Chevrolet Vega

walterchanwalterchan Member Posts: 61
edited March 2014 in Chevrolet
Tell me which is better. The Ford Pinto or the
Chevrolet Vega. Is the Vega used to be a reliable
transportation in the 70's.


  • modvptnlmodvptnl Member Posts: 1,352
    While neither car will make any top 100 list, the Vega has a disposable aluminum engine that with luck lasted 40,000 miles. The Pinto engine is still with us in its basic form. My vote goes to the mis-understood Pinto
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    I think the Vega may be the worst car ever made in America in the last 100 years.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    Well, I think we've pretty well covered the Vega here, as much as it needs to be covered. Four posts is about right.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    It's really not the car but everything around the car that's interesting. Would make a good soap opera....we got your John Delorean, we got your labor/race problems at the factory, we got your American arrogance in the face of foreign competition, we got your half-baked engineers promising the world and delivering about 3 square blocks of bad real estate, we got your consumers up in arms, we got your dealers droppping the ball, we got your major corporation shooting itself in the foot.....oh, it's a juicy tale.
  • stickguystickguy Member Posts: 50,286
    At least give GM credit for giving the cosworth Vega a try. I seem to recall reading that the engine should have put aout about 150HP, but for some reason they ended up at about 110. something with the intake or exhaust I think.

    Anyway, still a pretty sharp car, even pretty daring and radical considering what else was going on automotive-wise in 1975 detroit.

    Mr. Shifty, how are the Cos Vegs doing on the collectors market?

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  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    Probably about as well as Mercury Bobcats.
  • stickguystickguy Member Posts: 50,286
    Probably better than that. You don't see too many Bobcats in Hemmings, but you can find a Cosworth Vega.

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  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Cogsworth Vegas? In the bargain basement, collector-car-wise, but better than a regular Vega. It's one of those marginal cult-cars that might occasionally find the 3 or 4 people in the world who are willing to pay some serious money for one. Like Nash Metropolitans, Corvairs, Avantis and Kit Cars....minor league collectibles, but worth a little something...certainly not what it would cost to put any of these cars in restored condition. EVen with a special cylinder head, the Cogsworth Vega is still a Vega with all the attendant problems and deficiences. About the only good thing you can say about the car is that it isn't bad looking.
  • gkelly3gkelly3 Member Posts: 38
    -was it such a bad design? After all, PORSCHE used a similar design for their all-aluminum V-8 (in the 948), did it last? I actually had a Vega-it ran pretty well-I got about 113K miles out of it, after which the engine blew. The engine was rebuilt with stell sleeves, and lasted another 100K miles. As I understand it, the aluminum casting process really saved in labor-does the Saturn block casting ptocess owe anything to the vega?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    The idea for the Vega engine was that the aluminum cylinders could be made hard enough without steel liners. This is a tricky business, and while Porsche and Mercedes got it right Chevrolet really needed more development work on this idea. Perhaps pioneers always suffer in technology?

