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  • December 05, 2022, 08:31:07 PM

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Author Topic: 1980 Eagle Wagon - Great Beater Challenge Build  (Read 197 times)

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Offline Jobflobadob

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1980 Eagle Wagon - Great Beater Challenge Build
« on: November 11, 2022, 03:02:36 AM »
After a long overdue period from my introduction post until now, here is my project a thread for our 1980 AMC Eagle. I have long been wanting to post this in hopes of helping others and learning some modifications I can do to. Unfortunately, the timing of this post is due to a car accident we were in, which has given me enough downtime to finally document a project of mine instead of just working at it 😊, and we are now down a 2010 Chevy Cobalt and we want to be driving it again regularly. This car was given to us by my father-in-law to take on a cross province 1000 kilometer round trip called the Great Beater Challenge 2021, with the goal being to spend $700 or less to purchase a car, get it running and street legal, and hope it makes the journey without breaking down.  I had never really paid attention to these old wagons sitting out back in his yard until he had told me they were four-wheel drive. Other than the 1980 he has given us, there is a 1986 with blue leather interior, 1983 limited, a 1981 and a 1981 shell. Plus I purchased a cheap 82 sedan for parts too. We will be selling parts and most of these cars  very soon, I will be sure to list some things here. This is a timeline of from when I purchased this car, until now.



These are the photos I received in early 2021 of our to-be candidate.

May 17, 2021 - We made the 3-hour drive north up to see the car and its condition.  I was told it was running just fine when parked, and it had new brakes. There appeared to be very little rust despite the tall grass growing all around it, the interior was filthy but not destroyed, and all tires were dry rotted, flat and sunk several inches into the ground. After checking the oil, adding a gallon of coolant to the radiator, sticking in a battery, and a couple gallons of fresh 87 octane I was greeted with a loud dull clunk, and by the sound, I knew instantly the starter had engaged properly and I was staring at a seized engine.  After letting some seafoam deep creep sit in the cylinders for an hour or so I started working the engine back and forth with the breaker bar slowly.  When I could finally make a full revolution on the engine, the plug wires fired, setting fire to the the engine bay, and all of the tall grass around me in a dry field, causing me to beat it out with my arms while simultaneously soiling my shorts. After reinstalling the plugs and wires and about 30 seconds of cranking, it started bucking and eventually roared to life with some throttle.  It would not idle, and pulling the coolant cap about 60 seconds after it started resulted in being instantly showered with cool coolant (should have squeezed that upper rad hose). There was a large amount of blow-by at the oil fill cap, so I brought the RPM up to 2000 and attempted to let it sit for 20 minutes while keeping my eye on the temperature gauge.  It only made it about 12 before the radiator cap started squealing, but at this point most of the rings had freed themselves and only a slight haze would appear, though it did not idle well at all. The car was shut down and a parts/to-do list planned.


As we had to keep track of all expenses for this challenge and had a maximum of $700 CAD, we decided the car would be worth $100, which isn’t far off from other decrepit eagle ads in the area.  We were allowed certain items related to safety that would not hit our budget, I think mainly brakes and tires. Donations were allowed at low (Pick n pull) pricing. I purchased a $99.95 head gasket set from a local machine shop, a carb kit and headlight adjustment screws from local part stores totalling $56.55, and a PartsAvatar order of $238.27 worth of brake, ignition, and general tune-up parts to ensure its survival for the trip. The set of tires on the car were dry rotted so bad that they would not hold air longer than about 15 minutes, so a friend of mine sold me a decent set of 205/55R15 winter tires on rims that had the wrong bolt pattern for $80. Fortunately, I have a good relationship with the owner of a service station and he allowed me to mount and balance these tires onto the factory rims at no charge. The fluids were donated by my workplace, Canyon Casing Services. At this point I was very busy with work and was unable to get to work on the car until only 6 days before the challenge…


On August 22-23, 2021 – We headed north again to get the car ready for the challenge. After airing the tires and flopping a spare truck battery under the hood, we finally got it to start and drove it into the garage. At this point there was no key in the ignition, it had a broken-off stub of one left in there. When I shut off the car this time, the key lock in the GM manual transmission column engaged and nothing I could do at this point would get the tumbler to rotate over again. My close friend (also named Ryan), came over with his lock-plate removal tool and removed the ignition, and I was able to order one in for $28 in two days. Over the next two days, a lot of work was performed. After the head was removed, I taught my girlfriend Nancy how to lap valves and fully rebuild the head by herself. I was about to replace the front rotors/pads and rear shoes/wheel cylinders, but they had been replaced before parked and were just rusty, so I flushed the radiator with simple green, changed the engine oil, thermostat, transmission filter, fixed a few hours of wiring gremlins, cleaned the car out, rebuilt the carburetor, and did a lot of cleaning and painting pulleys and brackets. We had mostly everything back together by mid-afternoon of the 23rd, only to be called back home to work.


