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March 28, 2005
Back in 1981 I purchased a new AMC Eagle SX/4.  It wasn't the Sport model but it was maroon 6cyl manual transmission and I loved it.  Had roses etched in all the glass, added a solid oak push bumper and drove the wheels off it.  Did some off-roading, hill climbing and I even autocrossed it.  I had it for a couple of years then I saw something else that I absolutely had to have and traded it in.  Always regretted it, as for someone living in Minnesota at the time this was the perfect vehicle.

Click for larger image.

My Original 1981 AMC Eagle SX/4
Owned back in the early 80's
These were scanned from 24 year old Poloroid photos so the quality is quite poor.
Bought on May 5, 1981, sold it to buy a 1973 Dodge Challenger drag car.

If you look closely you can see the roses etched in the side glass, front and back.

It was good looking, but not being the "Sport" model it had hub caps, no spoiler, and chrome where the "Sport" models were blacked out.

Notice the solid oak push-bumper for use at race tracks.

My 1981 SX/4 Window StickerThis is what is left of my window sticker.  25 years later I'm regretting having torn it from the window and losing the edges.


When I was a child I had Polio and for the last seven years or so I've had something called "Post Polio Syndrome" which has been getting progressively worse.  The nerves that control my muscles are dying off and I'm losing strength in my shoulders, arms, legs and lungs.  In 1953 I contracted Polio when I was three years old and between then and my 18th birthday I had spent a cumulative total of six years in Gillette State Hospital for Crippled Children having surgeries on my legs.  I've always had pain in my legs for as long as I can remember, but of late the pain has gotten much worse and has also affected my shoulders and arms.  I've led an incredible life in spite of the handicap and done many things that others can only dream of.  I've accomplished much and have no regrets.

Almost all of my life I've ridden motorcycles.  I've had over 50 of them since my first one when I was 14 years old and I've pretty much lived for motorcycling.  Because of the pain and loss of strength in my legs about 8 years ago I started switching to sidecar rigs and since that time I've often wished that I'd have discovered them many years ago.  They are a blast. I've had three Russian Ural rigs of which two where two-wheel-drive models that were wonderful in the winter, and I now have a 2002 Moto Guzzi Stone Metal with a Russian "Sputnik" sidecar frame and a Chinese "Flying Tiger" police sidecar.  The rig is quite customized and is an incredible machine but of late it has even been getting harder and harder for me to ride even that.  Even a 100 mile ride affects my legs and shoulders to the point that it takes me several days to recover so it won't be long before I'm not able to ride a motorcycle at all.   If you are interested in reading my diaries about those rigs go to the main page at http://www.sheldonaubut.com and you will find links to all of them. 

For some time I've known that my riding days were numbered so I've been looking around for something fun that I can get that won't require a great deal of work to make a runner and that I can have fun with.  I've looked at Subaru SVXes, Mitsubish 3000GTs, even Mercedes Benz SLK 230 sports cars and of course SX/4s.  I've really wanted something that Patti and I could use for TSD (Time, Speed, Distance) road rallies as I used to do many of them and I think she would really find them enjoyable.  I've also been intrigued of late by the fairly new sport of "RallyCross" which is pretty much doing an autocross timed event on a MotoCross dirt track and the SX/4 seems like it would more than meet my needs and at a relatively low price.  I've been watching the ads but have seen few SX/4s and most of the ones I've seen were automatics.  I've an aversion for automatic transmissions and have hoped to find one with the four speed, a "Sport", six cylinder in either maroon or black so I was pleasantly surprised to find this one.  Luckily my left leg has quite a bit of strength left so working the clutch shouldn't be a problem for several years.

Saw an ad at http://www.autoextra.com for a SX/4 located in Missouri.  Gave the guy a call and found that it has 112,000 miles on it and has been parked for most of the last two years but the owner takes it out once in a while for a drive around the block.  It is in pretty good shape with only a few dings on the doors and some rust on the back hatch near and under the spoiler.  There also seems to be a little rust under the door sills, but that is about it.  It has after-market wheels but they don't look too bad.  The seats have tears in the cloth and there are a few scuffs on the console but it does have the optional gauge pack.  A rebuilt engine was put in at about 95,000 miles.

