"The sports car that doesn't always need a road."
The AMC Eagle was a strange car by 1980s standards. It was very different from anything else at the time. AMC, of course, stands for American Motors Corporation, purchased by Chrysler in 1987. AMC also owned the Jeep brand back then, hence why Chrysler was so anxious to make the deal.
The Eagle is often considered to be the first crossover, beating the Subaru Outback to market by 14 years. The Eagle arrived in 1980 in coupe, sedan, and wagon body styles, though it was built on a modified version of the AMC Concord's platform. AMC figured there was a market for more fuel-efficient off-road capable vehicles that also had the creature comforts of regular cars. At the time, SUVs were nothing more than pickup trucks with covered beds. They weren't exactly family-friendly.
The Eagle formula, consisting of a raised ride height and full-time all-wheel-drive, was actually years ahead of its time. Back then, Subaru was still using a part-time 4WD system, but AMC wisely utilized its Jeep resources. No other mainstream automaker thought of something quite like this, creatively speaking.
The Eagle was America's first mass-produced passenger car with a four-wheel-drive system, mixing all-weather driving capability with good fuel economy. There was even a "Select Drive" feature that enabled drivers to go into RWD mode at the push of a button in order to conserve fuel. Whether AMC fully realized it at the time, an entirely new vehicle segment had been created and still exists today.
In 1981, the AMC Eagle SX/4 arrived, though it was based on the Spirit liftback. Like the regular Eagle, the SX/4 has permanent 4WD and despite its supposedly sportier appearance and marketing - it was branded as "the sports car that doesn't always need a road" - the SX/4 wasn't that sporty.
This ultra-rare surviving 1982 model year example, currently up for sale on Autotrader, is proof. Power comes from GM's old 151-cubic-inch (2.5-liter) "Iron Duke" four-cylinder engine with around 85 horsepower and 125 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed manual sends power to all four corners. It does require a full restoration and is priced at $5,500. The list of mechanical and cosmetic requirements is fairly long and there is significant rust underneath. Still, it's a great example of American automotive ingenuity.