« Last Edit: November 12, 2022, 02:26:03 PM by Jobflobadob »

Online vangremlin

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Re: 1980 Eagle Wagon - Great Beater Challenge Build
« Reply #1 on: November 11, 2022, 11:18:08 AM »
Thanks for sharing the writeup on your Eagle.  Can't wait to read more.
« Last Edit: November 11, 2022, 03:56:34 PM by vangremlin »
1981 Kammback 258 - "Pepe"
1980 Coupe 258 - "Ginger
1972 Gremlin X 304
1978 Gremlin 4 cyl 121 - sold
1964 TBird 390 - sold

Offline Jobflobadob

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Re: 1980 Eagle Wagon - Great Beater Challenge Build
« Reply #2 on: November 11, 2022, 01:07:59 PM »
It was very late last night when I attempted to post, and this morning have finally figured out how to embed photos properly without paying for photobucket  :hello2:. Photos should be working now, and I will post the rest of the story.

Offline Jobflobadob

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Re: 1980 Eagle Wagon - Great Beater Challenge Build
« Reply #3 on: November 11, 2022, 01:35:45 PM »
August 25, 2021 - We made our way north to the car again, this time with a trailer in tow. We had the rest of the car together by the evening of the 25th, but still had the same issues of stalling in gear, misfiring at high RPM, and not wanting to idle. After several hours of adjusting timing and playing with the carb adjustments, we called it quits early AM, very concerned as we were down to less than 48 hours before the challenge.
August 26, 2021 - After much fiddling with timing and carb settings yet again, we were able to finally get it to drive around the subdivision about 45km/h without issue for about 5 minutes, until the car died due to the alternator failing. Nancy brought my truck around, but when we attempted to boost it, the starter would only spin and not engage. Awesome. Furious at this point, we loaded it onto the trailer, while I made calls on the way back home to line up a new starter and alternator for the next day, both Wilson brand and only costing me roughly $62 a piece with a 5-year warranty. That had calmed me down a bit, but we were down to less than 24 hours for our challenge.


August 27, 2021 - I unloaded the car at my workplace, and installed the starter and alternator. The car fired up, still running rather rough but idling. I rushed to get insurance and registration, and my friend Ryan who was also entering this challenge in a 1977 Cutlass Supreme came down to help me with the final tuning as we were to leave in the morning. Try as we might, we could not get up to past 50km/h before it would stall out and die. It had even started overheating again. At 11pm we called it quits, very disappointed, especially as it was Nancy’s birthday the next day and we were greatly looking forward to this challenge. Instead, the 28th was spend driving to High River to visit the partial set of the Heartland tv series. We would have done well, at this point we only had $726.77 with over $200 in safety write offs.


September, 2021
I came back to this car very quickly early September with a fresh head, not being driven to madness by the deadline for the challenge. This car had really grown on me as I worked on it, I think the allure is not just the 4x4, but the mismatch of every domestic manufacturer’s parts at that time. I found the GM manual transmission column paired with the Chrysler A998 hilarious, as well as a GM alternator, and Ford starter/ignition and front calipers. I really wanted to revive this wagon. I started at the basics, reset the carb to factory positioning, no change. Checked timing, nothing out of the ordinary. Followed cap firing order, and here was my issue. My friend (who is very smart) installed the plug wires, and the diagram he used must have been wrong or possibly for another engine. I felt no need to check his work, but sure enough, two or possibly three wires were in the wrong position. After getting the proper firing order, the engine sounded and ran better than it ever had. After an initial test drive, I was finally able to get it up to over 65km/h around town for a short bit. Even though it felt underpowered (I did not expect much at 120hp), it did not stall, stutter or fail to idle reliably now. I was slightly disappointed that something so simple could have set me to fail, but little did I know this was the least of my problems to come. I towed the car back to my house, and decided to delete the EGR and ceramic coat the (cracked ☹) exhaust manifold, and paint the intake, along replacing all vacuum lines.

Cost was no longer really tracked or cared about at this point, and I just wanted everything to be reliable. I even purchased a 1981 sedan for $250 for parts, especially as it had a brand-new header pipe and exhaust in the backseat, Aluminum rims, a decent grill, bumpers, headlight panels, as well as 3 clusters with factory tachometers.

