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AMC History:   Nash and Hudson · Rambler · Kenosha Muscle · AMC Marque · Renault and Jeep · Foreign · Prototypes
Endgame:
Renault and Jeep
Lacking the resources to replace its aging line of cars, AMC began seeking a foreign partner in the late 70s. The company entered into a joint venture agreement with Renault, the French automaker, in 1979, under which AMC would sell Renault cars in the U.S. and later produce a Renault-designed car at its Kenosha plant. In 1980 Renault acquired a 46% stake in AMC and assumed virtual control over the company's management. Renault models began rolling out of Kenosha in 1982. 

Renault, which had problems of its own, turned out to be a less than ideal partner. Luckily, American Motors had made a smarter deal back in 1970, when it acquired Jeep from Kaiser Industries. AMC immediately set out to expand the consumer appeal of the venerable Jeep trademark, and was as successful with Jeep as it had been unsuccessful with most of its later passenger cars. Production rose from 36,354 in 1970 to 168,548 in 1978 and 243,406 in 1986. When Chrysler acquired AMC in 1987, the big prize was Jeep; by then, AMC's position in the car business had sunk to an all-time low.

     
Renault Alliance  

photo from Tom Croley
Production of the Renault Alliance began in June 1982 (as an '83 model). The cars were labeled "Renault/AMC," but were definitely not AMC designs. Though sound in concept (fine handling, excellent ride, acceptable power), the Renault cars were poorly executed, suffering from appalling quality problems (I can testify to that). Repeating an old AMC pattern, sales were strong for a couple years and then dropped like a stone. The original standard engine was a 1.4 liter four with fuel injection (fairly rare on economy cars back then). A 1.7 liter engine became available in 1985, as did a convertible model that boasted the lowest sticker price of any domestic ragtop. 
     
  Renault Encore
A hatchback model called the Encore was added to the lineup in 1984. It featured unusual wraparound rear glass and a surprisingly large cargo area; from the doors forward it was essentially identical to the Alliance. For 1987 the Encore name was dropped and the cars were called Alliance hatchbacks.  1984 Renault/AMC Encore
Jim in the driver's seat of Loretta the Red Renault ('84 Encore)
     
Renault GTA  

1987 Renault GTA, photo provided by Johnny Angel
For 1987 there was a surprising last hurrah for the AMC/Renault partnership: the Renault GTA, based on the Alliance (but with not one Alliance badge on the car), souped up with a 2.0 liter TBI motor, an honest-to-God 5-speed, P205 50R-15 tires, and a full aero package. It came in a 2 dr sedan and convertible, and initially in 3 colors - red, white, and black. Later in the year, metallic silver was added. (Thanks to John F. Norton for some of this information.) Click here for additional information on the GTA by Joe Krepps.
     
  Renault imports
AMC dealerships sold several different Renault cars imported from France, including the teensy "Le Car," the sporty but odd Fuego, and the mainstream compact Medallion.  None exactly took the world by storm, and there seems to be little collector interest in any of them at this point.  After Chrysler acquired AMC, the Medallion was sold for a while with an Eagle badge. Matthew Seech has created a web page for his 1988 Medallion wagon, probably the only Medallion page you'll see anywhere. 1988 Renault Medallion Wagon
1988 Renault Medallion, photo by Matthew Seech
     
Eagle Premier
The Eagle Premier, which went on sale after AMC was acquired by Chrysler, was developed by AMC and Renault for North America, and was the last vestige of American Motors in the passenger car market. Dodge sold a version of the Premier rebadged as the Monaco, but neither version sold very well. Chrysler's hugely successful LH cars, many of which are made in the Bramalea plant built for Premier production, are said to bear a striking mechanical resemblance to the Premier/Monaco, especially in the fairly unusual north-south engine layout. Check out the Eagle Premier and Dodge Monaco Home page for info and photos.
     
  Jeep
AMC's legacy still lives on in the Jeep line, but just barely. The Cherokee, which revolutionized the sport utility vehicle when it was introduced as a 1984 model, survived until 2002, when it was replaced by the cartoonish, overweight Liberty. Although it was freshened for 1997, it remained true to the original AMC design until the end. The fine inline 4.0 liter Jeep six and the 2.5 liter four -- the last in a series of AMC motors dating back to 1964 -- remain in production but probably not for long, because DaimlerChrysler is reducing the number of different engines it produces. AMC's "YJ" Wrangler was replaced in 1997 with the substantially new "TJ" model, but if you look at the door handles you'll see its AMC heritage. Sean Bergeron has updated his history of the XJ Series Jeeps introduced by AMC in 1984 (Cherokee/Wagoneer/Comanche).
1997 Cherokee

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Back: Part 4: The American Motors Marque