    Amazingly enough, Chevrolet did not lose money on the Vega, despite premature engine failures and horrible rust problems.
  • modvptnlmodvptnl Member Posts: 1,352
    That was the 928. And I believe you have the Vega record for longevity. Another popular swap for the Vega was the Pontiac "Iron Duke" motor.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    BMW used this engine technology for the original M5-V8 in the early 1990s, but they had trouble as well.
  • lokkilokki Member Posts: 1,200
    The introduction of the production model Cosworth Vega was the point at which I gave up all hope for GM. I realized that the engineers might pop up with a bright idea now and then, but it would get distorted beyond recognition before it got to the market. The actual car produced, after all the hype that GM threw around at the time (Cosworth! They make racing engines!) was the Same Old Stuff...As an earlier poster said, it was capable of 150 HP but by the time the internal politics were finished at GM, it was down to 110 or so. Pathetic, and no excuse for it. I always thought that there would have been a great market for them.... A GTI before it's time (Assuming that Cosworth was smart enough to put the steel sleeves in at the factory).
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Actually, a Vega at 150 mph is a frightening thought...maybe it's better the way it turned out.
  • mmcswmmcsw Member Posts: 29
    How could the same company that produced the small block Chevy V-8 also have made the infamous Vega 4 banger??? This is one the great mysteries of our time.
    We had two in our family, both purchased new: a '71 with the 90 hp 1 bbl and a two speed auto, and a '74 with the higher output (110 hp?) motor with a three speed auto. As I recall they didn't handle too bad, but we sold them before the word was out about there nonexistent reliability.
  • nrd525nrd525 Member Posts: 109
    My friend had a 350 powered Vega that eventually went to a 502 big block!. He drove it on the street occasionally, I drove it at the strip, mostly because he stunk at "the tree". We had a street set up (low rise manifold and 600? Holley carb, 4.10 gears in a Ford 9" rear, 60 series tires, and a couple of very small turbo mufflers), and the track set up (high rise, 2 big holleys, 5.01? gears in a narrowed 9" ford rear,and some BIG slicks).
    It wasn't right on the street, it had way too much cam, but it still was able to scare any morons in a Mustang II away, if the roll cage didn't tip them off. It didn't handle well, the turbo 400 about broke your neck when it shifted,and it ate gas like a wino likes his MD2020, but was a lot of fun to mess with.
    My best pass at the track was 9.36 at 142+. Best finish was runer up in the "all run" bracket, there wasn't enough cars there to split them up, so they ran as one group. I got a bye in the first round, had an easy second when the guy red lighted, got another bye in the third when my opponent broke his driveshaft on the burnout, actually won easily the next two and then broke out with the above ET, 2 tenths faster than it ran an hour before! We never figured out why.
    Later on, I broke an axle,and whacked the wall, the car got fixed, but my friend sold it, and ended my driving career. He was spending a lot of cash on it, and decided to get out.
    I knew a guy who was in a "Vega" family, they had FOUR of them! Mom had a wagon, dad and both older daughters had the ugly notchbacks. They all had engine problems sooner or later, and happily, the son got a 72 Camaro when he started driving. The Vegas were gone by then.
  • mdelrossomdelrosso Member Posts: 18
    In 1977 my brand new Impala was wrapped up by some drunk in a Ford. The Insurance Co.totalled it out and just as I was about to sink a big chunk of change($5500, yes; you could've gotten a new car for that in those days) on another new Impala, some nurse came up to me & asked if I knew someone who wanted to buy her 4 year old Vega. "Sure, I'll take it," I said, she wanted $50 bucks! Now, normally I wouldn't be caught dead in this rattle trap, but how bad could it be. It was lemon yellow to boot. I was surprised on how well it actually drove. the car only had about 50,000 mls on it,and I really liked it. It only needed tires. Six months later I moved up to New England, the car was parked and some drunk in an Olds wrapped it up so bad it spun around in the street. I got a grand from the Insurance Co.Oh well, only Vega I ever owned. Michael
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,342
    That's a great R.O.I.!

    Too bad you couldn't find another 50.00 car and another drunk!
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    What is that, a 4000% return on investment annualized? But you're right, it'd be difficult to duplicate consistently unless you lived near an all-night 7-11.
  • denniswadedenniswade Member Posts: 362
    "I think the Vega may be the worst car ever made in America in the last 100 years."

    Hmmmm......Actually the Vega was considered a fine-handling car for its time, and I think the styling was great. While the silicone-embedded aluminum block was a bust, you could get them sleeved and build them to hell and back, or install the engine of your choice. GM designed the engine compartment to accommodate just about any powerplant they could make (it was originally supposed to have a rotary), and small-block swaps were common. Don Yenko supplied V8 Vegas directly to dealers, and they were screamers.

    I had a '74 with a 327/350, turbo 400 and 50-series Goodyears, and I regularly beat up on a guy with a Vette who used to race me on the way home from work every day. The thing handled, and it went like stink. I rust-proofed the body, kept the winter salt washed off religiously, and had no problems with rust. It was truly one of my favorite cars.

