Home » What If The AMC Eagle Had Survived After 1988 In Argentina?

What If The AMC Eagle Had Survived After 1988 In Argentina?

Eagle Landed
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“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated”

Mark Twain famously wrote these words when he was, in fact, still alive and merely abroad. Oddly enough, a number of cars in automotive history could have uttered the same thing over the years, living on in communist countries or in South America long after they had disappeared from the US. While people tend to focus on the rear-engined VW Beetle as a car which survived for decades being produced in Brazil (and Mexico) after Germany stopped making them, there are plenty more cars that have enjoyed a reprieve from the reaper below the equator.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Argentina is one nation with a rich history of life-supporting American cars from the Kennedy era up to and beyond when Duran Duran was popular. In 1962, Ford or Argentina started selling the then-two-year-old Falcon, virtually unchanged from the model sold in the US.

Ds
Wikimedia/Rex Gray

However, while Ford did extensive facelifts on the car over the decade and dropped the Falcon entirely after 1970, Ford Argentina just kept going with this durable little Ford all the way up the 1991! Mind you, they did ‘update’ the styling over time; the results were, uh, interesting:

Ds 2
Ford via Jason Torchinsky/wikimedia/Diego HC

Whoa! That looks like a restomod gone horribly wrong. You just can’t convincingly make a 1960 car look like a Taurus, and here’s your proof.

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The Argentinian company Industrias Kaiser Argentina (IKA) was much more successful, at least visually, with their take on producing AMC’s Rambler American in 1966 as the IKA Torino. Dick Teague’s little compact was a nice looking car, but apparently IKA were just too cool for this and thought it needed a little something extra to look cosmopolitan cruising down the wide streets of Buenos Aires. I’ve never been, but a world-traveling friend spent a month there and declared the city to be a painfully underrated destination (honestly churrasco with chimichuri sauce is enough enticement for me).

Scanned Image 112740003
wikimedia/Nathan Hughes Hamilton

Styling tweaks by Pininfarina made the Torino look, unsurprisingly, more European. The aggressive face-within-a-face nose bears little resemblance to the Rambler:

Torino
wikipedia/Sergio Miller and Hemmings (car for sale)

At the back, less chrome trim and amber signals continue the Italian/French appearance:

Torino 2
Bring A Trailer/Hemmings (car for sale)

The interior restyle created the most dramatic change, and really added an Alfa Romeo-like look totally unrecognizable from the Wisconsin built car.

Torino 3
Macs Motor City Garage/Hemmings

Mechanically the engine was completely different and the suspension in back with coil springs instead of the leafs in the Rambler. Overally, IKA did a great job of turning this American compact into a reasonable approximation of a GT car, one that oddly enough was raced to fourth place at the Marathon De La Route on the Nurburgring in 1969.

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Screenshot 2023 08 11 At 12.17.45 PmManufacturing ran up to 1982, long after the Rambler American had been replaced in the US. Blessedly, IKA refused to ‘modernize’ the Torino’s styling and left relatively unchanged for the whole production run.

I find something sort of appealing about these old cars soldiering on far away, and wondered what cars I might have wanted to see get a new lease on life. Oddly enough, one that hit my mind was another AMC creation; one that never got a fair shake and hopefully could have been appreciated somewhere else.

The Rambler American on which the IKA Torino was based got replaced in 1970 by the AMC Hornet, a car that was updated as the Concord and Spirit hatchback almost a decade later.

Concord
Hemmings (car for sale)/Bring A Trailer/Mecum

A solid if unspectacular compact, it wasn’t exactly a car you’d want to take to the Nurburgring like they did with the Torino. Wait… they did race an AMC Spirit there? With Josh Brolin’s dad/Mr. Barbra Streisand driving? And they WON their class??

Screenshot 2023 08 11 At 12.17.28 PmI mean, I don’t know what the ‘class’ was, but even if it was “Best Black Car With Orange Stripes” the fact that this cheap, dated compact took the abuse of the Green Hell around the clock and finished at all is flat out amazing.

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What’s more impressive is how AMC took this now-ten-year-old little car and effectively started a market segment, albeit a few decades too early. Using their in-house Jeep expertise, they dropped an innovative full-time four wheel drive system into the Concord to create the 1980 American Motors Eagle.

