29 Year Owner: 1982 AMC Eagle SX/4

If there’s one slice of American car history I can get behind, it’s a 4WD coupe that was as capable on pavement as it was off-road. The AMC Eagle SX/4 was an oddball from the start, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t smartly built and endearing as hell. This era of AMC saw a wide variety of skunkworks projects actually leave the drawing board and end up in the showroom, and this 1982 AMC Eagle SX/4 here on eBay is one of the few examples of such thinking still on the road. 

AMC was changing, just like its consumer base. V8s were being phased out and more efficient engines were in. The company was fighting an image problem, that its products were outdated and stodgy. I think they were just too long-lived, as the reliability of the vehicle lineup made it unnecessary to keep churning out new models. This SX/4 replaced the impressive Spirit AMX, which cut its teeth on tracks like the Nurburgring and introduced a variety of performance enhancements to street models. The SX/4 continued that philosophy, albeit in a beefed-up 4WD formula.

The SX/4 had a racing history of its own, competing in SCCA Pro Rally events with varying amounts of success. I’d be sorely tempted to paint this one red, white and blue, throw some Bosch fog lamps on the front and upgrade the tires, then hammer it down a dusty forest stage. Then again, the point of this particular SX/4 is its preserved condition, demonstrating that its sole owner for 29 years (before the current seller acquired it) clearly loved his AMC. The paint isn’t original but is said to be a decent quality repaint. It’s riding on Jeep wheels, currently, which actually look quite good.

The interior is very clean, and the body appears largely free of rust. The cockpit is equal parts utilitarian and elegant, in a way only an AMC can do. There are some issues, however, the biggest of which is the shifter is stuck in 4WD, meaning the SX/4 runs constantly in that mode. This isn’t good for the drivetrain or fuel economy, so it’s worth getting that fixed sooner than later. Things are pretty wet underneath, too, so addressing some of the oil leaks will also be a task for the next owner. But at no reserve, I think this SX/4 is worth the risk. Anyone agree?

Fast Finds

Comments

  1. BarnfindyCollins

    Wow, this car brings back memories of shopping at the local AMC dealership for a Wagoneer. Glad to see someone kept it in great shape. Serious car envy here!!

    Like 1
  2. AMXSTEVE

    Trans work could be costly on this and those bumper ends are hard to find. Otherwise its a cool find and will run for a long time.

    • That AMC guy

      There’s nothing special about the transmissions on these cars, it’s a bog-standard 3-speed Chrysler Torqueflite with a single-speed transfer case bolted to the end of it. The only additional expense in servicing the trans is dropping the transfer case, which is not difficult.

      Nine times out of ten when an AMC Eagle is stuck in one of the drive modes it’s because of a failure in the vacuum-operated mechanism. Could be as simple as a bad vacuum hose, or the vacuum motor could be seized up. (Years ago I had one where I would just crawl underneath with a wrench and just manually set it for 2WD or 4WD.)

      There’s no issue running an Eagle in 4WD all the time though, aside from using a little more gas, since it has a center differential. The earliest Eagles could not even be switched out of 4WD.

      Like 3
  3. Rafe

    The Eagle can run on or off pavement in 4WD mode. They were made to do both that’s what made them so much better than the Subarus of the era. Also didn’t have a huge effect on fuel efficiency. Many of the Eagles have issues with the vacuum system that operates the 4WD so owners have been known to just manually lock them into 4WD at the transfer case. Doesn’t hurt anything!

    Like 1
  4. Woodie Man

    Anyone want to chime in on what might be entailed in disengaging the all wheel drive assuming its not just a linkage issue….seems like it might be though. On the other hand the seller hasnt tackled it. Too bad its not a 4 speed though.then you’d have a unicorn

    • Rafe

      The 4WD system is vacuum actuated. So it’s likely crusty old lines failing to do their job. You can manually engage and disengage from the transfer case. http://www.amceaglesden.com/~iowaeagl/guide/index.php?title=How_To_Manually_Shift_the_Transfer_Case

    • Don

      A 304 with a 4 speed ! I no they pry did not make any like that but would be cool😎

      • AMXSTEVE

        304 is to heavy and the 6 actually has more torque

      • Blaine S

        304 fits fine… same size block as the 360 and 401, so those might be a better choice if you want V8:power….be aware the V8 oil pan requires significant modification due to the Eagle front cross member…also some significant fabrication will be required for the front differential which bolts to the 6-cylinder engine block. A “massaged 4.0 AMC EFI HO engine with a 5 speed manual would be my choice.

        Like 1
    • Jacque

      I had a 4-speed one. Would’ve killed for an auto. The shifter in the 4-speeds is sloppy as hell and hydraulic clutch parts are non-existent.