I took it for another test drive on open roads and got it up to 80km/h and then 100km/h for the first time, and I was ecstatic. Very shortly I realized that the engine sounded like it was at a very high RPM for the speed I was doing. I stopped, and manually ran the transmission through the gears, and I did have all three. I put it off as possibly tire size or gear ratio, until the temperature started skyrocketing and the car started losing a lot of power. I pulled over to steam and smoke, realizing that the underpowered feeling and overheating being caused by the same thing, both front brake calipers were badly sticking and at high speeds they had now locked on. By the time I got home, I had to literally throw some of the freshly fallen snow onto the rotors as it was dusk and they were glowing a dull orange. Thankfully I had bought new rotors and pads that I had never installed, now I just needed to buy some calipers. This is when I realized that I was going to be in for a lot of trouble sourcing some parts due to the cars age (anybody sourcing front end parts will know). I could not find any calipers local to me at the time and RockAuto shipping with a core charge kills that idea, so I decided the ones I had. I set about blasting/painting the rear drums and rebuilding the rear brakes completely, and I had managed to find one set of seals/piston and have it rebuilt, but when I went to the machine shop my neighbour works at in search of front-end parts, he sold me a set marked as fitting a 1977 Ford F100 that were the exact same. After dropping these in along with brand new soft lines, pads, and rotors, I decided to do the master cylinder as well. I could not find a rebuilt one of these anywhere, as the 1980 has the lines facing the driver side, so I sourced an AC Delco kit that fit.





Offline Jobflobadob

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Re: 1980 Eagle Wagon - Great Beater Challenge Build
« Reply #4 on: November 11, 2022, 02:17:55 PM »
I will have to post the rest later, I keep getting enable javascript errors from CleanTalk.

Offline TheBirdman

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Re: 1980 Eagle Wagon - Great Beater Challenge Build
« Reply #5 on: November 11, 2022, 09:18:23 PM »
Man, excellent work, I love a good beater fix-up. Reminds me of when I first got my eagle.
83 eagle wagon 4.0

Offline Jobflobadob

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Re: 1980 Eagle Wagon - Great Beater Challenge Build
« Reply #6 on: November 12, 2022, 01:52:56 PM »
After bleeding the brakes, I headed out for what I expected to be another test drive of disappointment, but this is where this story turns around. The car was now able to move on its own accord in gear without touching the gas, would spin all 4 tires on the gravel taking off with a stab of the throttle, and felt faster than ever before. I drove past my house several times before going on a 20-minute ride before coming back. The car still ran warm for the cool October air, but had behaved normally otherwise. I ordered a new water pump, fan clutch, and removed the radiator from the sedan I bought to swap over, as the old one was leaking and I assumed was half plugged. The water pump looked fine, but I wanted to be sure. I also flushed the transmission cooler, and changed all of the rotting rubber lines to it. After swapping all of these components in along with new V-belts, temperature was down to normal levels and It made its first official trip to town, straight to the car wash. Only 5 weeks past deadline.



« Last Edit: November 12, 2022, 01:53:25 PM by Jobflobadob »

Offline Jobflobadob

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Re: 1980 Eagle Wagon - Great Beater Challenge Build
« Reply #7 on: November 12, 2022, 02:21:26 PM »
October 2021 - Now that all of the running issues were beat, I went after all of the little things that were annoying me. The headliner was sagging badly and I was able tow get it back up into place with some 3M spray adhesive, but it will need to be replaced in the future. I removed the rear trim pieces to bring back to their factory black color, but unfortunately wound up breaking several clips that I can not find anywhere.The sport gauge console never had a harness, but now with the 81 sedan, I could wire it in along with the vacuum gauge. I was surprised to find them all operational, even the clock. The Digital clock in the cluster had never worked and I was dead set on a tachometer anyways. Out of the three clusters, only one worked, and I was almost certain it was broken. It was showing me nearly 3000rpm at 100km/h! Did a little more digging, and found out about the factory tow package. This wagon has a hitch, (blown) air-assist shocks in the rear, factory under-hood  air compressor, additional transmission cooler, and the big surprise… 3.54 gears.  I had read most were 2.35 or 2.72 ratio, but mine are on the opposite extreme, especially with a non-overdrive automatic. It now made sense why it didn’t exactly have to get out of other people’s way. The downside to this is obviously fuel economy, and a manual transmission is definitely in the books. Nancy and I enjoyed driving it most of October and November, and that is when the next problem hit.

