Heeding the Eagle’s call and trekking to the Summit

Chrysler - Eagle

There are treasures found in long-forgotten barns, among the hallowed classifieds of Craigslist, and even in the up-and-coming pages of Facebook Marketplace. The supply is sufficient to stock an entire forum on the Hagerty Community, and that’s where we met David and his 1989 Eagle Summit. That’s right, an Eagle Summit. 

First, a primer on how this forgotten automobile came to be. Back in 1987, Chrysler did Renault a solid by purchasing its shares of American Motors Corp., a decision that likely stemmed from the 1986 assassination of Renault’s pro-AMC chairman Georges Besse by a far-left French terrorist group. Getting the legendary Jeep brand proved a brilliant long-term move for ChryCo, but contractual obligations with standalone AMC/Jeep dealerships ensured the need for a secondary product line that directly competed with Chrysler automobiles. Far from an auspicious start, but this is why Chrysler continued to make Renaults, and why the company spread its love affair with captive imports based on Mitsubishi designs to the formerly-AMC-now-Eagle brand. Behold the third generation Mitsubishi Mirage … so to speak.

David has a soft spot for these captive imports, and his affection dates back to his earliest automotive purchase: “I realize it’s not a Corvette or a muscle car, but it does connect me to the first car I ever bought brand-new.” Though the subject of the following images from Facebook Marketplace isn’t David’s original Eagle Summit, it’s already a significant car in his life.

Late last year David searched Facebook Marketplace on a whim, typed in Eagle Summit, and actually found one for sale in a stunning condition just a few hundred miles away. He bought it for a song, considering it’s a like-new car with only 41,000 miles on the clock. Nostalgia spurred the purchase, as his original Eagle Summit was the same model year (’89) and trim level (DL).

During his tenure as a young marine in Camp Pendleton, David was walking up Hill Street in Oceanside, California when he spotted a white Eagle Summit DL with grey seats and Midnight Blue carpeting at the local Jeep/Eagle dealership. Since the sister-ship Mitsubishi Mirage was often sold locally with black bumpers, the Eagle stood out to David: Even in baseline DL trim, it wore painted bumpers.

Over the years David grew to love his Eagle. It proved trustworthy, asking only a clutch and a timing belt servicing before he traded it in so that his wife could buy a new 1997 Mustang. While he didn’t regret the decision at the time, he never forgot about his Eagle, and that memory makes him truly appreciate the slice of history now in his possession.

David’s new Eagle has a story of its own, too. The original owner was a Californian who passed away in 1991, where it remained in his garage until 2018. That’s when a gentleman in Nevada named Tam purchased it. Because of complications with the purchase, Tam got a bonded title, which likely saved this endangered specimen from certain death. Shortly afterwards, Tam replaced the spark plugs, wires, and tires, slightly overfilled it with oil. (Luckily he didn’t drive it much, so no engine damage occurred.) Years later, David connected with Tam on Facebook Marketplace when the Eagle needed a new home. But it was not without months of waiting in anticipation, as Tam received no reasonable offers until David messaged him three months after his listing went live on Facebook Marketplace.

The only major problems were a handful of door dings (presumably from another car in the previous owner’s garage), signs of water ingress in the trunk, and a fair amount of dust on the dashboard. David quickly cleaned up the trunk and the interior, and—after speaking to yours truly—has plans to find a local paintless dent removal specialist to address the dings. He loves driving the Eagle, especially since this time capsule is also a time machine: Even the engine’s unique tone at idle takes him back to his first new car.

David the OP

And while David’s original Eagle is long gone, its replacement now sits under a carport, protected with a car cover. The protections are welcome, since, according to marque forums, a resurgence in Eagle Summit ownership (yes, really) occurred thanks to its association with turbocharged Mitsubishis of the era. All it takes is a 4G63 swap, a lot of time, and a modest chunk of cash to run 11s in the quarter mile.

While aware of the potential to spank muscle cars in an Eagle Summit sedan (or in the more humiliating/desirable all-wheel drive wagon) David is only interested in enjoying his purchase as it came to his carport from Facebook Marketplace. The plan is to use the Eagle sparingly, saddling it with the stresses of daily commuting only upon occasion. Basic maintenance is in the Eagle’s future, since the vehicle still has its original belts and hoses. David’s confident the next repair bill will be modest, however, because even the CV joints still look like new!

I asked David about his friend’s reactions to his new Eagle, and the responses he relayed aren’t terribly shocking. The friend who was generous enough to store his original Eagle (back when the Marines shipped him overseas) didn’t even remember David’s first one. Other friends felt the new-to-him vehicle will be a money pit, but David’s confident in the Eagle’s condition and in the simplistic nature of its affordable Mitsubishi DNA.

I asked one final and somewhat obvious question to David: Is this 1989 Eagle Summit DL a forever car? His answer was priceless. “I think so, it’s a tie to a time in my life when I was relatively happy in my 20s. I had an overabundance of enthusiasm and hope for the future. While that wanes when you are in your 40s and 50s, and while I am not an unhappy person today, this connection to great times in my past is just so rewarding!”

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