First I have to get the engine rebuilt, and then I have to get the exhaust manual I found to fit, and and I also have to do my best to fix all the fatal flaws… You know how it goes, right? 🙂

        1. Alan Cesar Avatar
          Alan Cesar

          What, me? Noooooooo, I don’t know anything about that. 😉

  8. Sjalabais Avatar

    Race the Jensen, in style! Daily the AMC – because it is so ridiculously versatile and weird, there’s no way I’d hide it. And I’d tell everyone I’m restoring the Pontiac, while, in reality, the Jensen eats my pension fund alive.

  9. nanoop Avatar

    Race: Sedans as race cars are sexy, image below.
    Daily: The Jenson, since a) of course, this is a GT! b) my neighbors would be impressed, c) I couldn’t afford one, but once I’d ridden it down and salty roads ate up enough so it wouldn’t pass tech inspection any longer, I could still buy a proper car from the residual value. This is potentially violating rule #2, but I couldn’t afford three cars for the rest of my life anyway, and this would be an experience one would put into the category of “would you rather regret having done it, or not having done it?”.
    Restore: AMC Eagle, I love obscure cars, and this is one double so in Europe.

  10. Manxman Avatar

    DD the Eagle, race the Jensen in historical races (drive the Jensen to the races like in the old days) and restore the Poncho at my leasure.

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