1 of 40! 1981 AMC Eagle Sundancer 4X4

No one ever accused American Motors Corporation (AMC) of conservative choices. When you’re the “little guy,” it takes polarizing decisions to carve out a niche. Enter the Eagle, an all-wheel-drive car from the days when such options were generally much smaller Subarus or much more costly Audis. Then, in apparent answer to the question “How can we make this more weird?” Jack Griffith’s Griffith Company converted 4×4 Eagles and 2WD Spirits into targa-style “Sundancer” convertibles like this one. Listed as one of “about 40,” this 1981 AMC Eagle Sundancer 4X4 in Wolcott, Connecticut seeks a new owner here on eBay, where some heated bidding has driven its value beyond $9000.

What cold-climate dweller wouldn’t appreciate the blended utility of four-wheel-drive for Winter and a convertible top for Summer? I describe my ’97 Jeep Wrangler as “the ultimate extra vehicle” for those exact reasons. Having covered fewer than 50,000 miles, though, this one may be too nice to use as a daily driver.

AMC fans and others will immediately recognize the evolution of the brand’s popular Hornet in this Eagle. Griffith built all Sundancers from the top line Limited trim with full power accessories and even leather!

Dating to the days of the Rambler, the 4.2L inline six cylinder motor provides excellent torque and super-smooth operation. I once accidentally re-keyed a friend’s 250k+ mile I6 Hornet at a stop light; it idled so silently I thought it had stalled! At one time, this powerplant had won the Baja 1000 more than any other. Rest assured that 50,000 miles is barely the break-in period for this storied engine that (in multiple variants) powered decades of Ramblers, AMCs, and Jeeps. What do you think of this interesting drop-top 4×4?


  1. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Great find Todd, I really like it. I wish they would have posted some photos of it buttoned up.

    Like 5
  2. Mark

    Personally, even if it was 1 of 1 I wouldn’t be interested. It’s flat out ugly, an AMC and from the early 80s where everything looked like a box!

    Like 6
    • Rich R

      Unlike today’s cars, which all look like doorstops on wheels to me!! LOL!
      I think this is cool!! Not too far from me, but miles away on the financial page!!

      Like 17
      • Mark

        If I will be younger – this car will be in my garage.

    • imperialist1960

      Which 4×4 convertible “car” has better styling?

      Jeeps are not “cars”, so they’re out of contention on this question.

      Like 5
      • Little_Cars

        Modern Nissan Murano convertible? Though I’m not sure they come with 4wd, maybe All Wheel Drive. Slightly prettier than this AMC, but still a little ungainly with the top up and a tiny glass rear window crawling up the back and onto the soft top.

        Like 2
  3. dirtyharry

    Best of the best, AMC ahead of the pack, bringing some much needed all wheel drive to cars. I think it aged well. I like it because it is off road capable (limited), a convertible, a small luxury coupe and an economy car. Looks like a lot of fun to me. This owners should share a medal for caring for it so well.

    Like 27
  4. That AMC guy

    These are pretty wild, and quite rare as they were very expensive and few were sold. Never saw one on the street.

    Like 9
  5. irocrobb

    I had a Eagle in the 1990s as a winter car and it rattled,clanged and used oil but would take on snow with ease. The body on it stood up very well but mechanically it fell apart at 150,000 miles.
    Not sure I would ever want to own one again but this one looks cool

    Like 2
  6. Tom Member

    Not a fan of many, if any, cars from the 80’s but I LOVE to see rare/limited production cars. This is cool for sure. Very unique. I too applaud those who took such good care of it over these many years.

    This find and car hitting the market is a “dream come true” for someone & probably more than one based upon the bidding.

    Like 7
  7. Ken Carney

    Reminds me of 2 different cars–the sketch I made of an early Hornet convertible back in the ’80’s, and the ’82
    Concord wagon we owned in the early ’90’s. By itself, the Concord was a great
    car that did whatever you asked it to do
    without a single complaint. The only
    issue we had with our wagon was that it
    loved to eat torque converters! After replacing 2 of them, and over 120K miles
    later, we traded it in for an ’81 Chevy Citation which clearly wasn’t the car that
    the Concord was. When we first bought
    the wagon, the kids I worked with asked
    me if it was a 4X4 because it sat so high
    that you could slide up under it to change the oil and filter without a jack! Try doin’
    that with a modern car today! And Mike,
    the mermaid video was really a riot!
    Laughed so hard I almost wet myself!
    Great find Todd. Hadn’t seen one of
    these before

    Like 2
    • leiniedude leiniedude Member

      Glad you liked the video Ken, got it from a member here.

