77k Genuine Miles: 1986 AMC Eagle

By 1986 the writing was well and truly on the wall for AMC, and it was only a matter of a very few years before the company was absorbed into the Chrysler empire. Even while the company continued to flounder financially, it somehow managed to produce interesting cars on a meager budget, and the Eagle was a perfect example of this ability to squeeze every last cent out of their development budget. The first 4-wheel drive passenger car produced in America, it could quite fairly be considered as one of the vehicles that paved the way for the light crossover vehicle. Barn Finder Rocco B referred this Eagle to us, so thank you for that Rocco. The 1986 Eagle is located in New Port Richey, Florida, and is listed for sale here at Hemmings.

Finished in AMC Garnet Poly paint with the optional wood-grain side panels, the Eagle is a nice looking car. The paint, panels, chrome, glass, and trim all look good, and there are only a couple of minor things to note. The most obvious of these is the fact that the lower body molding on the front passenger side door is out of alignment on one end. Hopefully, this is only a case of the molding having previously come loose and not being reattached with care, rather than an indication of a deeper issue.

Powered by a 258ci 6-cylinder engine and a 3-speed TorqueFlite transmission, the Eagle is also fitted with power steering, power brakes, and air conditioning. The Eagle’s party piece was its 4-wheel drive system. While it could never hope to emulate its Jeep cousins with its off-road ability, it was not only capable of pretty reasonable light off-road duties, but it offered exceptional levels of sure-footed grip in wet or slippery conditions. This particular Eagle should be no different in that respect, and with only a documented 77,000 miles on the clock, it should be able to continue this for many more years.

The owner suggests that the Eagle has been well cared for, and the multiple photos of the interior that are supplied show an interior that is close to perfect. The interior doesn’t appear to have a mark on it, and also appears to be completely original. What is interesting to note is an obvious sign of how some manufacturers struggled with color consistency with plastic trim. The obvious example is the floor console area around the shifter. It is all supposed to be the one color to match the rest of the interior trim, but the upper and lower halves are two distinctly different colors, but that sort of thing wasn’t unusual during this time. What is nice is the fact that this car has escaped the nasty deterioration in the plastic trim that now so badly mars otherwise nice cars from this era.

When it was introduced in 1979, the Eagle was something of a hit, and the most popular version was the wagon. For AMC, 1986 marked an unfortunate milestone in the life of the Eagle, as it was the first year that sales of the wagon had fallen below 12,000, with only around 6,900 wagons being sold. With the financial turmoil that the company was already confronting, it was no surprise that with ever-dwindling sales, the Eagle was consigned to history at the end of 1988. Today the Eagle is as popular, and probably more popular than it was as a new car. Examples that come onto the market tend to sell fairly quickly, and examples in the sort of condition of this one are fairly rare. With an asking price of $13,250, this one is priced right at the top end of the price bracket, but the condition and the documented mileage mean that it is probably worth it.

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Comments

  1. J Liu

    I’ve always found this AMC to be a handsome automobile and its’ design is sharp even after all these years.

    Like 9
    • XMA0891

      I have an admitted soft-spot for wood paneling, but I agree that this vehicle’s design has aged well. Ironically a former AMC Dealer once told me that, when new, these last-of-the-line years were a tough-sell to returning AMC owners as these models “looked just like the one they were trading in”.

      Like 1
  2. That AMC Guy

    Very nice Eagle, used to have one just like it. There’s probably not much to say about these that hasn’t been said before, but there are probably a few points worth going over again…

    The 1986 Eagles use an open-diff transfer case effectively giving you one-wheel drive if a tire completely loses traction. Beware that those plastic moldings can hide a lot of rust, though being a Florida car that hopefully won’t be a problem on this one. Door hinges have nylon bushings and tend to be badly worn decades after manufacture. Steering column is a GM item, so AMCs so equipped share the propensity for the tilt wheel to loosen up and flop around. The fix is a bit of a PITA but is well known. Then of course there is the dreaded 258 plastic valve cover and the feedback carb emission system to contend with. As kind of an “Easter egg”, factory wire wheel covers on 1980s AMCs are actually Buick covers with the AMC logo pasted in the center.

    Note that there are ashtrays provided even for the back seat passengers – that’s true luxury! Price is high but this car looks practically new, hopefully it will find a good home.

    BTW, Eagle wagon production actually ended in December of 1987 with a small number of 1988 model-year vehicles produced. AMC branding was removed.

    Like 8
    • cjm.blm

      The AMC branding was NOT removed on the 1988 models, only on the marketing materials. Why? Because it would have cost too much (translation: any) money to make that change, and Chrysler didn’t want to spend a cent on the old Eagle. The AMC logo was still on the hatch and the “American Motors” stamp still on the 4 door scuff plates, as well as the AMC emblem on the steering wheel, etc. Approx. 2300 1988 wagons were produced.