April 20, 2005
It is over 600 miles from me so getting it transported will cost about $400.  I was originally thinking of taking a bus to St. Louis and driving it home but wasn't sure how I would hold up under a 17 hour bus trip.  And my last experience at driving a purchase home from a long distance ended in disaster.  You can read all about my misadventures in driving from Florida my very rare 1979 Corvette station wagon at http://www.vettewagon.com click on "Diary".  Prudence reared her head and I've decided to have it transported by a local Auto hauler.  The national haulers were quoting me $700-$900 to haul it, and brokers were quoting $485-$600 so I was quite please to find a small local auto hauler who was looking to put together a "back-haul" load from the St. Louis Area so he shot me a price of $400 and I snapped it up.

Click image for full size view

Soon to be Sheldon's 1983 AMC Eagle SX/4 Sport
photos by Derek, previous owner

1983 AMC Eagle SX/4 Sport

Passenger door was just not closed.

Original hub-caps are in back but he does not have the original rims.  There is a little rust on the right corner of hatch, and under spoiler.

Ding in door, after-market wheels.

Cloth in front seats torn

Council had a CB or something on it, so a bit scuffed, but then I have a CB unit that I could install there.
1983 Eagle SX/4 Sport page from AMC brochure
A page from the 1983 AMC brochure showing an almost identically equipped SX/4 Sport

Engine compartment looks pretty grubby but at least everything seems to be there.

The guy I'm buying it from assures me that it isn't as bad as it looked in the photo.  We shall see.


April 27, 2005
Received a call today from the transport company and they are planning to pick up the SX/4 in the next two days.  I've had so many cars and bikes over the years that I've become jaded and usually don't get excited about acquiring a new vehicle but this one has me excited.  I've been on e-Bay buying up all the information, manuals and needed parts that I can find.  I'll be expanding this site soon to include information that I've scanned.

I should have the car some time next week.

April 29, 2005
Mark at Hasslebring Transport called today to tell me that the vehicle was being picked up and should be here on Sunday.  It is going to be a great way to start May.

May 1, 2005
They delivered my SX/4 this morning. The transport company, Hasselbring Auto Transport, was great.  Originally I was going to have it dropped at my house in Houlton Wisconsin which is right across the river from Stillwater Minnesota but it turned out that there are truck restrictions on the historic bridge between the two towns so they promised to have the car in Stillwater Minnesota. at 8:00 a.m.  At 7:59 I got a call from their driver that he was at the Chevrolet dealer and would unload there.  It was only about 7 miles from home so it only took me a few minutes of travel.  The driver was in the car just getting ready to unload.  He sat with it idling for a little bit and then put it in reverse and the car died.  He restarted it, sat there for another half minute, put it in reverse and backed it five feet then it died again.  He killed it at least four times getting it off the transport so I knew that it had the normal carburetor problems that most Eagles and Jeeps with the 258ci and Carter carb have.  Didn't surprise me and the previous owner told me that up front.  When I tried to drive it away I killed it several times before I got it to go and on the way home it died at two stop lights before it finally warmed up.

Click for larger view

AMC SX/4 on transport truck 1 AMC SX/4 on transport truck 2 AMC SX/4 on transport truck 3

Once the car warmed up it ran great.  It was in four-wheel-drive and all seemed tight and working fine.  Seems to shift nicely, clutch seem pretty good, suspension seems tight, no clunks or thumps at all.  Tire are good but there was one problem that showed up the moment I turned on the heater.  It was 35 degrees here so I turned it on and the windshield immediately fogged with that ugly greenish fog that comes from a leaking heater core.  I looked in the passenger foot-well and sure enough it was leaking pretty good.  I guess that after the carburetor that will be my second project.  I have a Chilton's repair manual for this car and I looked it up and it looks like it is quite a big job to swap out a heater core, it being behind the dashboard.  I'm not looking forward to it but it is part of the price of getting a 22 year old car.

Got it home and did a bit of an inspection on it.  Looks like the car has had a re-spray at some point. A bit of orange peal but the body is pretty solid except for the rocker panels which are in bad shape under the aero plastic.  AMC SX/4 Sports have a lot of the chrome trim blacked out but much of the chrome trim has lost its coating of paint so the trim looks tacky.  Won't take much more than a rattle can and some tape to bring all that back to life.