  8. JimmyinTEXAS

    25 min left at auction. $10,001.00 RNM

  9. David

    I worked on the line in Final Assembly for AMC when these were being built. I remember that these were perfect coming off the line. Others had problems only because they were card board cut outs of the next car. These were different and the workers could not wait for them to come to us on the line. As I remember, this color was the only choice used on this model and there was no other color choice. One car that sticks in my head was the lower end model of lime green with light blue seats.

    Like 3
    • JimmyinTEXAS

      “One car that sticks in my head was the lower end model of lime green with light blue seats.”
      Things like that can never be unseen… shudder

      Like 3
  10. larry

    Failed to make reserve at $15,100.

  11. Brakeservo

    You say “heated bidding on eBay” but the listing has ended Reserve Not Met at $15,000. Not “heated” but more likely “shill” bidding.

    Like 2
  12. Pete Phillips

    Auction ended at $15,100 with reserve not met.

    Like 1
  13. John

    Reminds me of the Suzuki X90.

    Like 1
  14. Mountainwoodie

    Despite the limited number of conversions, these Sunchasers seem to pop up yearly here in SoCal. Maybe it’s the same one over and over!

    Too bad it doesn’t have a 5 speed :)

    Like 2
    • Miguel


      Sunchaser was the name that was used on a similar car made from the Toyota Celica.

      They say this is called Sundancer.

      I will assume they couldn’t use the same name on the two different cars.

      Like 1
      • Mountainwoodie

        Hey Miguel,

        Car(e)lessness on my part. yes I was thinking of the Celica when I typed that. I believe the conversions were done by the same company. Yup they were.


        But I was refering to the AMC Eagle. Seen a number of those too. Mattters not because no 5 speed no want :)

        Like 1
    • Dan Mar

      Who’s to say it can’t be converted to a 5spd?

      I almost bought a 5spd eagle way back. Decided not to because of a power steering line leak. I wish I hadn’t passed on it .

      So they Must exist in Bone yards somewhere. Locating one might just take a while, and in the meantime I’m sure it still would be nice to drive this around the way it is.

  15. Greg Stegall

    Not much to say, but I love this car!

  16. TimM

    I’ve never seen this vehicle before!! Pretty cool however and out of the 40 made I doubt there’s very many left!! A convertible 4×4 car!! Great find!!!

    Like 1
  17. steve wullenweber

    It was the 2 wheel drive Concord not the Spirit. We had one in the Concord. It was not a great conversion. The unibody does not lend itself to having the top cut off. Lots of body flex


    Check out the first generation(1995-2002), Kia Sportage 2 door convertibles

    Like 1
    • Little_Cars

      Must we? Wasn’t that the same thing rebadged at a Geo Tracker? Regardless, two of the most tall, unstable 4wd vehicles from the 1990s — barely a car or an SUV! More akin to a 4 wheeler ATV.

      Like 1
      • RICH BALL

        I have two 2 door, 1st generation Sportages at my home in Cabo and both are reliable and CHEAP. Less than only approximately 6500 2 door convertibles were imported and sold in the US between 1995 and 2002. The Geo Tracker and Kia Sportages were both rebadged, rebodied Hyundais.

      • RICH BALL

        YouTube search Kia Sportage and see how unstable yet fun they are. The four-doors were sold worldwide without fears of self-endangerment. Like the jeep CJs the first generation Sportages were frame on chassis.

        BTW, Russians still love them!

        Like 1
  19. CCFisher

    Eagles and Concords were converted, not Eagles and Spirits.

    Hemmings Classic Cars had a very informative article on these conversions. There were several exterior colors available, but the only interior was this “nutmeg” leather, presumably because using only one color limited costs.

  20. Little_Cars

    @RICH BALL “Unstable yet fun”!!!!??? Kind of sounds like my crazy uncle Wayne. :) :) :)

    Like 1
  21. Arnt Kaare Rolland

    Would love to park this car next to my AMC Eagle SX/4 and my AMC Eagle Wagon!

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