1981 AMC Eagle SX/4: Outdoorsman’s Coupe

1981 AMC Eagle SX4

One of the lesser known tales of the automotive industry is AMC’s reinvention of itself from a company known solely for producing the Jeep to one that introduced a segment that is one of today’s hottest markets. Although we typically see the negative side of the energy crisis that stripped many vehicles of any performance credibility, the birth of the AMC Eagle was a bright spot: the company created a reliable, affordable vehicle with good power and 4-wheel drive capabilities. While the AMC Eagle is most recognized in wagon form, the SX/4 was a variation on the theme that combined the rugged AMC powertrain with a lifted coupe body. One of these rare variants is available here on craigslist in Michigan for $2,000 – would you consider it for your next hunting vehicle?

AMC Eagle SX4

On paper, this looks like a fun combination: manual transmission, 4 wheel-drive and sporty looks thanks to the rear spoiler and flared fenders. Although it was marketed as the sports car that didn’t need roads, the SX/4 was hardly the off-road Porsche of its day. In fact, many came equipped with the standard Iron Duke 4-cylinder sourced from GM, which was mediocrity at its best. However, this example is said to come with the optional 4.2L inline-six which likely perked things up just enough to be bearable; remember, this is the Malaise era where performance wasn’t exactly baked in.

1981 AMC SX4

Even harder to find than this SX/4 is the Kammback, which was essentially a lifted, 4WD version of the AMC Gremlin. I’ve often thought either of these funky off-roaders would make for intriguing projects with year-long versatility. I’ve often found the rally-inspired version driven by Gene and Gary Henderson in the SCCA Pro Rally to be particularly intriguing, but that’s obviously an outlier in terms of how most folks used these machines. Pure and simple, they were bought to get from Point A to Point B when the going was tough, muddy, steep or snowy. Still, the thought of whipping one of these brutes through the trees across gravel and dirt puts a smile on my face.

Image Courtesy of GrassRootsMotorSports
Image Courtesy of Grassroots Motorsports

The example featured here is far from perfect. There’s the obvious cosmetic damage, as more than one corner has encountered the hard end of something. I’m not sure how difficult it is to find the original bumper pieces, but I haven’t encountered too many SX/4s in my junkyard expeditions. The seller’s claims of his car being rust-free are questionable when there’s an actual photo of a rusty tail section in the listing’s photos, but perhaps it’s just surface rust that’s left some nasty watermarks. Still, hailing from Michigan means it will require a close inspection to make sure it’s not a rust bucket before you can begin bushwhacking and planning your next trip to the hunting lodge.


  1. rjc

    These were a bright spot in the darkening day s of amc.
    Cool little cars with lots of functional fun factors.
    Great find.

  2. jim s

    i liked the jeep from the other day better but this is interesting. i like the manual with a six 4×4 drivetrain. not much information in the listing but call then look at it real good and make a offer. i wonder what the story is on the wagon in the photo.

  3. J.W.

    I’ve seen a few AMC Eagle Wagons in my days roaming the highways but this is a first seeing a coupe for me. It’s actually pretty cool and worth a closer look if it was close to me. The seller only mentions the dinged up front fender, what about both dinged up rear corners? For 2K and possibly $1,500 it might make a fun rural beater.

  4. Alan (Michigan)

    Fun and funky ride. I wonder what nasty thing was in the back seat for a decade?

    As mentioned, I’d bet that those plastic pieces are nearly unobtanium. Finding a parts car, and persuading the owner to let some of the bits go, would be a real challenge.

    • Jeff Lavery

      Alan, the amount of grossness I’ve seen on interiors…I can’t get over it. What do people do to these cars?!

  5. The Chucker

    Instant ice racer!

  6. Jeff Lavery

    Geez, this would be a blast on ice. Hadn’t even thought of that possibility.

  7. Alex

    I am actually in the market for this year’s woods truck. If I were a little more well heeled I’d be looking at the wagon variant of this. This time I’ll probably settle for a beat up 4×4 ranger/s10/whatever that I can chop to pieces without feeling bad, then sell it for scrap when it gets expensive to fix.

  8. Brent

    I am the guy who bought this eagle, the thing is a blast to drive and it actually does pretty good on gas. And aside from some minor rust its on pretty good shape. Corner parts are a pain in the a$$ to find but other then that there are lots of parts available BC it has the same drivetrain as a cj7.

    • J.W.

      @Brent Good for you, I’m jealous always wanted a AMC Eagle but I was more fond of the wagon. Good luck with it.

  9. Peter

    Hey all,

    I have not seen any posts in weeks, from either “Barn Finds” or “Credit Card Classics.”

    Are Jesse and staff okay?

    Have my spam settings gone rogue? Anyone?



  10. Alan (Michigan)

    Nothing here from CCC for a little while, but BF is rocking with action.

  11. Peter


    Well, that’s great news about BF!

    I must have dropped off the subscription list somehow. Would you mind sending me a link to a current BF posting? (I’m assuming I can resubscribe from there, right?).

    Thanks again!


  12. Alan (Michigan)


    Always the same entry point at barnfinds.com

    Gets you to the latest finds, and of course the page has the email signup link as well.


  13. Peter


    I should have been able to figure that out for myself…I think I was just at an ebb tide.

    But I signed up again, and look forward to seeing you, and all the brethren (an’ sistas) on the site! 🙂

    Thank you, my friend.


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