4X4 With A View: 1982 AMC Eagle Sundancer

1982 AMC Eagle Sundancer

Jamie PalmerBy Jamie Palmer

Ever since I drove my first miles in our family’s bright orange 1971 AMC Hornet Sportabout, I’ve had a soft spot for Hornets, Concords, and Eagles. This has to be the most exotic variant of the type, with both the Eagle 4×4 drivetrain and a Griffith (yes, Griffith, the same one responsible for V8 engined TVR’s) convertible conversion. Thanks to Robert M for finding this car that’s for sale here on craigslist in Cardiff, California for $6,000.

AMC Sundancer Ad
Courtesy of AMCsundancer.wordpress.com

The Sundancer looks very similar to the Sunchaser Toyota Celica conversion with good reason: the Griffith Company was responsible for both of them. It’s unclear who approached whom, but apparently both AMC and Griffith were excited about the possibilities for this conversion. Both Concords and Eagles were converted, with the Eagle combining both the unusual for the time 4 wheel drive with the targa-type convertible top. Of course, the usual AMC quirks came along with the cars, as well as the solid and torque AMC inline 6 engine that continued seemingly forever in Jeep Cherokees and Grand Cherokees.

AMC Sundancer Targa

This Sundancer looks to be in largely original condition with only 27,000 miles! The Eagle drivetrain is known to be reliable, and AMC surely had any problems with the basic package ironed out by this time; after all, the basic platform had been around since 1968! The seller states that it has a new fuel pump, new tires and has just been serviced, which was probably necessary to get the car back on the road after being in storage for the past 10 years.

AMC Eagle Sundancer

I can’t say I’m a fan of the aftermarket wheels on this car; I’d rather see the ones in the Eagle ad. But with only just over 200 made, how picky can I be? This car really appeals with its unusual origins and drop top. The top actually folds down in back with a lift off fiberglass section that stores in the trunk.

AMC Sundancer

On the negative side, when I look closely at the rear bumper, I think it may be somewhat bent. I think this is a regular Eagle/Concord part, so hopefully if what’s there can’t be straightened, a replacement can be found. Ultimately, I’m not sure it matters, because I wouldn’t be able to see it from the driver’s seat as I went cruising. Even in the crushing cold and bad weather that a large portion of the US is experiencing right now, the 4 wheel drive would keep me feeling safe. I wonder why these didn’t sell any better when they were new? What do you think?

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Comments

  1. cory

    Ah yes, the amc eagle, aka the dodge caliber prototype. What an ugly, pathetic car. I am slightly amused to see a convertible though. Clearly this is where Nissan got the inspiration for the murano convertible. But, in a way it is kinda cool, the fact that it is still around gives it some credit, and I’m glad it was preserved

    • rapple

      Bingo! My first thought when I saw the photos was the Murano convertible. Answers to two automotive questions that were never asked.

    • Rick

      It is doubtful that Nissan ever even saw one of these. We’re talking over 20 years between the two cars. Ugly, yes. Pathetic, no. AMC wasn’t afraid to try something, but they didn’t have designers worth their salt. The only really nice looking car they made, IMHO, was the original two seater AMX. They didn’t leave the attractive design alone for long, and it too became an oddball big boat like everyone else’s cars.

      • Woodie Man

        Yup. That Murano convertiblle is one UGLY vehicle.

        While I’m no fan of anything from the seventies and eighties , this is different enough to overlook the odd angles and trapezodial 3/4 views. Ski vacation in Big Bear or offroading in Glamis, plenty of ways to use all of it’s ahh.um…features.

    • Brian

      Don’t know why everybody is bashing the AMC Eagle. They were way ahead of their time. My only two complaints were that they were underpowered because of all the pollution control stuff that was tried at that time and the fact that you could never find one with a limited slip differential.
      I have spent 30 years in Alaska, so winter driving is a known quality. The Eagle drive train never, ever gave me problems and was extremely smooth. I have owned manual and automatic versions and they all got around as well, if not better than all of the 4WD trucks.
      It is obvious that most of these comments were made by people raised on Japanese junk and have no real knowledge of these Eagles.

      4
      • Jeff

        Right-on, Brian. Drive and depend on an Eagle and it will be well-liked. My 1983 AMC Eagle is still going strong. Always dependable. Infallible on ice and snow. Real steel, rugged, and tough. My AC even still works. The AMC Eagle Sundancer is a dream car for me. I’ve wanted one for the longest time, but for the longest time, they have been so hard to find. Still on the lookout.

        1
      • Arnt Kaare Rolland

        I have a 1980 AMC Eagle Wagon with the 258 cid inline six and automatic transmission, my daily driver. I also have a 1983 AMC Eagle SX/4, also with the 258 six, but with five speed manual transmission. Great Cars!

        2
  2. Don

    Yep….definitely right about wanting the stock wheels back. Also, does it have an aftermarket lift, or was that the original ride height?

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      I believe that’s stock, but maybe oversize tires. It doesn’t look a lot different than the wagon in the comments.

