Tony has wanted an Eagle Talon since he gazed upon one from the bus more than 20 years ago. Hard work and some struggles earned him a 1998 Eagle Talon TSi.
The driver and car
Tony of Florida drives a 1998 Eagle Talon TSi. This Black hatchback is part of the Talon’s second generation and is the final production year for the model, as well as the final year for the Eagle subdivision of Chrysler. Tony’s Talon uses a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that produces 210 horsepower and 214 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels via a 5-speed manual transmission.
The Talon shares its platform with the Plymouth Laser and Mitsubishi Eclipse, all of which were manufactured during the Diamond-Star Motors (DSM) partnership between Chrysler and Mitsubishi. In fact, this Talon’s turbo engine was manufactured by Mitsubishi.
Tony’s Eagle Talon TSi came equipped with Package 23P, which included air conditioning, cruise control, and power windows and door locks. Additional optional equipment includes anti-lock brakes, power sunroof, and a cassette/CD player with graphic equalizer and 8 Infinity speakers.
The TSi designation added: turbocharged engine, sport-tuned exhaust system, upgraded suspension, split folding rear seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel and manual gearshift handle, power mirrors, turbo boost and oil pressure gauges, lighted visor mirrors, rear defogger, cargo area cover, cargo net, lower body side cladding, and fog lamps.
Since getting the car in 2012, Tony has been working on replacing and upgrading parts:
“I went hunting on eBay and junkyards from 2012–2015 to replace the missing lug cover for one of the rims and a passenger side door striker. I ordered a new bumper made of flexible material and found a cargo area cover. I took mudflaps off a Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX but haven’t installed them yet.
“I found side marker lights. I replaced the trim that goes over the top of the windows, along with the interior cargo area paneling and missing interior screw covers.
“I waxed the car a bunch of times with help from my family. My friend Jim helped me replace the starter with an original OEM part. I replaced the spark plugs, which I now regret — I should have kept the NGKs, which gave better pickup. I restored the headlights and replaced the brake light bulbs.
“I ‘d like to find fog lights. I want to fix the leaky sunroof. I might add a ground effects kit and engine light kit. I want to get rid of the rust all over the car. I’d like to do a full interior and exterior restoration with someone who could upload the work to YouTube or television and sponsor it. I could do it myself but I’d need professional guidance.”
“I tinted the windows and taillights with my girlfriend, Ashley. I added blue bulbs to the floor interior corner lights. There is no catalytic converter — just a straight pipe to the muffler!”
The car came with a drop-in box K&N air filter, rear window tints, and chrome aftermarket Status wheels.
Tony’s Eagle Talon TSi story
“The first time I laid eyes on an Eagle Talon was in 1997 while riding home on the school bus. The car pulled up next to us at a light. In front of us were two lanes that merged into one. As the light turned green, this Talon kept pace while the female driver waved to us. With a quick press of the gas pedal the car zoomed right by us exactly at the point at which the two lanes met, narrowly escaping a collision. I said to myself, ‘Who was that girl and what kind of car is that?’
“The very next day I saw the car pass by school as I exited the bus. All day long I was wondering who owns that car. I start asking around and then rumors started over who the owner was. To my surprise the rumors were true. It was a girl who used to ride the bus with us every day, always keeping quiet to herself and minding her own business.
“One day she just didn’t get on the bus and I thought she might have taken a sick day. Now with a gorgeous red 1997 Eagle Talon, she was like every teenager who had been liberated from dependence on public transportation and parents. She was free from restrictions on where, when, and who you could see and go to. She was a free bird, flying solo and uncompromised.
“I remember saying to myself in a whisper when she had driven by with such oomph, ‘Wow, I am going to have a car like that one day, in black, but it isn’t going to be until I am an adult.’
“Giving myself such a limiting statement is an insight as to how I regarded my abilities and self-esteem. Growing up working class, I was always being told that I would never have money and that I was poor. Fast forward to 2012 and I was down on my luck and seriously considering some lifestyle choices. The hunt was on. I wanted to accomplish my goals and getting an Eagle Talon was one of them. Nothing could stop me.
“I went on three test drives and credit must be given to my friend Jim, who drove me to New Jersey twice to try and find a Talon that wasn’t molested, souped up improperly, butchered, or made to be a pig with lipstick. At first I drove to N.J. myself to test an Eagle Talon base model. I was hugely disappointed. Then I found a 1998 Eagle Talon TSi AWD.
