Every now and then we get letters from readers wondering why we bother devoting a couple of pages every now and then to testing some new all-wheel drive crossover rig. The way we see it, though, we're just carrying on a Four Wheeler tradition that started 30 years ago this month, when-yes-an AMC Eagle graced our cover for the first time in September 1979.
"Underneath that flowing exterior beats the heart of a Jeep," we gushed-specifically referring to the 258ci straight-six engine, which was mated to a TorqueFlite 998 tranny and NP 119 single-speed transfer case, which sported a velocity-sensitive viscous coupling to provide full-time four-wheel drive to its independent Dana 30 front and solid D35 rear end. Besides providing torque splits front-to-rear, the t-case also helped during hard braking maneuvers with its "ability to prevent skids by equalizing driveshaft speed if the wheels try to lock up."
While we acknowledged that the Eagle wasn't set up for hardcore trail work, it was "certainly capable of getting around where the two-wheel drive cars cannot...the Eagle is no lame duck. The car attacks steep hills with fervor, and even 30-percent grades on dirt and grass can't slow the Eagle's flight." For those Grizzled Ones who demanded a low-range gear, we noted also that "a swap for the CJ-7 transfer case is possible, though not recommended by AMC." In the end, we were impressed by the Eagle and its "mountain goat-like traction," and were anticipating more vehicles of its type down the road: "This is the first, and definitely not the last, of the hybrid 4x4 cars we will be seeing in years to come."
Want to See More?
Want to see more? Log onto fourwheeler.com, where we've archived this great ol' road test and plenty more. We're uploading more old stories from the '60s, '70s, and '80s to our site every month, so visit the site often to see what's new-or maybe not so new.