    I honestly don't think GM's screw-up with the alumninum engine qualifies the Vega as the "worst car of all time" -- especially considering the unreliable British roadsters preferred by the author of that comment!
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    I'll pass on this comment from Brock Yates, made in the early '70s: "Apparently the Vega has replaced the Corvair as the car America prefers to break down in." The only thing those guys waiting for tow trucks needed was a completely different drivetrain ;).
  • carnut4carnut4 Member Posts: 574
    after the engine blew and got a 64 Corvair. From there, he went to a Buick X-car, which gave him two transmission failures and an engine in less than 50,000 miles. From there? An Olds diesel. What more could one ask for from GM...
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,610
    Damn, talk about bad luck! Looks like your friend purposely picked the worst of the GM lot! I have a neighbor who used to fix up and mess around with Corvairs, and then he moved on to Vegas, and now his thing is Chevy II's from the early 60's.

    The only GM lemon our family had was a 1982 Malibu station wagon with a 229 V6, but most of the cars we bought were mid-size and full-size, and at the time I don't think GM had found a way to really mess them up yet (other than putting a Diesel in them!).

    I have another friend who had both a Pinto and a Vega, and he said they were both pretty reliable. Better, in fact, than the 1994 Chrysler Concorde he's driving now! Not that the Concorde has really been a bad car, he just got lucky with the Pinto and Vega!

  • futuregearheadfuturegearhead Member Posts: 1
    Number one the Vega needs help in the engine department. Small block swaps seem to be the answer. The stock aluminum engine was...well....not something you could see yourself driving 100,000 miles down the road (although there have been a few).
    The Pinto got a bad rap in the safety department. My solution is to build a "cage" around the gas tank or do that with a fuel cell.
    My dad had a pinto, a 71, he said it ran fine for him durring the gas crisis's, exept for burning a little oil. But if you see my username below, my second solution for the Pinto is also a small block transplant (302,351)
    Of course with these mods they wouldn't be stock but oh well too bad.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    I think a 351 in a Pinto would make a scary car even scarier. It could just about handle the power it had stock. Serious brake and suspension mods would be in order, and by then you'd have $5,000 in a $250 car.
  • b4zb4z Member Posts: 3,372
    Wasn't the monza built on the vega chassis. Why didn't the monza have the bad rap that the vega had? Different engine and no rust problems? The monza with the the small block chevy was quick for its day.
    Does anybody remember the monza mirage?
    The yugo gets my vote for worst car ever. Followed, i'm sure by the Pontiac Aztek because i feel like i have been assaulted just looking at the thing.
  • rabidbowtierabidbowtie Member Posts: 29
    Delorean did an admirable job on the Cosworth Vega given the problems. It had some of the same features 25 years ago that some small cars have today.

    The Vega makes a decent drag car. They are real good you increase the wheel base by stretching the nose alittle.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Yes, the Vega body is really okay if you can find one that hasn't gone biodegradable on you said, the rust and the engine were the two biggest problems...other than that...(LOL).

    Too bad about the Cogsworth, but really, with such a bad name as "Vega" attached, the car would have been doomed even if it had a Ferrari engine in it. Still, it's an interesting collectible today for a low price. Not a great car, but interesting...
  • stickguystickguy Member Posts: 50,286
    The Monza was based on the Vega, but I'm not sure how much they changed. I once looked at a used '75 (or so) Monza hatchback (this must have been around 1980). Silver hatchback, mag wheels, V8 w/a 4 speed stick. Real quick car, compared to my 6 cyl. Duster.

    I think it had a little rust on the drivers door, probably from a clogged drain. The mechanic who looked at it said it was overall in sound shape, but don't bring it to him for a tune up. This was one of the cars where they had to lift the engine to get to the rear spark plugs.

    I still would have bought it if the owner would have some down a little on price (seem to recall he was stuck on $1,900. Oh, the good old days).

    Better forget about the '75 Mustang II mach 1 that I saw for sale yesterday in someonw yard..The aftermarket (DIY?) hood scooped looked real cooool.

