Drop an SBC in it… 1982 AMC Eagle SX/4

Jeff showed us a nice SX/4 about a month ago and it sold for a little over $700 more than the $2,800 asking price of this 1981 AMC Eagle SX/4 project car. This one is on Craigslist in Gilcrest, Colorado. These are really unique little cars and having 4WD may be the ultimate option, at least as far as I’m concerned. The seller of this car mentions that a small block Chevy will bolt up in there, so.. yeah. Thanks to Wuzjeepnowsaab for submitting this one!

AMC produced the Eagle line for the 1980 to 1987 model years. Who was around 30 years ago when AMC went away? I was, and it was a sad day in my world. The “Eagle Wagon” was made by the new owners at Chrysler for the 1988 model year, but the AMC brand name was kaput. You can see a bit of rust on this car but maybe I’m mistaken, the seller says that it’s “rust free”.  There are details that will have to be looked after, or looked for in junkyards, like that missing LR bumper end. It doesn’t look like it’s all dinged and dented up and if that fender LR fender flare hole is the worst of it, this is a good looking example.

For such a small car, I always chuckle when for some odd reason the entire vehicle doesn’t seem to make it into the photo frame. The seller says that this “car runs and drives.” I’m surprised, it looks great, but you can’t tell the working condition by how good the body looks, just like on a human. They go on to say that these cars are very collectible and “hard to find in such good shape. This car would make a great hot rod or just restore to original.” I don’t know if I’ve seen a hot rod made out of an SX/4 but maybe one of you have?

This is a 4-speed car and even though I’ve heard that some of them are a little troublesome, I’d always rather have a manual transmission; but that’s just me. The interior looks like it’s in decent condition other than a few rips on the seats and needing a thorough cleaning. As always, the rear hatch gas-struts will need to be replaced. There are no engine photos but this one is GM’s 2.5L iron duke inline-four with a whopping 84 hp. The seller says that a small block Chevy (have you heard of those?) (cough) will bolt right up. I’m not sure if it would be that easy, but I’m sure that if we can fly to the moon, land, walk around for a while, hit a few golf balls, and then fly back to earth again, anything is possible. Is this car worth restoring to original-spec or would you drop an SBC in it like the seller hints at?

Fast Finds


  1. Jeffro

    The moon landing was a haux. Filmed in a airplane hanger at Area 51. Of course, putting a SBC in this car is just as crazy. I loved these cars. Kinda quirky. The govt put AMC out of business. My dog told me so. Where’s my tin foil hat?
    I like the fact this car is a 4 speed. Should help out the 4 banger pretty well. Is it me or are almost all of the particular cars the same shade of brown?

    • Rob

      Nutmeg was an extremely popular color for the Eagle, and Wagoneer a for a bit there, it was the color of my dad’s eagle, and my buddy’s Cherokee Laredo. Though not as bad as the nutmeg interior, which you never quite get used to. Great little cars, I’d grab it in a second, but I’d drop a 258, 4.0, or an AMC V8 into it :) imagine this thing with a 360 or 401 :) :) :)

      • Bmac Bmac Member

        Agree no sbc has to be a 401.

    • RC Paulsen

      Actually . . . that part about the govt putting AMC out of business isn’t that far off. Much of the $60M poured into developing the Pacer was to meet the announced upcoming federal requirement for passenger compartments that could withstand a 35 MPH frontal collision intact. AMC built prototypes that met the standard, and they were tanks. The Big-3 put their effort into sending people to Washington to whine that the proposed standard was simply an impossible dream. Of course, they didn’t mention that AMC had already proven it could be done. The feds backed down, and AMC was left with a very expensive design that weighed too much to be marketable if the 35 MPH standard wasn’t going to be enforced. They were able to remove a lot of the weight (and the added safety it provided), but not enough to return decent fuel economy. GM had contracted with AMC to supply the rotary engine they were developing, and the Pacer was designed around that engine. Then GM pulled the plug on the rotary project, leaving AMC high-and-dry with a very expensive design and no engine that would fit under the hood. AMC didn’t have a 4-cylinder engine at the time, and it would have been too anemic anyway. Even the venerable AMC inline 6 was overworked in the heavy Pacer. The Buick-designed V6 that AMC acquired in the 1970 purchase of Jeep would have fit, but it was the older uneven-firing version that shook like a Harley-Davidson shovelhead motor. Buick wanted to develop an even-firing V6 based on the old paint shaker, and AMC needed cash, so a deal was struck to sell the engine back to Buick, where it was redesigned to became the Buick 3800 V6. Meanwhile, AMC got busy moving the Pacer’s firewall back to accommodate AMC’s inline six, resulting in reduced legroom and a weird extra deep dash, not to mention adding a degree of difficulty to routine engine service, but they had to do something to get some return on their enormous investment. The 1975 Pacer really put AMC on the ropes financially. Two years later the EPA ordered a recall of their entire 1977 lineup to replace the emissions systems. It was a one-two punch from which the plucky little automaker would never recover.

  2. Nathan Member

    It would be really cool to warm over that 2.5 with a turbo and a blow through 4bbl carburetor and a big ole cam with a ported head to match! A quirky engine build for a very quirky unique car. Its not like the Duke couldn’t handle a load of boost and take it happily for many many miles ;). Also that 4 speed is bad a**!