1984 Amc Eagle Station Wagon
Classic Auto Mall

Arguably the first ‘crossover’, it sold well at first but AMC’s cash situation meant that it got few updates and sold less and less until Chrysler dropped it in 1988 after taking control of America’s last independent auto maker (funny note: Chrysler grouped the remaining AMC cars it kept building under a new “Eagle” brand, meaning that the last of these all-wheel-drive groundbreakers were essentially Eagle Eagles). Once again, as always, American Motors offered brilliant design ideas to the world and was rewarded with a swift kick in the ‘nads.

The Eagle deserved a second life. Last year I envisioned what AMC would look like if Chrysler had NOT been bailed out by the Government in 1979; a new Eagle was a prominent model in the lineup:

Pasted872
The Autopian

However, what if American Motors did indeed disappear, but the remnants of IKA in Argentina (at this point Renault) respected the groundbreaking crossover and made a continuation model in the same vein as the Torino did decades before? The poor Hornet had been nipped and tucked a lot at this point, but it could stand a bit more inside for a final run as a unique ‘large’ car to complement Renault Argentina’s smaller offerings and possibly better suited to local roads (or lack thereof) than what the French offered. Let’s say that with the demise of AMC in 1987, previous-American-Motors-owner Renault ships a new Eagle down south to let the team in Buenos Aires see what magic they can do to update it into a late eighties car.

Screenshot (761)a

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First, the Renault Argentina guys would put all of Eagle’s chrome trim leftover from the 1970 Hornet base car into the basura (garbage). More modern side mirrors would be complemented by black or dark grey trim to unify the mess that is the three side windows. Next, they’d determine how low they could bring the nose down without major mods to the front structure and add a fascia panel similar to what I suggested for an all-new Eagle. Composite lights, a built-in ‘brush bar’ surrounding a Jeep-inspired grille and lower fog lights replace the big seventies 5 MPH bumpers. The lower trim could be replaced by the ever-popular-in-1988 grey plastic or just grey paint (on an off roadable car it’s actually a good idea).

Screenshot (765)

In back, the Argentinian designers would replace the whole tailgate or cover it in some kind of fiberglass cladding to take away the seventies hatch look and add a touch of the flattened abbreviated trunk lid used on most late eighties liftbacks (look at the exposed external hinges on the original car!). Full width lights would change the dated cut-inwards shape of the original Eagle; the extra length this would add to the back would really not be much more (if any) than the extension those giant bumpers add to the US car. Bumpers here are relatively flush, with a mock ‘push bar’ surrounding a large backup light; a better integrated exhaust pipe and a mandated rear fog lamp flank the stylized bar.

Inside, the Eagle dashboard needs help; pretty dated even when the Eagle debuted in 1980:

1987 Amc Eagle Limited Station Wagon Wonly 44388 Miles Original 10
Mecum

I can’t think of a later car that actually used AutoZone-style toggle switches! This was a 1988 car!

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Screenshot (769)
Bring A Trailer (car for sale)

Bringing the dash into 1989 might not need replacement of the entire thing. I do wonder if new cover up ‘pods’ could be added to the existing structure. A large gauge/control pod with an extended switch surface (similar to concurrent Renaults) would fit over the driver’s side of the dash, while the center area would be covered in something to hold the more modern radio and a crude ‘trip computer’ with things like MPG, elapsed time and such. The lighter is relocated to the lower console where AMC put unreadable-down-there aftermarket-looking gauges; Renault window switches would reside there, too, replacing the chromed toggles on the doors of the original car.

Img20230729 18332227

Under the hood, I am told that a V8 will not fit with the design of the Eagle’s four wheel drive system, but I can see Renault fitting a turbo diesel straight six to the old Hornet at least as an option.

The ‘new’ 1989 Eagle would not pass safety or smog regulations in American, and it was hopelessly dated at this point; there’s no chance of it ever returning to US streets. Still, to gain respect and appreciation by buyers somewhere would do my heart good for this under-appreciated car, even it was on the opposite side of the globe.

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Mark Kress
Mark Kress
4 months ago

The entire AMC/Renault lineup would’ve been AWD/4WD within a few years. The Alliance/Premier/Allure prototypes were destroyed after Chrysler took over. The Renault 25, related to the Premier/Allure, was also available as a wagon in Europe

Subaru would have been a better business partner at a time when they barely had a US presence. Renault never understood the US market and only half-heartedly supported it.

