American Eagle: A Revolutionary Concept
March 18, 2009
The AMC Eagle was introduced in August 1979 for the 1980 model year. It included a coupe, sedan and station wagon, which were based on the AMC Concord platform.
The Eagle combined the AMC concord body with the 4-wheel drive driveline that was so popular on AMC’s jeep line. The concept was developed when a second energy crisis developed in 1979 and sales of AMC’s Jeep line took a nosedive; the Jeep being notorious for its poor fuel economy. The idea was for the Eagle to provide a low cost way to bridge the gap between AMC’s solid performing, but aging passenger car line and its most popular but off road use Jeep line.
The Eagle was a revolutionary concept design for its time and a first in mass production passenger cars that came with true all wheel drive all the time. The Eagles automatic system was so far ahead of its time that it caught the automotive industry off guard. Many had considered AMC past any ability to compete effectively. The Eagle was a revolutionary, novel and all around competent vehicle. In marrying the technology that AMC knew best – off road performance – with a passenger car platform, AMC had pioneered a completely new market segment. Four Wheeler magazine had this to say about the American Eagle in 1980 “The beginning of a new generation of cars”. This proved to be a very accurate statement over the next 25 years as the public could not seem to get enough of this family style vehicle that had above average rough road capability. Indeed the American Eagle proved to be the inspiration for vehicles such as the Subaru Outback and Forester Lines, the Audi Allroad, the Volvo XC range as well as many others.
AMC employed a central differential with a single- speed and used thick viscous fluid coupling for quiet and smooth transfer of power to the axle with the greatest traction on either wet pavement or dry. Other vehicles of the time were toying with similar type of system by none had all wheel drive all the time. The closest thing to this was the Subaru Loyale, which only had a part time four wheel drive system that still could not be engaged on dry pavement. With Jeep’s experience producing four-wheel drive vehicles the Eagle was years ahead of the Loyale. AMC also included on the Eagle an independent front suspension by mounting the front differential to the engine block with universal joints and half shafts to the front drive wheels.
The production of the AMC Eagle continued from 1980 through December 14, 1987 and over the years, several AMC Spirit based models were added to the lineup. The Eagle was retired after 1988, however the Eagle brand would continue when Chrysler Corporation formed a new division, the Jeep-Eagle. Chrysler would continue to offer an all wheel drive option for the next eight years using rebadged Mitsubishi platforms marketed as the Eagle Summit Wagon, the Eagle Talon and one Chrysler based vehicle the Eagle Vision.
Unfortunately, with a combination of so many brand names, the public was never able to identify with one particular brand and was often confused about who made which of the Eagle vehicles. This cause of lackluster sales eventually led to the demise of the Eagle division although the Jeep name has survived quite well.
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