Yes, I know…I go a bit bonkers over the American Motors Eagle. It’s an interesting car…wagon…thing that has a unique story, an interesting design, a fairly tragic ending and is proof that a hope, a prayer, and a shoestring budget can keep an auto manufacturer going for a while. The rundown is quick: the Eagle is the final iteration of the car that started life in 1970 as the American Motors Hornet. Debuting in 1980, it was a barely warmed over Concord, but unlike the Concord, sported a selectable four-wheel-drive system that gave the car a niche that hadn’t been tapped in the marketplace. While it really only bought AMC time until the 1987 acquisition by Chrysler, it did show that American Motors certainly had the skill and brains to bring out innovative ideas while simultaneously exposing the budget shortfalls that the company had known for years.
During winter, it’s easy to sell an AMC Eagle: tout it’s four-wheel-drive, use the word “classic” or any other variation of the word, and price it right, and someone will scoop it up. But why would you consider an Eagle for a project car? Well, let’s look at this first-year edition we found in Washington state: The body is clean, what we see of the interior is presentable, and overall the Eagle looks like it has good bones. That’s always a good start for a potential project. The price is right, too, at $1,250…for a running, driving car that doesn’t look like utter hell, that’s decent and leaves a good chunk of the $5,000 Rough Start budget open for modifications and repair. Luckily, repair doesn’t seem to be an issue, so after going through the car for typical used-car items, we’d start looking at ways to lift it up to clear some modest off-road rubber, something about 29″ tall with good grip, and at least a front winch mount. The AMC inline-six deserves some upgrades and tuning. A little money spent here and there and you’d have a station wagon as capable as an XJ Cherokee for reasonable cash. How’s that for a cheap Kenosha product?