“This car had been modified by a mechanic who worked for Mitshubishi. He also owned an Eclipse and Lancer. He knew exactly what he was doing, but he took a few shortcuts with the modification of the car. I gave respect for his work but found myself unable to come up with the $5K that he wanted for the car in time. He was on a time limit to take his Eclipse to race in Englishtown, N.J.
“I test drove that car and was totally wanting to buy it, as it had been working correctly and would have been a simple title and registration deal. He ended up selling the car to someone else. Two months later I found that car on craigslist, and the day I went up to see it the camshaft sensor failed and the car was towed to the new owner’s home.
“After waiting three weeks for his mechanic to diagnose and fix the car, I drove up to N.J. with Jim. I let Jim drive the car this time, as I wanted his professional mechanical opinion. To my surprise, the car didn’t have as much power as it did before. The spoiler was taken off because the new owner didn’t like it.
“We could only assume the car had been tuned down or a smaller turbo had been installed before the sale. The car didn’t even sound as loud as it had before. I made a cash offer and was refused. 15 minutes after I left, the owner’s mother called me and said ‘We will take your offer, we just want the car gone.’
I didn’t even bother to call her back. I was pissed off that we had spent two hours in stop-and-go traffic only to be turned down. It was insult to injury. A month later the mom sent me an email asking if I wanted the car. The signs were there this car was not for me. I found myself out of options and spoke to a family member about finding a Talon. My cousin Paul was able to find one in Tampa, Florida.
“He had called up the dealership for me because I was at work and their hours coincided with my schedule. I was then able to call them myself to confirm all the details the day before my flight was booked to go see the car.
“I remember this being one of the best and worst decisions I have ever made because I booked a flight Labor Day weekend, giving me exactly 3 days to purchase a car and drive it back … at least that was the plan.
Fly like an Eagle
“It was a hot and sunny Florida day when I took a taxi from the airport to a no-name dealership. The Talon was parked in front of the office. It had a broken passenger side rear glass, a missing front bumper, and a missing center cap from the shiny aftermarket Status chrome rims. The owner came out and saw me looking at the car in despair. I had my duffel bag slung over my shoulder and I was wearing a long sleeve shirt and long pants. It was clear I wasn’t a native.
“When I asked where the bumper was he told me it broke off when they pulled into the dealership due to the huge dip at the entrance of the parking lot. He assured me some of the employees were coming shortly with a new window to replace the broken one. One of the associates could not find the key and they decided breaking the window was a good idea so they could move the car only to find the key shortly after the fact.
“Then he asked me if I was the person he spoke to last night regarding coming to see the car. I said yes. Then he asked why I didn’t return his calls this morning to confirm I was coming to see the car. I said it was because I was on an airplane.
“Something told me they broke the window out of spite. But it was getting really hot outside and I couldn’t bring myself to not be in love with this project car. It just sat there with this energy and a story waiting to be unraveled. With 175,000 original miles on the odometer and only having the rear windows tinted, I just couldn’t help but be fascinated by the car.
“The car turned over and spewed out blue smoke. One of the sales associates and I went out for a test drive and I talked them down from a price tag of over $2K to $1,700. You could tell the car had been given a crappy paint job and there was Bondo that had melted down and dried on the front tip of the hood. With a full freshly painted paint job and the look of demise on the associate and owners faces, that car just said, ‘Save me … ‘
“I ended up driving the car four hours east to where some of my family resided and left it there. Not having seem my family members in years, I was not expecting a welcoming greeting when I pulled up in this “piece of garbage.” None the less, we happily greeted each other.
A face only Tony could love“She was a free bird flying solo and uncompromised”
“So there was a whole lot of vroom vroom rattle. The front bumper was missing, blue smoke was coming out the exhaust, and plastic Saran wrap-type of sheeting covered the broken window. This all made the car kind of hard to look at, but that didn’t matter to me. I finally had my 1998 Eagle Talon Tsi. I continued to fly every other weekend from N.Y. to FL to repair the car. With a few of those trips being rained out, I was fortunate enough to just use the rain to wash the car and sincerely enjoy family time.
“In November 2012 I was able to get a transfer through work to move to Florida so I could work on the car but as I said before, didn’t go according to plan. To this day the car is still a project. It has definitely brought a lot of people together (both family and friends), from making comments or helping with restoration and repairs. The car has been able to provide many beautiful memories and bonding moments that can never be replaced and will always be cherished.
“Thank you everyone for reading about my Eagle Talon TSi. Dreams do come true. Push for them and they will happen … just go with your instincts.”
Tony’s other current/previous vehicles:
1991 Mercury Cougar
1992 Geo Storm
1997 Eagle Talon TSi
2006 Subaru Legacy Outback 3.0 R