      • Randy Griffith

        Did you buy it? My Dad and I have the two wheel drive version. I know all about these. I am in SD. my last name is Griffith so when we found one we had to have it. Is it the Limited? Power everything? Ours is but have always wanted the 4×4 version. There are two of them in this state and we are both in the Dakota AMC car club. Awesome find. Sure wish I had the bucks I would get it in a heartbeat. I have an 82 concord, and an 85 Eagle wagon. Great cars i drive them daily. Thanks for sharing.

      • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

        Randy, that’s a great story to hear! I love the fact that your names match 🙂 Please share more stories of your and your dad’s cars! I didn’t buy this one, it’s a little far from me 🙂

    • james g

      theres even after market zombie apocalypse kit

      1
  3. Rancho Bella

    Welllllll I’ll be dipped……………I was in Cardiff this morning. Small world.

  4. james g

    i dont think the bumper is bent if you notice that it follows the shape of the back of the car and thats its bent the exact same way on both sides. I think that the car didnt sell good because since it 4 wheel drive it was pretty impractical and to expensive. Did the stock wheels come on any other car

  5. james g

    you think the convertible is cool how about this….
    turns out there were several different versions of these 4 door sedan and wagon 2 door coupe and one coupe was a rally car

  6. Drew V

    My parents owned the local Pontiac Dealership and AMC dealer in the late 70’s and early 80’s, if these targa topped cars had been more available they may have sold but the sad fact is, everyone thought the Eagle was the Butt ugliest car ever made, Our lot only sold one (Coincidentally, the original purchaser still has it) of these over the years. I personally like this Targa version and would love to own one…

  7. Tirefriar

    Key to poor sales (200 is exotic car numbers) is perhaps this was an answer to a question that nobody was asking back in 1980’s. Nor was it asked when Nissan came out with an open top Murano. After all, the only time you have use for a 4×4 convertible is when traversing the dunes, which this one obviously was not very capable of in its factory configuration. I don’t know the price point of this back in the 80’s but given the choice is take a Celica with its bulletproof simpler drivetrain. This car does have a cool factor and makes good candidate for someone looking for a one off. Be careful driving it though as I can imagine that most of rear body parts are unobtanium

    • james g

      the top is just a conversion and the rear parts are shared with the other 4 wheel drive cars they made off the same body even the 4 wheel drive wagon sedan and coupe probaly had a rwd version that was probaly mass produced will fit the rear bumper and look up pictures and the cars all have the same curve like this one

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      I don’t know…I look at it as a winter car that can be used in the summer too. Not ideal for either, but fun nonetheless!

      • Randy

        Hey Jamie,
        I have been in contact with the seller and we are considering all the particulars. It is not the Limited version so that is a little bit depressing. Other than that it sounds like a good solid car. Being from Vegas and California all it’s life the rust factor is not an issue either so that is nice. The gaskets around the front fiberglass panel insert (in front of the Targa Bar) and the gaskets around the door area were a problem. Dry rot and leaking in the rain. Wind noise was an issue too as those deteriorate. They cannot be replaced. We have looked for years for something similar with no luck. That makes it a “fair weather” car most of the time. Ours not being the 4X4 version for sure eliminates it from winter use. Has to be stored. There is a national register of them. Dealers and or Griffith Motors didn’t keep records of how many total or of ea version were done. There is a badge in the glove box with the build number on it. Again if you have an Eagle version it would be one of the combined total so no way of knowing how many of ea. Griffith motors in Florida did the conversions. They were a van conversion company. People that wanted to pay for the conversion first bought the car and the dealer sold the option. All of them no matter if they were Eagles or Concords had to have the nutmeg colored interior as Griffith Motors only had interior parts available in those colors. They had to add “stiffners” to the underside frame for stabilization when they cut the roof along with the other interior changes and the addition of the Targa Bar. Very unique car. I am not sure the exact number that are registered but the last i knew there were less than 20 known to have survived this long. I have seen 3 Eagles here and there over the years and like 4 Concords in pictures etc. All i know for sure is there are 2 of them in our club to date. Could be 3???

  8. james g

    the rally car.

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      James, while this was also called the Eagle and had similar or the same driveline components, this was actually off the Spirit platform, which was a derivative of the Gremlin (!) Of course, some would argue that the Gremlin was a sawed-off Hornet, so there’s certainly some family genes in there!

      • james g

        i figured that it shared some stuff with a gremlin

    • sir mike

      yes and don’t forget the Team Highball Gremlins of the early IMSA RS series.

  9. araknid

    It looks like it has Washington license plates

  10. james g

    found out these cars were built for almost ten years the convertible conversion offered from 81-82 the price of the conversion $3,000 dealer price $3,750 thats why they only converted 211

  11. redavanti

    Makes me think back to the Rambler convertible where they had the post frames with the top down. This is different enough for me to like.

  12. sir mike

    always liked Rambler and AMC cars till this one…what were they thinking??