  3. JW

    I would have to try the SBC route even though I hate cross breeding cars but this one would be the exception.

  4. Rich Truesdell

    No, don’t drop a SBC in it. Find a rebuildable AMC small block; they come in 290, 304, 343, 360, 390 and 401 cubic inch varieties. Keep it all-AMC.

    Years ago, when the Eagle was introduced, journalist Arch Brown did the proper V-8 conversion. I can’t find a scan online but when I do, I’ll post it here.

  5. Blyndgesser

    A Jeep 4.0 would be an easy and fun alternative to the ubiquitous SBC transplant.

    • Rich Truesdell

      Yes, a much easier to perform transplant, as much power as a 290/304 V-8 with much better economy, especially the fuel-injected later versions ob the ubiquitous AMC straight 6.

      • jdjonesdr

        You can’t say AMC straight 6 and economy in the same sentence. Take it from somebody who has owned a ton of AMC straight 6 vehicles.
        Having said that, this thing with an AMC straight 6 would be a lot of fun.

      • AMXSTEVE


  6. Howard A Member

    Thanks to Scotty for pretty much outlining our 30 year space program,,,not really, we have a lot to be thankful to the space program, this marvelous invention I’m typing on right now, probably. This car? Meh, like I said in the last one, a friend bought one of these new (82) and his had the 6 with a 5 speed, and the trans gave him nothing but trouble. Not sure about the 4 speed. Kind of an “in-between ” car. Not the best 4×4, and not the best passenger car. I don’t think you could get a V8 in these, and quite frankly, this car didn’t do well with the 6, much less a V8.( and the 4 certainly was no day at the strip either) I’d pass altogether.

  7. SanityFactor

    Just gimme a 258 6….one of the best motors ever…tired of sbc….if cross breed then 225 slant but id go amc….those were bulletproof engines….just me…


    These cars were not designed to handle the weight of a V8. The 258 was a perfect motor for these and you can squeeze a lot of hp out of them.

    This clown doesn’t know what he has.

    • wuzjeepnowsaab

      The 258 weighs about 430 pounds with intake without exhaust. 304 about 90 pounds more, same spec. You can drop about 50 pounds off the v8 just by shartcanning that heavy iron intake manifold and putting an Edelbrock or other lightweight intake to close that difference.

      And I think you can squeeze more ponies and torque out of the 304 a heck of a lot easier than you can the 6.

      Either way…even with the Iron Duke, which is a pretty stout little engine in and of itself…it’s a very good deal for someone. Glad the Barnfinds folks put it up!

  9. Rustytech Member

    I don’t know about the 4×4’s but you could get a V8 in the 4×2. This would be a great car for cruising the mountains here in western PA. I think this needs a little too much work for the asking price, especially if your going to have to do an engine swap. I have seen one of these hot rodded. It was for sale near me last summer. It was black and silver, had the sac and 4speed. Tunnel ram intake with large scoop, very fat off road tires. Wish I’d taken a picture of it!

    • wuzjeepnowsaab

      I have to really disagree with you Rustytech. This runs and drives, needs a carb rebuild (easy job!), has a very good interior and isn’t a clapped out piece of carp…AND it’s a 4WD. Well worth the dough, especially in a no-salt state like Colorado.

      Heck, all of these that were sold in Penna have melted into a pile of rust by now ;)

  10. AMCFAN

    There is NO such thing as an AMC “small block” AMC used one V8 block design from 66 up. There is NO Big block to compare it to unless comparing it to the old Rambler 287-327. No one I know would brag that “Hey I have a Big Block Rambler. It is always described as a 287/327 respectively. They are a good honest motor but not designed or developed for a performance application.

    The Eagle would make a nice driver WITH the 258 as is. There was a local in the mid 1980’s that ran rally races with one and his engine of choice was simply a 304. Made great power and sounded awesome.

    Saying all AMC’s need a 401 is almost the same as saying Small Block Chevy LS motor or what ever. In reality a built 401 will set you back at a reputable engine shop $7000 and quickly up from there. A good 401 core is $1500. Forget trying to find a 390. A 304 or particularly a 360 make great power. A core can usually be had for about $100 bucks. More power then you would need on the street. Wanting to race? Then pony up for a 401 it is your wallet.

    • wuzjeepnowsaab

      Yep, AMC v8’s all shared the same block difference being the bore. Well, legend says that the 401 block had a higher nickel content but I’ve yet to see a metallurgic report that proves it ;)

      The 304 in this car will push it down the road or even the trail real well and you can squeeze enough hp and torque out of it pretty easily…enough to scare your wife and friends. AND you can lighten it up pretty easily to get it to 258 weight

  11. SamM

    The bell housing in this car is the one I used a few years ago on an SBC/ford t-5 swap. The bolt pattern indeed bolts on to an SBC (even a BBC, gasp). Would the driveline stand up to the motor,,,,no. Does it bolt up,, yes.

  12. Joseph Wayne Haddock

    Had one just like it. Restored it and dropped a Chevy v6 when the iron duke died. Fun car.

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