Vega World

Here is the Chevrolet Vega history book

 The then-innovative Chevrolet Vega 

A subcompact car sold from 1971 through 1977. Available in sedan, coupe, station wagon, and sedan delivery body styles (officially referred to as the Notchback, Hatchback, Kammback, and Panel Express, respectively), it was based on the GM H platform. The 1975 to 1980 Chevrolet Monza coupe was based on the Vega, as was the restyled Monza wagon. The similar Pontiac Astre was available in Canada from 1973 through 1977, and in the U.S. from 1975 through 1977. The Vega was Motor Trend's Car of the Year for 1971.

Detroit's first attempt at confronting the entry-level imports and domestic small cars such as the Studebaker Lark and Rambler American in the fall of 1959 produced the compact class of cars, including the Ford Falcon, Plymouth Valiant and the ill-fated Chevrolet Corvair, each introduced as 1960 models. By the 1970s, while cars like the Maverick, Nova, Hornet, and Valiant had evolved into the smallest versions of the traditional 6 passenger American family cars, they were much larger than the subcompacts, and many were delivered with optional V8 engines. See also Nash Rambler and AMC Metropolitan (introduced in 1954).

The Vega was introduced as part of "Big Three" (GM, Ford, Chrysler) automakers entering a new subcompact car class in order to compete directly with the successful, but aging Volkswagen Beetle, as well as Japanese imports from Honda, Toyota, and Datsun. Its conventional 4 cylinder rear wheel drive layout and unibody was similar to Japanese subcompacts, but somewhat larger for US citizens. It used stamped A-arms for the front suspension with a solid axle with coil springs in the rear. The Vega's 97-inch wheelbase and 169.7-inch overall length was somewhat larger than the Toyota Corolla's 161.4 inch length and 91.9-inch wheelbase. See 1970 Honda automobile.

One innovation of the original Vega was that it was designed to be shipped vertically with its nose down. For example, the battery had fill caps at the back to prevent leakage during transit. Special rail cars known as "Verta-Pak" cars were built with hangers to carry the first Vegas to market in this vertical arrangement. One of the notable locations where these cars were unloaded was at the now defunct Sawtell Auto Ramps in Atlanta, Georgia, located on the former Southern, now Norfolk Southern mainline to Macon.

Vegas sold very well despite their problems, many of which were eventually corrected. In total, 2,154,434 Vegas and Astres were built from 1971 through 1977. A large majority of these were produced at the Lordstown Assembly plant, but some were also built at Saint Therese Assembly in Quebec.

1971277,700--277,700All 1971 models known as "Vega 2300"
1972394,592--394,592Glovebox added. Three-speed Turbo-Hydra-matic transmission becomes new option and horsepower measurement changes from "gross" to "net" figures.
1973395,792--395,792New front bumper and emissions equipment along with American-built three- and four-speed manual transmissions replacing the German Opel-built units of 1971-72 models. "2300" portion of name dropped with nameplates on front and rear now reading "Vega by Chevrolet". Pontiac Astre introduced for Canadian market.
1974452,887--452,887New nose (similar to the one used on the 1974 Camaro), taillights and bumpers. Powerglide transmission dropped from option list. "LX" option with vinyl roof and upgraded interior trim introduced for notchback coupe.
1975204,1782,06264,601270,841First year of the U.S. Pontiac Astre and Cosworth Vega; Chevrolet Monza introduced.
1976159,0771,44650,384210,907Pontiac Sunbird and Chevrolet Chevette introduced. New grille and taillights. Four-speed manual transmission now standard equipment on all models.
197778,402-32,788111,190Last year for Vega and Astre. Cosworth Vega discontinued. Astre gets new Pontiac-built 2.5 liter (151 cid) cast-iron block four-cylinder engine as standard equipment while Vega continues with 2.3-liter (140 cid) Dura-Built four.

The Vega wagon body continued through 1978 and 1979 under the Monza nameplate. About 29,000 additional vehicles were sold under this name. The hatchback body continued briefly in 1978 as the "Monza S", presumably to use up surplus supply of 1977 bodies.