Henry Smith
Henry Smith
10 months ago

A straight 6 Diesel, 4WD, durable wagon. You’ve just designed a car I would buy today in a heartbeat! Especially if it lacked any damn computers or any utterly pointless screens. I want one!!!!

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
10 months ago

Great stuff here! Appreciate it. Those Falcons are unreal though. Just nuts how they kept updating old crap. Did they not realize there was BETTER cars out there to produce than these shit boxes?
Note to Torch. The tail lights on the gray Rambler look to be from the Mercury Capri (early generation) parts bin?

Last edited 10 months ago by Col Lingus
David Hollenshead
David Hollenshead
9 months ago
Reply to  Col Lingus

Actually the Argentine Falcons & IKA Torino were great designs for their market. Rear Wheel Drive and overbuilt. You fail to appreciate the unpaved roads in South America and the damage they do to modern cars. Take the VW Fox designed for Brasil which was similar to the Audi Fox / VW Dasher, but with a more rugged body & suspension…
Crappy cars like Fiats and Hondas will live a very short lifespan if the roads are bad…

Marc Fuhrman
Marc Fuhrman
10 months ago

I really like that. Surprising how just some blacked out Euro style trim and integrated plastic bumpers help give it a more 80’s look. And I like the new wedgy front end styling and wrap around tail light setup. I almost want to go out and find an Eagle wagon and customize it like this.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
10 months ago

The AMC Eagle done properly would have been Subaru before Subaru came to the USA. AWD before most companies had 4WD. Safe as a Volvo half as ugly. Just a decent less polluting engine with some power.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
10 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

I can assure you from personal experience that there was no comparison between a Volvo and a AMC product when it comes to safety.
Volvos were designed for safety long before the US thought about safe cars.
AMC was always playing “catch up” when it came to both design and safe cars.

WARREN BARBER
WARREN BARBER
10 months ago

OH what really killed AMC. AMC lost all its very lucrative military accounts due to being partners with a foreign owned company. Renault..

WARREN BARBER
WARREN BARBER
10 months ago

First the Rambler American AKA Argentina Torino used the Willy’s 230 ci Tornado engine But bored to 280ci called the Torino 280. this is an SOHC HEMI engine which was way ahead of its time and took well to modification. They AMC built 258 became the 282 ci engine.

TXJeepGuy
TXJeepGuy
10 months ago

As these came with the 258 I6, maybe they could have thrown the 4.0 with the Renix (Renault/Bendix) EFI for the top of the line trim. It would fit….

Jakob K's Garage
Jakob K's Garage
10 months ago

Anything with that 6000SUX style front end! I’ll buy that for a dollar 😎

Last edited 10 months ago by Jakob K's Garage
MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
10 months ago

Argentina is one nation with a rich history of life-supporting American cars from the Kennedy era up to and beyond when Duran Duran was popular.

So they are still making them?

10001010
10001010
10 months ago

I’m going to start working the word ‘overally’ into all my work emails going forward!

10001010
10001010
10 months ago
Reply to  The Bishop

I was thinking it could also be used on a day where you can’t be bothered with pants and a belt. Like, “today sure is feeling like an overally kind of day to me”.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
10 months ago
Reply to  The Bishop

You better not be mocking us boy.

Speedway Sammy
Speedway Sammy
10 months ago

Interesting video from the ‘Ring. AMC did a lot of endurance racing in IMSA in the 70s with Gremlins and Spirits.

Leandro Pertusati
Leandro Pertusati
10 months ago

I really like the pre 1995 Buenos Aires black Plate, but If this is happening in mid eighties, the number would be close to 2 Million and half. Forget about selling an Automatic Car in Argentina in that time. It really catch on in the last 20 years. I can see this car powered by a Renault 18-21 2.2 engine, but only in fwd configuration. Those Eagles were imported in Limited Numbers between 1979 and 1981, mostly with the Iron Duke. And they were really expensive.

