1980 AMC Eagle

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The all-wheel-drive AMC Eagle was based on the humble Hornet wagon
The all-wheel-drive AMC Eagle was based on the humble Hornet wagon

AMC was struggling against the power of the Big 3 when it pulled out its ace-in-the-hole. That wild card came from AMC’s ownership of Jeep and its famed four-wheeling technology, which the Kenosha automaker’s engineers and stylists adapted to create the first mass-produced passenger car with full-time all-wheel drive.

The Pick of the Day is a 1980 AMC Eagle from the first model year of the bold experiment. While all-wheel-drive cars and trucks are fairly routine today, the Eagle 4X4 was revolutionary in 1980, combining as it did the trail-ready capability of a Jeep with the comfort and versatility of a car-based station wagon.

The Eagle got a trail-ready three-inch lift

The Eagle was basically AMC’s humdrum Hornet wagon, lifted three inches for off-road clearance and fitted with the underpinnings of Jeep’s full-time all-wheel drive that worked via a viscous transfer case. Unlike the trucklike Jeeps, which had solid axles front and rear, the Eagle was equipped with independent front suspension for more carlike ride and handling.

Subaru earlier had produced a wagon with part-time four-wheel drive, but it was a mechanical system on a vehicle with limited off-road capability. The Eagle was a big step ahead, setting the stage for future generations of AWD crossovers. (All Subarus these days, aside from the BRZ, are equipped with all-wheel drive.)

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Today’s Pick is a low-mileage Eagle survivor that is in excellent unrestored condition, according to the Peoria, Illinois, dealer advertising the car on ClassicCars.com. It has been driven “only 54,000 miles and is immaculate mechanically and cosmetically,” according to the listing.

The ’80s-style interior is loaded with features

For AMC fans, who gathered en masse in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last week for the AMC Kenosha Homecoming, this Eagle is indeed a rare find. The photos show a gleaming body and well-preserved interior (those black-leather bucket seats look inviting), and the car seems ready to tackle a rough back road or a snowy field.

The Eagle might be a mountain goat, but it’s no race horse. Power is provided by AMC’s hard-working 258 cid inline-6, which provided a scant 110 horsepower for this 3,400-pound wagon. But that would be enough to get you where you’re going, and up and over whatever’s in your way.

Fitted with the Command Shift automatic transmission, the car is fully equipped with premium features, including power steering, brakes, door locks and windows; AM/FM radio; and air conditioning.

The asking price for this rare survivor is $14,000, which seems cheap enough. The only dilemma would be whether to risk taking an Eagle in such nice condition for a romp in the woods.

To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day

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Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.

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