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  • lbthedoglbthedog Member Posts: 198
    Had a Vega. Wasn't a bad car. Sure it rusted but I took absolutely no care of it. I was happy as hell to drive around getting close to 30 mpg when gas was 35 cents a gallon. My friend who bought a Honda Civic at the time was another story. He read all the magazines about what a great car it was. It was for a short time. While my Vega ran and ran and ran and rusted and still ran, his Honda didn't, it broke and it rusted too. How time distorts the truth, the Japanese cars of the late sixties and early seventies were mostly trash. Some were fairly durable but most weren't. Guess the higher profile that the Vega got by carrying the Chevy emblem has hurt it's reputation over time but if those of you who endured the ownership of those early Hondas were to tell the truth, the car wasn't that good. Neither were the VW beetles of that era. How many ever got more than 50 thousand miles out of a motor? As bad as the Vega was, and many were, there were far worse vehicles of that time.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    If the Japanese cars were trash, the American cars must have been trashier, because LOTS of Americans bought Japanese cars.

    I do agree,though, that the very first Honda Civics did have teething problems, especially prior to the CVCC engine (they first had a 1200 cc I believe). But the little Toyota Corolla and larger Corona were always good, sturdy cars from the get-go....the Cressida wasn't so hot, and the early Mazda rotaries were pretty troublesome. So yes, some Japanese cars weren't as good as the Toyotas (the best in my opinion) but as bad as some might have been, nothing was worse then the incredible junk produced by some American manufacturers in the 1970s in the subcompact field especially. Americans didn't know how to build small cars, and really didn't learn until the late 80s/early 90s. We were better with the large iron and definitely better in trucks.
  • dweezildweezil Member Posts: 271
    yesterday- a 71 butterscotch, base 2 dr. sedan. It was just like spotting a rare looked original rust!!!I'll bring my binoculars next time. Have seen a couple of the later ones running as well, an Astre wagon,and a beige 2 dr. sedan driven by some crazy old man.Will let you know if I spot any more....if anyone cares!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    It's like getting reports on the Spotted Owl? Who will end up driving the last Vega? We could do a "survivor" TV series on this! (MY IDEA..I get points on the deal!)
  • 98fbv698fbv6 Member Posts: 1
    was a 73 Vega, bright red. My dad bought it for me in 77 to go to college in for $1000. It was a great car. I never had any trouble with it mechanically. The body started to rust but a couple cans of Bondo took care of that. Besides can anyone remember any American car built in the 70's that didn't rust? I can't. That car got me through college and then we sold it for $1000. I still kinda miss that car. It brings back good memories.
  • chevytruck_fanchevytruck_fan Member Posts: 432
    I always thought it would be cool to have a Vega or Pinto in totally restored condition. then one day I saw a pinto in perfect shape, and it wasn't any better looking that the beat up
  • wilcoxwilcox Member Posts: 582
    I thought Vegas would be great cars. By then they had put the steel sleeves in the "advanced" OHC engines, and they had alot of build experience by '76, and looked good, and had a nice cheap price, and all...

    Some friends challanged my feelings and warned me that these were dogs, but I wanted something new and didn't have much to pay.

    We bought a low mileage one. Looked great! I was fixin to save gas money, and it had one of them thar 60,000 mile engine warranties that I knew GM would back up. We picked a highly visible"optic" Yellow used '96 model in 1977. Cheap! Not a dent on it.

    Three years later (and 3 batteries later), I had lost all faith in GM engineering and warranty promises. Had to get a divorce. I lost the use of my house and land. Couldn't see my kid but onest every two weeks. Lost most of my savings. Lost my dog... Had to start all over again.

    Gad, if I had only listened to their advice....

    Well, behind every dark cloud there is a silver lining....I lost that dad'blame lemmon yellow POS hyundai Vega....the "Ex" got hung with that one! ahahaha! luck has changed for the good ever since....
  • chevytruck_fanchevytruck_fan Member Posts: 432
    Most of not have scared you too much if you are looking for a caddy?
  • badgerpaulbadgerpaul Member Posts: 219
    Back in the mid '70's a friend of mine fresh out of college went out and bought one of these "beauties" new. She was so proud of herself for not buying a Pinto or a Vega, I almost hated breaking it to her that what she bought was nothing more than a Vega in drag.
  • wilcoxwilcox Member Posts: 582
    After reading the most recent Consumer Reports Auto Issue, I'm not sure what the next one may be...LIncoln LS perhaps? Hyundai GX300?