  13. jim s

    heater on high, top down, blasting thru the snow drifts. this would be a fun year round daily driver. but again few photos and little text will not sell this car. but i still think if the PI is good this is a great deal. to bad it is an automatic. great find

  14. Rick

    About 12 years ago, one of my wife’s friends offered me an 80s Eagle 4×4 (wagon version of the featured car) for free and I never took them up on it, don’t think it ran, so just wasn’t enough upside on the effort, was probably only a $200 car iat that point in time. If it had been the cabriolet, I Ilikely would have gotten it, but I dont think they look that great. I much prefer the look of this Solaire Honda Prelude convertible conversion of which 100 were built back in ’81, and which looks almost factory built. I spotted this one in the local grocery store parking lot today – follow this link to Bring a Trailer for a look at the manufacturer’s brochure.
    http://bringatrailer.com/2009/10/11/bat-exclusive-1981-honda-prelude-solare/

  15. Rick

    Great looking conversion if you ask me, would be right at home parked next to an MGB or a Pagoda Merc Benz.

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      Rick, I agree, that’s a nice looking car!

  16. Clay Bryant

    I’ve been around the block many times in my 70 years,deep into cars and this one must have flown over my head.Anyone know if they were marketed in any certain area?I have a 94 Olds Cutlass convertible with the Targa top and love the extra protection. At 200 production the styling is not really that offensive and if you don’t want to meet yourself coming down the road,would be a good buy.

  17. JW454

    Once again, not my cup of tea but, I give them high marks for trying something different. In my life the “WOW” cars have always been the ones that were different. Not too much to wow about with a 4 door Accord. There’s millions of them, and they’re a dime a dozen now and will be a dime a dozen 50 years from now. Give me the automotive odd balls and I’ll be happy.

  18. socaljoe

    Not bad for for those that like the orphan cars but seems overpriced.

  19. Ken Sidwell

    I think the price is great. I’ve been looking for something fun to leave at the beach. The downside for me is the weather stripping that can’t be found. Would also rather have a stick. It is homely and the color sucks but very cool!

    There’s not many low mileage off beat vehicles that check this many boxes for only 6 grand.

  20. Larry

    JUST a FYI for anyone with a SUNDANCER or Celica Sunchaser
    I have repo’d the front seals for the targa, as was told it is identical to the original
    and it can be found on ebay at
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/161422186713

    I also have 2 pieces left for the back convertible seal
    I would love to find a 4×4 of one of these!

  21. AMCFAN

    Love it or hate it. The Eagle was an idea that no one had up to that point. It is no secret that AMC was very tight on money. This is even more true going into the 1980’s. They had no new product. They pulled survival out of the hat. They were able to take a 10 year old platform and make something completely new. Nothing like it had been offered before. With AMC owning Jeep the advanced technology was applied to a sedan. A fantastic idea for those who wanted the security of four wheel drive but not in a bulky truck. These were very capable machines in offroad limited only by their height. The Sundancer was a conversion not done by AMC. They are very unique. Very limited production and are a fun inexpensive collector car when found. An Eagle would make a great anti collector car. No one would think of taking their vintage car out in the winter months. With the severe winter we have had the Eagle would thrive. .

  22. Troy

    I now have this car. This is my second. I am in process of dealing with someone on original wheels. I also do not like the mags. The radio has to go and I will install a remanufactured AMC am/ fm/casette. Fog light covers have been installed. New floor mats installed. New aluminum Valve cover to be installed on Saturday, from Collins Bros. Engine is clean. I also would like to replace Targa seals and get a new fiberglass top and convertible top copied for the Limited Edition.

    1
  23. Eddie Stakes

    The AMC Eagle was well ahead of it’s time when CUV word not even invented. I have personally owned 391 AMC cars since 1976 10 currently http://www.planethoustonamx.com/photo-gallery-stakes-amcs-1/amc-amx-collection-stakes.jpg and about 20 Eagles thru decades. They are rather indestructible, and th three you see on the right in photo here http://www.planethoustonamx.com/photo-gallery-stakes-amcs-2/winter2011.jpg the orange one 125,000 miles a 1984 with a 4cylinder, 4 speed, the maroon one is a 1988 one, #1050 of only 2306 last year Eagles made, it has 112,000 miles, 258-6, automatic; the white 82 Eagle shown has 210,000 miles. The blue Concord is 1 owner car 39,000 miles, never been out of Houston, the Hornet a 74 Sportabout original owner was going to haul to scrap, 79K miles, the 72 Ambassador is a 360V8, AT; all except the maroon Eagle are original owner cars I bought & drive DAILY in Houston, Texas.

    The Sundancers are quite unique and were NOT to be built in large quantities, you could get them as a Concord or Eagle. No, the bumper is not bent, they are factory waved like that, as are my cars. someone will nd up with a nice and unusual Sundancer there, you do not even see them at national AMC events; of all the AMC Nationals I have attended since 1980, maybe seen 2 of them!

    For the rest of you, if you have never driven a AMC Eagle, my suggestion is go out and buy one, you will be hooked, just about whole drivetrain items available over counter as they shared it with Jeep. Some of the ‘Eagle unique’ items like grilles, headlight bezels tough to find, but don’t let that sway you from picking up a iconic classic 4×4 AMC. Happy hunting & note I have a VIN decoding chart, paint chrts and other things to help you on my site at Planet Houston AMX.

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