      • That AMC guy

        I know about inside parts retaining the AMC labelling, same as on Jeeps for a while after the Chrysler acquisition, but could have sworn the small plastic AMC badge was left off of the hatch on the final run. (Certainly it would not have cost anything to simply not stick it on there.) However I’m going from memory which can be spotty at times.

        An AMO member purchased the last Eagle wagon manufactured:

        http://southernclassic.tripod.com/id3.html

        Of course that was over 30 years ago and I don’t know where that car is now.

    • CJM

      I have seen around a dozen ’88 Eagle wagons and all of them had the AMC logo on the lift gate. Its possible a few of the last cars were built without the logo if they ran out of them but I’ve never seen one or photos of one that did not have it. This was inconsistent with the marketing materials, which were admittedly very limited. Only a very small pamphlet brochure was printed and no print or TV ads for 1988 that I’m aware of. Another note of trivia: the leather Limited style seats were available for 1988 in Garnet red color. This was a one year option only, though the limited model was not offered in 1988, only the leather seat option. Prior to 1988, the leather was only offered in the Honey interior color.

  3. 408 interceptor

    My dad leased one of these through hoselton in east Rochester. It seemed like a good idea to replace the Caprice classic wagon with a 4×4 since we lived on a hill with an 800′ gravel driveway. The Eagle had a vacuum lever to engage the front wheels but it was unreliable, especially in the middle of winter when it was needed most. My dad was not a patient man and by the time he realized the car wasn’t in four wheel drive it was usually too late and there we sat stuck in the snow revving the engine until the throttle cable disengaged itself from the carburetor. Our little Kubota b6100 always came to the rescue of what I considered a horrible car even for that time period. Still have the Kubota and all those fond memories of pulling dad out of the snow on that treacherous driveway. Hoselton was a Chevy dealer but they handled lots of different makes through there leasing program back then.

    Like 3
  4. 433 jeff

    Personlly for 86 i would take the subaru dual range wagon, but i think this wagon would be a lot safer if you were in an accident. When i was crunching cars i bought ine for 30$ with a leaf spring up thru the rear, i put the spring mount back where it was supposed to be and got another at least 6 months out of it, mine was 2wd, but i like the idea of a No computer 4 wd safe car.

    • That AMC guy

      Eagles actually did have an engine control computer, though crude by today’s standards. It adjusts the fuel mixture via an electronic feedback carb and adjusts ignition timing on the fly as needed. (O2 and knock sensors were used for inputs.) That’s on six-cylinder Eagles, I never owned one with the Iron Duke 4-banger. I’m also not sure if the earliest models had this system.

      • CJM

        AMC 6 cyls (not sure about 4 cyls) from at least 1981 and possibly earlier used the ford EEC (Electronic Engine Control) ignition module. AMC’s used the exact same Motorcraft part as the fords of that vintage. AMC would put an “AMC” sticker over the motorcraft branding on the case. It was a roughly 5×6″ aluminum box which mounted to the inner fender. Ford used them up thru around ’83-84 but AMC used them thru ’88 Eagles at least, possibly longer on 4.2 Wranglers and 5.9 Grand Wagoneers. I always carried a spare in my Fords and AMC’s because when this module failed, you lost your spark and the car would die and not restart.

      • That AMC Guy

        I remember the Ford ignition module from the Eagles I’ve owned (’85 and ’86 258). I also carried a spare ignition module and have had to use it. The computer for the feedback carb is in the front passenger kick panel and I never had to touch it on either car. The Carter BBD though is prone to the idle tubes plugging up, but it’s pretty easy to fix:

        http://www.planethoustonamx.com/main/amc_carter_carb_fix.htm

        It’s also possible to bypass the electronic controls “for offroad use only” of course:

        http://www.4x4wire.com/jeep/tech/electrical/jn-ignition99/

        I think the 4-cylinder models used a GM emissions setup. Never owned one of those but they’re covered in the factory shop manual.

  5. CJM

    Who writes these things?? The console “upper and lower” has not aged differently. The console is one piece! The “upper half” tapers in so the light is catching it differently than the “lower half”, which I suppose could possibly make it appear two toned to the untrained eye. I see no perceptible fade on this interior, which is RARE for an Eagle interior in garnet.

  6. ramblergarage

    We had 2 of these over the years and never had a bit of trouble with the 4WD on the fly. Got out of deep snow better than the later Jeep Cherokee we had. Can’t say anything bad about them except the plastic valve cover.

    Like 1
  7. PatrickM

    $13,250.00 is a bit steep for a mid 80’s anything. I realize there is probably a lot of preservation here, but, still too high.

  8. half cab

    Have a set of hubcaps here I have just identified!

    Like 1
  9. Dennis M

    The most surprising thing about the Eagles was that they drove exactly like a normal 2 wheel drive car under normal conditions. there was nothing about the ride or the handling that suggested 4 wheel drive.

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