Offline Jobflobadob

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Re: 1980 Eagle Wagon - Great Beater Challenge Build
« Reply #8 on: November 12, 2022, 02:23:38 PM »
November 9 2021 – While driving to work, the car started ticking, the top end type. Pulled the valve cover, and was greeted by a ton of slop on the #5 exhaust rocker, due to the lifter collapsing. Attempted seafoam in the crankcase, smacking with a wooden dowel, nothing would free it. Highly disappointed again, as It only had 2000km with a new head gasket on it and I had to remove the head to access the lifters. Later that week I decided to install the new shocks (deleting the air assist) in the rear, as well as changing the rear differential oil. I modified a spare stereo console to fit a cheap Chinese Bluetooth stereo, and added a subwoofer and amp a friend gave me that is way too large for the factory charging system. This month every single Headlight gave out, and was replaced.


Offline Jobflobadob

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Re: 1980 Eagle Wagon - Great Beater Challenge Build
« Reply #9 on: November 12, 2022, 02:25:30 PM »
December 11 2021- New Years – Decided to pull a Griswold, took a spare Christmas tree from my grandparent’s estate sale, put a few strings of Dollar Store battery powered LED Lights on it, and strapped it to the roof. Got many comments and laughs. It did not get driven much, as I did not want to hurt the engine further. I decided to park it, and this brings us till about 5 weeks ago, where I went to start it with the new interstate group 56 I had put into it and it would barely crank, with a fully charged battery. The cheap Wilson re-man starter turned red hot and started smoking and it was off for a replacement, thankfully under warranty. Well, hope this post wasn’t too long winded and you enjoyed the ups-and downs of this little revival story, and I will be keeping up to date with this now much more frequently as I am going to need a whole pile of advice and info on stuff such as a CS series alternator and TBI swap that will be done very soon, to an AX15/NSG370 to a Volkswagen TDI swap in the future. I recently received my RockAuto order of new gaskets, lifters, pushrods, and a rocker arm to get this back on the road for winter, and we are looking forward to driving this again!

Offline Jobflobadob

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Re: 1980 Eagle Wagon - Great Beater Challenge Build
« Reply #10 on: November 19, 2022, 07:32:48 AM »
Finally got around to tearing down the car the last few days. We headed north to our parts cars, and pulled the later aluminum intake manifold, exhaust manifold, and transmission linkage bracket needed to update to the later manifolds. I also snagged the aluminum valve cover, as I was really tired of not being able to find an oil cap that would seal properly. A new set of lifters, pushrods, gaskets, and a single rocker was ordered through RockAuto to get it running again. Teardown went fast, and I was pleased to see the new CS130 alternator fit perfectly into the factory bracket under the York AC compressor.  After the head was removed, the lifters were finally accessible, but did not want to come out easily. I had to pull them up as far as they would come with a magnet, and use needle nose pliers to pull it the rest of the way from the bore.  The lifters looked terrible, and when I got to cylinder 5 exhaust, I new I was in for the big job. The lifter hadn’t collapsed like I had thought, but rather wiped the cam lobe and bottom of the lifter off. Every lifter in the engine was concave at the base, some more than .050”. They weren’t removed during the head gasket, I always ran zinc additive, and we were very clean about re-assembly so I can likely put this one down to sitting for 12 years. It was seized originally after all. After some research online and calls to a few machine shops, I was able to order a stock Melling MC809 camshaft and timing set for after the weekend for $247. I was going to go with the Enginetech ES1122R, but I am guessing it is no longer in production. I wasn’t going to go with a pricier grind, as this motor will be coming out for a BHW TDI 2.0 passat engine after it is converted to an ax15/np242. As I was removing the radiator, I could see the replacement starting to leak at one of the upper corners, so it looks like an aluminum CJ ebay radiator will take its place soon, as the aftermarket spectra radiator is no  longer available. I decided to call it quits at the timing set until parts come in, and I am sure hoping I can get the camshaft out of the front without pulling the engine, but there doesn’t look to be much room even with the condenser and grill removed.

Offline TheBirdman

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Re: 1980 Eagle Wagon - Great Beater Challenge Build
« Reply #11 on: November 19, 2022, 10:24:28 AM »
Dang, shame about the lifter. When they go, they go hard. Id say swap it with a little hotter cam from a 4.0, but since youre swapping the motor anyway, it hardly matters. if the cam wont come out through the radiator hole, you could unbolt the transmission crossmember and jack up the transfer case end a bit to bring the nose end down.
83 eagle wagon 4.0

 

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