Because of the Vega's design, light weight, low cost, and poor durability of the stock four-cylinder engine, the car was a popular choice for performance modification. A small-block and big block Chevy V8 engine fit surprisingly well in the engine compartment; it was speculated at the time that GM had planned to offer a V8 Vega option -- the Vega-based Monza did so later with a first a 262 and then a 305 cubic inch small block V8. In modifying the Vega, the remainder of the drivetrain was also replaced typically with a Muncie 4 speed, a shortened V8 driveshaft, and a narrowed 12-bolt Chevy rearend. Heavy duty front coil springs were also required to support the considerably increased engine weight, as well as a larger radiator for cooling. This conversion was so popular that parts and kits were readily available on the aftermarket from several manufacturers. For example, Doug Thorley sold many tube exhaust headers for the V8 conversion. The unit body of the Vega wasn't particularly strong, so high-performance conversions required modifications up to frame rails and full roll cages, for example.


Popular game show prize

The Vega was a popular prize on TV game shows in the U.S. during the 1970s. Some game shows that gave away Vegas as prizes included Let's Make a Deal, The Hollywood Squares, Wheel of Fortune, The Joker's Wild, Gambit, Truth or Consequences and many others. On the debut broadcast of The Price Is Right hosted by Bob Barker, which aired September 4, 1972 on CBS, the first new car to be given away as a prize was a blue 1972 Chevrolet Vega Kammback wagon. The contestant won the Vega after successfully guessing the four numbers of the price ($2,746) in the "Any Number" pricing game.


Vega engines become infamous for their lack of durability which was often associated with their use of weight-saving aluminum cylinder blocks with cast iron heads. These blocks did not have iron cylinder sleeves. A wear surface was created on the aluminum cylinder bores with an electrochemical process that bonded a coating of "Nikasil" (Nickel and Silicon). Most Vegas were equipped with a 2.3 L "2300" SOHC I4. The standard engine used either a single-barrel carburetor which for 1971 produced 80 net or 90 gross horsepower. The 2 barrel version of the 71 engine produced 90 net or 110 gross horsepower. As of 72, the manufacturers no longer published gross (on a test stand) figures. From 72 on, tightening emissions regulations meant that the one barrel engine produced about 70 net horsepower. The 2-barrel option boosted output to around 85 hp. Early models overheated due to poor cooling channel design. The 2300 engine typically burned oil not due to cylinder wear (which was the rumor) but instead due to poorly designed valve stem seals. When some customers didn't check the oil level often enough, a high number of engines were completely ruined due to lack of oil supply.

The 1976-77 2300 engine received hydraulic lifters and better valve stem seals in the hopes of improving sales. It also benefited from greatly improved engine cooling. But the Chevette and Monza began replacing the Vega with some overlap. To use up existing, but slow-selling Vega parts, the 1977 model Pontiac Astre was equipped with the more reliable 2.5 L Iron Duke engine.

The Vega was one of the first automobiles that GM produced that made extensive use of robotic welding equipment.


Cosworth Vega

The limited edition 1975 to 1976 Cosworth Vega (see main picture) was a special performance version of the subcompact introduced long before cars like the Golf GTI or Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. Only 2,062 were built the first year. It was fitted with a fuel-injected DOHC 2.0L 16-valve version of the engine designed by Cosworth Engineering in England, which was famous for its racing engines. Built by Chevrolet at its Tonawanda engine plant, the engine was fed by Bendix electronic fuel injection controlled by a computer in the glove box. First planned in 1969, the first 1971 development engines delivered an impressive 180 bhp. It had special stripes, wide radial tires on alloy wheels and antiroll bars. But when finally put into production, the 1975 engines produced only 120 bhp. At $5,916, it cost double a normal hatchback, and only $900 less than a Corvette. Car and Driver magazine would report "The 3.11 first gear matched to a 3.73 axle ratio makes the Cosworth Vega tough to launch from a stop". They measured 0-60 mph times of 8.7 seconds. In 2006 Inside Line wrote "Fat and strangled by emissions regulations and GM's own noise concerns, the Cosworth Vega was a disappointing car in every sense". This is decidedly misleading since all cars in 1975 and 1976 were similarly "fat and strangled by emissions regulations." In comparison to other affordable performance cars of those years it was light and fast. Only 3,508 were sold over two years. This fell so short of projected sales of 5,000 that 1,500 unused exotic Cosworth engines were simply scrapped for lack of demand. Though sales would be disappointing, it is today the Vega most sought by collectors.



Chevrolet Vega history in a nutshell


Vega World News wire

Sweet 72 Kammback wagon

At the track in Norman Oklahoma Thunder Valley Raceway

This car is sweet