Leandro Pertusati
Leandro Pertusati
10 months ago
Reply to  The Bishop

Bishop: Cars were always expensive here, mostly because of impositive charges and protectionist actions. In the 60s and 70s importing a foreign car was prohibited, the government opened the car market for imports between 1979-1981, closed it again 1982 and reopened it in 1990. About the Torino been discontinued, there was a Renault restyling project called the R40, with some surviving prototypes. this car is basically a Torino Platform with the 230ohc and a body that resembles a giant Renault 12-18. In that Moment Renault decided to move to more european cars and axe the torino, leaving the Falcon as the Last american designed car built in argentina. By the way, that 1982 Falcon restyling is not that bad. Ford Pacheco Design team made a great Job with a really small budget.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
10 months ago
FuzzyPlushroom
FuzzyPlushroom
10 months ago

Woof. I think I’m getting Benz C107 vibes from the greenhouse, at least. I don’t mind the look of the four-door sedan prototype from the rear, either…

https://driventowrite.com/2021/06/24/1973-renault-40-4s-uruguay/

…and with the quad-light Renault 12 face it at least doesn’t look surprised, unlike that coupe with its big square eyes.

(The original Torino, in contrast, was certainly a handsome car from any angle.)

CarSick
CarSick
10 months ago

I bought an Eagle SX4 in 1985 and drove it for 11 years. I live in snow country and it was great. And the engine didn’t go out on me; it was the suspension system that was shot (I drove the highway a lot, and was a little airborne off some frost heaves).
My mom and a friend of mine each had the station wagon version. We all wore them out one way or another.
Too bad they didn’t continue. I replaced mine with a 96 Cherokee, which lasted me for 25 years, so that worked out, but I did like the Eagle.

Myk El
Myk El
10 months ago
Reply to  CarSick

Living in Colorado, we saw those Eagles in the mountain towns regularly for long after they stopped making them. Over time, most were replaced with Subaru Legacy wagons, then the Outback.

Alan Christensen
Alan Christensen
10 months ago

A solid if unspectacular compact…”

Not the Hornet company cars I had to drive in the early ’70s. All sorts of parts broke or fell off. The engine would go on to be loved by Jeepers but the rest was crap. The only “spectacular” thing I experienced was the seat back collapsing while driving.

Ben
Ben
10 months ago

I will believe in anything that gives the Tornado 230 engine a future such as the Barra received. The legendary Ford motor being developed from the miserable but bulletproof and miserly 170/200, I can’t help but think the Tornado–treated similarly–would be with us today and easily making 400+ horsepower.
I don’t remember the numbers, but they had it making great power in racing Torinos.
If we could have that engine modernized and in an Eagle with an overdrive, I would sell my soul and drop my pants.

Leandro Pertusati
Leandro Pertusati
10 months ago
Reply to  Ben

The tornado engine was completely redesigned in 1973-74 to a 7 Main Block revised head and camshaft; some Friends of mine that restore Torinos told me that the most important reason was to break free of playing royalties to AMC (even the 7 main engine is called Torino, not Tornado) a typical 60s race engine has about 290 horses and a Sport Prototype engine about 320.

Ben
Ben
10 months ago

Thank you for the info. I was aware they had moved to 7 mains, but not of your other details. I just like the idea of the original Willys plan moving forward, being redesigned and improved.

OverlandingSprinter
OverlandingSprinter
10 months ago

I think Teague would be proud of this refresh. The faux push-bar is well-considered. If IKA could push the Rambler/Torino to 1981, they could have dragged the Eagle to 1995. Well done!

Trust Doesn't Rust
Trust Doesn't Rust
10 months ago

Agreed. You did a nice job Teague-ing this up. Do the best you can with what ya got. A clean-sheet design would not be AMC’s M.O. I’m a fan.

AlienProbe
AlienProbe
10 months ago

Fun little footnote: The IKA Torino also spawned the Lutteral Comahue which has one of the most badass fastback designs ever. <3 love that design.

Stink E. Jones
Stink E. Jones
10 months ago

it might be the headlights but the front end reminds me a bit of a 400i.

Church
Church
10 months ago

I’m down, as long as I get my AMC inline six. Actually, I’m down either way.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
10 months ago

Yeah it’s unfortunate they killed the Eagle. If they did a minor refresh on the exterior, overhauled the interior, updated the suspension with coil springs, gave it the updated 4L inline 6 used in the Cherokee (good for 177hp at the time) and gave it a 4 speed automatic, I bet it would have revived the sales of that vehicle.

Ricki
Ricki
10 months ago

Looks a lot like my Legacy wagon. Weird!

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
10 months ago

And, because it’s Argentina, the name is changed from Eagle to national bird Rufous Hornero. Catchy. Don’t cry for me.

Leandro Pertusati
Leandro Pertusati
10 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

Hornero is an ideal name for an overlanding version

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