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Eagle: the brand, the cars

eagle logoIn 1987, Chrysler Corporation bought the next-largest American automaker — Amerian Motors (AMC) — mainly to get the Jeep line of SUVs, rather than the AMC’s odd mix of cars.

One of those AMC cars was the 1987 AMC Eagle. That was the last year for the AMC Eagle, but its name would live on as Chrysler’s first new brand since DeSoto.

amc eagle SX/4 Sport 258

by Dan Minick

When Chrysler took over AMC, they saw that Jeep Grand Wagoneer buyers had the highest average income of any American vehicle; even the humble Cherokee had buyers with the same median income as Cadillac Deville owners.

1986 Grand Wagoneer at the St. Regis Hotel

Jeeps sat in garages next to Volvos, Mercedes, Audis, and other premium imports, rather than Chryslers or Lincolns. When Chrysler acquired AMC, they asked, “Why can’t we provide a car that those people would consider buying, instead of losing those sales? If Jeep is attracting those buyers, why can’t we do the same with a car line?”

Eagle was supposed to try and capture import buyers. Hence the Premier and Vision.

1990 Eagle Premier

The AMC Premier (renamed to Eagle Premier in mid-1988) was a brand new, and quite promising, design. Built in Bramalea, Ontario, it was the roomiest car in its class. The Premier had an advanced suspension, multiple-point-injected V-6 with a four-speed automatic, and good aerodynamics. The Peugeot-Renault-Volvo engine was unreliable, and the car never caught on; sales were so low it ended up being sold (in small numbers) as the Dodge Monaco, too.

Eagle Vision

The LH Eagle Vision replaced the Premier in 1993. The sportiest of the new Chrysler LH series, it had the 3.5 liter V6 engine and a high end interior. The cars had much in common, but the Vision was more refined, more powerful, and far more reliable. Together, the LH cars — which shared quite a bit with the Premier — revolutionized and rejuvenated large cars, but the Dodge Intrepid had the lion’s share of sales.

eagle summit

The Eagle Summit, a rebadged Colt/Mitsubishi Mirage, was a stopgap to give Renault Alliance and Encore owners an option. The Eagle Medallion, made in France, had to be sold because of the contract with Renault.

eagle talon TSi

The Eagle Talon, the top Chrysler version of the Mitsubishi Eclipse sports car, was added to the ranks as well; it was fairly successful, gaining some visibility.

eagle talon

Chrysler aimed low line models against Taurus, and higher trims against Acura and Volvo. Perhaps it would have been better to abandon volume for profit, dropping the base models and the cheap Summit.

In reality, Eagle competed more against Chrysler and Dodge than imports, and leaders decided to dual Jeep-Eagle with Chrysler-Plymouth, and then phase out both Eagle and Plymouth. Chrysler-Jeep would become the “upper-crust” division, with Dodge handling the mainstream.

1993 eagle vision

The brand was likely hard for customers to figure out, with its odds and ends: leftover AMCs, the Renault/AMC hybrid, restyled Mitsubishis (the Summit was a rebadged Colt), and, in later years, a bit front-drive LH car. Mainly, Eagle was a sideshow. The Premier sold so poorly Chrysler ended up creating a Dodge twin, the Monaco, which was also a slow seller.

Chrysler finally announced the end of Eagle in 1997, with 1998 being its last model year. In 1998 proper, Chrysler ended its life and become part of Daimler-Benz.

by David Zatz

When Chrysler cut the cord on Eagle, the Summit was dropped, the Talon moved to Dodge (Avenger), and the Vision hurriedly changed to the Chrysler 300M; there are photos showing the 300M in Eagle Vision form.

1997 eagle vision

Chasing import car buyers with a mix of entry-level and premium Japanese, French, and North American cars, with nothing to anchor its image, Eagle was a good idea, poorly implemented.

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