History seems to show us that the innovators, the forward thinkers are not always rewarded with success.
Consider the move over the past 25 years to AWD vehicles and crossovers in particular. Then consider the American Motors Eagle wagon. It was an early crossover to be sure, based on the Concord sedan, but with AWD, a higher ride height and enough room in back for loads of luggage.
As with many AMC vehicles, one can argue execution, but the idea was a good one, proven by the success of similar vehicles today. And the Eagle sold well at the time too.
Congrats to NEO for taking a chance on the 1981 Eagle wagon in 1/43 scale, and this one is crisply executed.
Who’d a thunk it? In the late 1970s AMC, which owned the Jeep brand at the time, saw its aging car lineup sales slip, along with its Jeep sales due to their poor fuel economy. So they got a wise idea, create a low-cost 4WD car and wagon that got decent mileage and handled like a car, not a truck.
Today that’s the prevailing thought. But when the Eagle landed in AMC dealerships in late 1979 as a 1980 model, it was a breathtaking breakthrough. A two-door, four-door and wagon were offered, the wagon listing at $7,549, or about $23 grand today. AMC’s system was really AWD, operating all the time, plus had independent front suspension.
The Concord car body was used for the Eagle and AMC used its straight 6 engine along with two manual transmissions and one automatic available. A four-cylinder and turbo-diesel 6 also were offered as was a convertible Eagle. The daring AWD Eagles were built from 1979 through 1987, extending briefly into the time after Chrysler bought AMC. For those of us living in Wisconsin, we’re proud to say the cars were built in the now long-gone Kenosha plant.
Wow, this car looks even better than the original; the metallic brown paint job certainly is light years ahead of any AMC finish, and much glossier than the 1/1 wagon.
Detailing is strong for this scale and accurate too. For instance, there’s a 24-cube grille that was new to the 1981 model and the Eagle name is on the grille’s bar, just below an AMC hood ornament. Remember those?
Headlights are nicely detailed with amber running light bars below and two covered fog lights that one imagines would be helpful if going off-road at night. The chrome and rubber bumpers also blend well into the black cladding that runs up over the wheel wells and down the Eagle’s rocker panels.
My uncle Mac had a Matador of this era and I remember the rectangular pull-out door releases, which are replicated well here in a chrome finish as are the twin side mirrors and snazzy roof rack and front and rear window surrounds and exterior hinges. There’s even a black windshield wiper on that back window, again, something AMC had and that is now standard on all hatchbacks and crossovers.
There’s also an Eagle badge on the front fenders, just beyond the wheel wells and a chrome painted trim over the wheel wells and above the cladding, plus around all the side windows. And wisely NEO puts a yellow Wisconsin “America’s Dairyland” plate above the rear bumper.
Inside, the car features a caramel-colored interior with deeply ribbed seats and wood trim on the door panels and dash. Dash detail is fine for this scale and the steering wheel is a three-spoke number. Door detailing is good too as is the cargo area with its metal-look bands on the floor. It almost looks like that rear seat back could fold down too, as it did in the 1/1 wagon.
I love models of unusual and nearly forgotten cars. AMC was a leader in many ways before its demise in that 1987 Chrysler buyout. This is a fine tribute to its forward thinking!
Vital Stats: 1981 AMC Eagle Wagon
Stock No.: 200835 or NEO46555