Click for larger view

The interior is pretty good except for the driver's seat which is quite torn up.  I'm probably just going to put on some seat covers for now until I can find an auto upholstery shop that can replace the torn seat panels.  I need to find the end cap for the seat mechanism which is broken and gone.  Also I'm trying to figure out what the broken-off knob is to the right of the steering column.

Click for larger view

Just to the right of the steering column there is a black thing that looks like a cable pull that the knob is broken off.  Anyone know what that is? 
(Later:  turns out to be the hood release)

Seat vinyl is in very good shape but the driver's side cloth inserts are trashed. 

I need to find a replacement end cap to cover the driver's seat hinge mechanism.

Now the bad news and something he didn't tell me about. Assuming the oil pressure gauge is working, all other gauges including the clock work, then there is little oil pressure. The needle just hovers above the zero mark about where 5 lbs would be if it were marked. I'm hoping that when I call him he tells me that the gauge doesn't work but I fear the worst.  But hopefully the oil is just low or the gauge not working.  Oh please God?

I can't figure out where the hood release is on this thing!  After I post this stuff I'll go back out and try to get it open so I can check the oil and other fluids.

Originally I was going to try to find a set of original equipment aluminum wheels but once I saw these in person I think cleaning them up and repainting the centers will be all it needs.  They actually are pretty sharp.  Another early project will be to re-do the trailer hitch.  Rusted and really ugly but it is just a bumper hitch and I doubt that it would be strong enough to pull my double snowmobile trailer with my Moto Guzzi sidecar rig on it.

Click for larger view

Good news is that my wife, Patti, took a look at the car and loved it.  I always buy such weird vehicles that I was sure she was expecting it to be some kind of ugly monster but she was very impressed.  Of course I've been talking of getting a SX/4 for about two years and I've shown here many photos of them so she was probably prepared for this one.

12:45  Jim Blair on the AMC_Eagle list told me that the broken handle to the right of the steering wheel was the hood latch.  I'd tried pulling on it thinking that might have been it but once he told me then I put a vice grip on it and pulled and popped the hood just as the heavens opened up with SNOW.  I decided to wait a bit before crawling under the car to take photos until the snow stopped.  Also he and the previous owner now assure me that the oil pressure gauges in these things are "for entertainment purposes only."  I'm told the only way to know for sure is to hook up a mechanical gauge.

1:15 Snow stopped and the sun came out.  Strange weather.  Went out to take some more photos, check the oil and other fluids.  Oil seems to be at full so now my hope is that it is the gauge.  I'll have to go pick up an after-market gauge and check the pressure.  I also need to change oil and filter right away.  Got a chance to crawl under the car and look for rust.  The front of the frame rails are rusted pretty bad and the rocker panels are gone but other than that it looks pretty solid under there.

Click for larger view

My new hood release handle, until I can snag a better one on e-Bay.

Couldn't figure out what this was until someone told me it is a vent for the transfer case.

Drivers side, front of frame rail where it meets the upper rail.  Massive rust, and what is with the bondo?

Passenger side front of frame rail, same kind of rust.  Looks like some time this summer I'll have to find a good welder.

(Had new plates welded in on both sides in 2007)

Another view of the passenger side rust.

(Had new plates welded in on both sides in 2007)

Looking up from under the rocker panel, which is no longer there.  Good thing the plastic aero piece is on the outside or the car would look very shabby.

May 5, 2005
I've had barely a moment to play with my new toy.  I'm pretty much retired from my Web design company but I still have one customer I take care of and we've been working on a complete redesign of their site so I've had barely a moment to spare.  Today I have to do the invoicing that should have been done on the 1st and I have a person coming over to help me get the pool area ready for summer so I don't see having any time today either.  But with the weekend coming and I not knowing of any plans Patti might have for me, there may be some time to play.

One thing that has kinda been bothering me:  When I bought my new 81 Eagle I remember one of the big selling points was their alliance with Ziebart anti-rust coatings.  That was one of the Eagle's best selling points.  Supposedly the bodies and frames were dipped in big vats of Ziebart before they were painted.  Sure didn't seem to help this car.

May 24, 2005
Bought a new carburetor on e-Bay for $50.  Supposedly it was newly rebuilt and with larger jets.  Now have to make the time to put it on.  Also picked up new hatch support struts, about $50 new for two at the local parts store.

April 16, 2006
It's been a long time since I've written and I've now done something crazy...
See Diary Page 2


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