      • Michael Wood

        I had an 81′ SX/4 6 cylinder with a 4 speed and when the trans failed I had to go with an automatic and that killed most of it’s power. It was a dog with the 904 tranny. The 4 & 5 speeds were MUCH better (quicker).
        I would kill to have that car back now…..

  5. Rafe

    I just got my ’83 SX/4 back from my mechanic. Still needs some work, but I drove it the 5 hours back home.

    Like 1
    • Michael Wood

      That’s a very nice one, don’t ever sell it.

      And if you do, contact me!!

  6. JW

    Being in a shop and on a lift why not fix the stuck transfer case then the oil leaks which would make this beauty sell so much quicker and for more $$$. Just my thoughts on what I would do.

    • CJay

      Plastic valve covers, were often over tightened and crack. One of many places an AMC Pigeon will leak.

      Like 1
  7. Oingo

    I like it.

  8. Coventrycat

    Didn’t think much about them when they were new, but really like them now. Anything thing you see on CL here in the Northeast has been flogged to death.

    Like 1
  9. Ed Williams

    Does anyone remember the 4-door sedan version? They are very rare indeed!
    I have no idea how many of those were sold but it must have been only a handful and I remember seeing only one or two of them in Los Angeles “back in the day”.

    • Rafe

      The 4 door sedan was in production longer than the SX/4. But they had similar numbers. The Kammback and two door sedan are the really rare ones.

  10. AMXSTEVE

    The 4 door is just an Eagle not an SX-4.

  11. Russell

    Okay all you experts, can this transfer case also be put into nuetral and do you know which transfer case they used on these? Would make a great car to tow behind an RV plus a damn cool mild off roader.

  12. That AMC Guy

    The transfer case does not have a neutral position. To flat-tow you’d probably want to put into 2WD and drop the rear driveshaft.

    A 1982 Eagle would be equipped with a New Process model 129 transfer case. (These were used on most Eagles. 1980-81 models with full-time 4WD used NP119. For some reason 1986 Eagles only came with NP128, which has an open diff rather than a viscous coupling.)

  13. Howard A Member

    Since I’ve been ( falsely) accused of “sob” stories, I’ll keep this as upbeat as I can. I have a friend that a bought one of these new in ’83, exactly the same, except a 5 speed. Initially, it was a neat car, pretty good mileage for a 4×4, comfortable, sure went through the snow great, about a year in, the transmission began to whine. It progressively turned into a howling, and he took it back. The dealer had it 2 months, claimed a parts snafu, got it back, and within a few months, it began to whine again. He took it back, after another month, he got it back, it still whined, just not as bad, and he traded it. He was very unhappy with the dealer, which were becoming few and far between in the 80’s. I think the automatic would be a better choice. The stuck transfer case? A vacuum issue, if you’re lucky. I’m not THAT upbeat.

    • Cubs win

      So your friend bought a lemon too. You guys don’t have much luck do you.

  14. Jay E.

    When these were new they sold quite well into the Reno/ Tahoe area. I was always impressed with their snow prowess.

  15. Mark P

    Dealer found a can opener under the valve cover of the 258 in my mother’s 3 day old ’74 Matador wagon. Brought it back as the engine “sounded funny”. We had a bunch of AMC’s, actually six in the family at once at one point. You just need the right eccentricity to like them, which we did.

  16. RJ

    My first car was a 87 Eagle wagon. I too, had the vacuum line issue. AMC indeed made quirky cars, but that’s what I love about them. My Eagle wagon, despite that it was home to a mouse I never could evict, was the perfect car for a high schooler.

  17. Jon Brooks

    Hey, That’s My Exact Car ! I lived in Alaska many years, and owned 3 Eagle Wagons, 1 sedan, and a 4-cyl/5speed SX4. When I was transferred to WA in Cascade Range, I bought this SX4 simply as a winter car. It seldom drove in the warm-dry. The 4-WD vacuum line is indeed the culprit…but since we only used it in snow / ice, it just stayed in 4WD the past 10 years or so. The turning radius is about the same as my Arctic Cat 4×4.

    AMC Eagle has a Dodge Viper Connection!: The 6-cyl engine manager at AMC Eagle was acquired by Chrysler in ~1989. That employee {CB} volunteered to work at Team Viper during development period of the Viper in 89-92. He later became the chief engine guy for Gen 2 Vipers, 1996-2002!

    I actually traded this great SX-4 in on a RAM SRT10 “Viper Truck!” And like the author of this thread, our winter car is now a Cayenne.

    Eagle can certainly challenge Subaru for “Worlds first Sport Ute.”

  18. Michael Wood

    I have seen a couple different sites with this car on it and have tried to reach the owner but got no replies.
    IS THIS CAR STILL FOR SALE???
    Am interested if anyone knows where this car is and if it’s for sale still.

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

Become a member to add images to your comments.

*

Notify me of new comments via email. Or subscribe without commenting.