Today we wrap up our Rare Rides series on the orphan Eagle Premier (other five parts here), and discuss the boxy sedan’s important legacy at Chrysler.
Though praised by the automotive press at the time, the Franco-American Eagle Premier fit in neither with Chrysler’s K-everything lineup nor with the Japanese and French Eagle offerings. By the time it was introduced, the early Eighties Renault 25 platform underneath it was also fairly dated. As a result, Premier was on sale for just five model years before its cancellation.
At debut in 1988, Chrysler still promised another variant of the Premier: the Dick Teague-designed coupe referenced previously. While the base LX had minimal exterior trim and was the truest to Guigiaro’s design, Chrysler added cladding to the upscale ES version. ES also used bucket seats, a firmer suspension, and offered a console shifter. 1989 was the last time the Premier coupe was promised, announced by Iacocca himself in an attempt to prop up Eagle sales. While the coupe never launched, an ES Limited trim appeared and made the Premier monochromatic.
Halfway through its run, Premier was reworked for 1990. Disc brakes arrived alongside a stainless steel exhaust system. Chrysler threw out the Renix (Renault-Bendix) electrical system for a Chrysler one. Of note, Renix also supplied the electronic fuel injection on the Jeep 2.5- and 4.0-liter engines. Chrysler fiddled with the Premier’s exterior this year too and took away the Guigiaro badging from the front fender trim. The true base four-cylinder model went away as it was unpopular (and inconvenient, see below), leaving only the V6.
This year also saw the introduction of the slightly downmarket Dodge Monaco, a resurrection of a nameplate that was dormant since 1979. In the Dodge lineup, Monaco was a replacement for the recently deceased midsize Diplomat. Like the cancellation of the four-cylinder engine, Monaco was created for one specific reason: Chrysler needed to shift more PRV V6 engines. The company was contractually obligated to buy 260,000 engines, but Premier sales had totaled under 90,000 for its first two years of production.
The Premier and Monaco continued through 1991 and 1992 relatively unchanged, as their future had already been sealed by Chrysler. By then the company fulfilled their PRV engine contract and had a new line of cars: the LH platform Eagle Vision, Dodge Intrepid, and Chrysler Concorde.
Chrysler appointed a new VP of product engineering in 1988, François Castaing, who was formerly with Renault and AMC and was very familiar with the Premier. Late in 1989, it was decided Chrysler would use the Premier as the basis for its upcoming sedans, as it was the most modern vehicle in the company’s lineup. Castaing used many of the Premier’s characteristics to develop the LH, specifically its longitudinal engine layout. The layout was a Renault hallmark, and different from the transverse front-drive tradition at Chrysler. Also ported over to LH were the Premier’s suspension design and select components of the braking system.
Paired to the longitudinal engine was a new Chrysler four-speed automatic transmission that was very similar to the Premier’s automatic. And when Chrysler sent out LH prototypes for road testing, they used Premier body shells. LH cars went into production the ’93 model year and took up the space at Brampton Assembly formerly occupied by Premier. LH was designed with flexibility in mind and accommodated front- or rear-wheel drive. The rear-drive version was eventually named LX and was used in the new Chrysler 300 of 2005-2010.
The Premier behind these Rare Ride entries was for sale via well-known eBay dealer Rover Classic at some point. A 1989 of ES Trim, this example was white and gray over red velour, and in superb condition. Looks like it was donated to a car auction with a broken indicator lens, and Rover Classic cleaned it up for sale. Easy money, eh?
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