Eagle Has ‘Sploded: America’s Rad/Bad Orphan(s) in Lemons

By: Eric Rood Photo Credits: Murilee Martin, Eric Rood, Nick Pon
August 8, 2019

The year was 1988 and Chrysler had just purchased the remnants of American Motors. That gave Chrysler the only remaining successful piece of AMC, Jeep. The backstory here is long, but essentially, Chrysler inherited several transatlantic AMC-Renault vehicles they were obligated to build and sell. With corporate involvement elsewhere briding the Pacific, Chrysler opted to create a new division largely of captive imports: Eagle. The brand lasted barely lasted a decade and presents a wealth of 24 Hours of Lemons opportunities. Yet, we’ve only seen four of the models in Lemons. Here they are.

Pit Crew Revenge – AMC Eagle

Eagle’s sole remaining passenger car of AMC origin was the all-wheel drive AMC Eagle. The Eagle brand slung a couple thousand remaining ones—dubbed the Eagle Eagle—to use up the remaining parts inventories in 1988. These were almost all leftovers with inline-six engines, automatic transmissions, and of course a killer all-wheel-drive system. The high-riding proto-crossover is a favorite to consider historically, even if its mish-mash of parts-bin raiding makes them tough to keep on the streets.

Lemons legend Chris Overzet from Pit Crew Revenge has run the only Eagle to date, a slightly earlier one with an AMC badge. That Eagle—bedecked with three-month-old Christmas decorations for a March race—was the absolute slowest car at its only showing at Sonoma Raceway in 2015. Nevertheless, it beat 63 teams limping along on its totally stock suspension. The Eagle lives on, as well. One of Overzet’s arrive-and-drive team members bought it (with rollcage removed) and drives it on the street from time to time.

DWeeBS – Eagle Premier

The Premier marked the last of Renault’s line in America, officially. Based on the Renault 25, the Premier carried a longitudinally mounted engine, either AMC’s 2.5-liter four-cylinder or the 3.0-liter PRV V6 (designed jointly by Peugeot, Renault, and Volvo). Fun fact: The Premier V6 is the one that people “desire” to “improve” Deloreans. Anyway, the Premier got high marks for its Giugiaro design and ride quality, but it suffered for existing in a tumultuous era. Nevertheless, the Premier (and its Dodge Monaco cousin) sold until 1993.

We’ve had one Premier entry ever in Lemons and like the sole AMC Eagle entry, this one also plays an important role in Lemons lore. The Premier raced at the notorious Nelson Ledges race in 2009, turning a respectable (for a French-based car) 188 laps. Crucially, its PRV—which mostly looks like a tangle of wires and hoses—was fed air through a Lamm-Air Charger.

Most importantly, that team’s owner also owned a Wartburg 311, which we gave away to the winner of an essay contest. That winner, Jim Thwaite, swapped a Subaru engine into the Wartburg to win Index of Effluency. We heard nothing about the car for a long time until a Volkswagen Beetle showed up for the Four-Bangors Banger Rally with the Wartburg’s transaxle on board it. The team told us the Wartburg still exists and has returned to Cleveland, where it’s being transformed into a gasser. And that’s at least as rad as an Eagle Premier.

White Trash Racing – Eagle Vision

Chrysler’s LH platform followed up the Premier with a sleek “cab forward” restyling. Nevermind that Chrysler based the LH on the Premier down to the longitudinally mounted V6, it would be a great platform for the Dodge Intrepid, Chrysler Concorde, and the Eagle Vision. And they were contemporary and stylish and relatively powerful with the “big block” 214-horsepower V6. The reliability record, in retrospect, is somewhat suspect. Anecdotally: When was the last time you saw one of these on the road? And if did you see it, the clearcoat was almost certainly sun-baked to a splotchy white.

“How bad could it be?” White Trash Racing figured they could manage whatever came after they unfortunately had to retire their Dodge Neon. Stick with Chrysler, what could go wrong? Their Eagle Vision came with the 3.5-liter V6 that made 214 horsepower, apparently at least three-quarters of which were gobbled up by the transmission. Slow doesn’t begin to describe this car when it ran at all. On the way to grid for its first day of racing, the Vision’s V6 expressed its dissatisfaction by pitching the crank-driven accessorry pulley off at 5 miles per hour.

While they did set a new Chrysler LH record—eclipsing the two laps run by a lone Dodge Intrepid in 2011—the team literally dragged it onto a trailer in the middle of a race in return for the spite the Vision actively gave them. They then drove it directly to a junkyard to collect $40 for it before the race had even ended. And while you can probably hear the White Trash Racing guys gritting their teeth from Fort Wayne right now, they can at least take solace in knowing they got $50 more than the car was worth.

Many teams: Eagle Talon

As a matter of course, we’ve seen dozens of Eagle Talons through the years. Aside from some minor bodywork differences, they’re the same as the Mitsubishi Eclipse and Plymouth Laser of the same era. Maybe we’ll write about those on their own some time, but they’ve run the gamut from Top 5 finishes to Gone in 16 Seconds. Regardless, they’re probably slightly better, on average, than the slowest-of-the-race AMC Eagle.

But Wait, There’s More!

That leaves us with several Eagles that we’ve yet to see, including several extremely 1990s concepts like the Eagle Vision Aerie above. You can find most of them on our various Lemons Wish Lists, but we’ll give you the rundown on those few models.

Eagle Summit/Eagle Vista

Both of these nameplates were essentially rebadged Mitsubishi Mirages. Actually, not “essentially;” they absolutely were Mirages. The Vista was the Canadian version and unlikely to turn up in Lemons (challenge issues). The Summit might still show up on the street from time to time.. Like the contemporary Mirage, the versions with the twin-cam engine were light and had decent horsepower (123 HP). You could dominate with that!

Eagle Summit Wagon/Eagle Vista Wagon

The mini-minivans sold with Eagle badges were not, in fact, wagon versions of the Summit or Vista (Canada only). Rather, they were rebadged Mitsubishi RVRs, better known in North America as the Mitsubishi Expo LRV or Dodge/Plymouth Colt Vista. That’s some amazing company, if you ask us (and possibly only us). You might find one of these with a 2.4-liter 4G93 and all-wheel drive if you strike paydirt. That’s as good as a winning lottery ticket!

Eagle 2000GTX

You’re unlikely ever to find this Canadian-market Mitsubishi Galant. Without a true Mitsubishi dealer network in Canada at the time, this was how you bought a Galant if you were extremely ill. But someone somewhere knows their true value.

Eagle Medallion

Simply put, this is maybe the worst car sold in the United States in the last 30 years. Reports abound of this Renault 21-based, Renault-built Medallion having terminal engine and transmission failures within as few as 10,000 miles of leaving the dealerships. Good thing Eagle offered a 7-year/70,000-mile warranty. Renault sold hundreds of thousands of the 21 in the United Kingdom, where only a few dozen remain. Considering that maybe 10,000 people bought them from 1987-1989, we figure there might be fewer than a couple dozen left. It’s a trophy guarantee that’s even better than a 7-year warranty.

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