    Any suggestions?
  • tdugovictdugovic Member Posts: 34
    My mom had a 1972 toyota celica . . . what a piece of trash . . . I was constantly trying to keep that heap running!!!

    My sister had a 1974 datsun b210. Driving on the freeway one day the front spindle broke and nearly killed her!!!

    there is a 1980 Datsun king cab down the street from me that the only thing not completely rusted away is the tires!!!

    Yep, GREAT japanese cars.

    I don't think many people bought them in the 70s, early 80s. I would have to see #s to believe that. But I guess since they were sooo unreliable that many people could buy them cheap and sometimes that is all that is important to the ignorant.

    I had a 74 Vega wagon . . . it was a spare car I drove while modifying my REAL cars. It got me around reliably and with pretty decent mileage. It was a pretty dang good grocery getter, but did not impress the women. (and that was important at the time too. hahaha.

    Tim (ratchetmaster) moderator at

  • lokkilokki Member Posts: 1,200
    But the sad, sad truth is that they were still way better than the stuff that GM was turning out.

    Further, I have to say I'm amused to hear a Vega owner complaining about rust in some other vehicle.....
  • tdugovictdugovic Member Posts: 34
    But the sad, sad truth is that they were still way better than the stuff that GM was turning out<<<Unquote

    Hmmm . . . better than the vette? Better than the trucks? Better than???

    I will have to dissagree.

    Japanese cars did have an upper hand on gas mileage, but I think it ended there.

    Ever been to Japan?? Not many "big" roads there to drive on. I think they were ok in the "practical" sense because of the gas crunch, but not when it came to power.

    they do make pretty decent stuff now.
  • lokkilokki Member Posts: 1,200
    The vettes of the 70's? Please.... you're going to have to come up with a better come-back than that.....

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    70s Vettes were pretty awful, and most collectors think so too. They have a lot in common with Vegas of the time. The very early 70s weren't too bad on Vette power options, so people still like 'em, but you can hardly give away a mid to late 70s Vette these days. And for most Corvettes, like Vegas, build quality was never very good in those days. However, in the 60s, the car's performance abilities, although crude, were outstanding and people forgave the car everything. But when the cars became anemic and more shoddily built in the 70s, there was nothing left to like about the car until the Vette since the "glory days" of the 1960s.

    Japanese of course stole the small truck market in the US in the 70s(created it actually) and no doubt would have hurt the 1/2 ton and 3/4 ton market too except that the US government pretty much forbade Japanese entry into the market. As it turns out, it took a long time for the Japanese to build a great 1/2 ton truck anyway. They really didn't know how.

    I think what saved US trucks from being savaged in the 70s by foreign brands was a) US government protection and b) that US trucks didn't have to conform to the same extent as cars for emissions standards c) the foreign companies didn't have a good competitor ready. It was US emissions technology that really hurt our cars and made them troubleseome, I think. the trucks were spared somewhat from this disaster.
  • wscc1wscc1 Member Posts: 21
    Just stumbled onto to this topic and have to put my two cents in.(Didn't know people still are discussing Vegas.) I owned a '75 CV (#848) from new to 1982 - put over 125,000 miles on it before it spun a bearing during a Time Trial at Lime Rock. I had no major problems with it in all that time, in spite of numerous autocrosses and time trials. (Five, maybe eight years ago a CV won the SCCA's H Stock Solo II Championship.) The only recurring problems I had were a weak clutch cable and the tendacy to fry alternators during time trials. Although it burned a little oil (by today's Japanese standards - about 1000 miles/quart), frequent oil changes (3,000 mile intervals)must have helped. I even held off the typical Vega rust problems by having it "rust roofed" when new. The Vega in general was a very good looking car (it was greatly admired in Europe, and even copied) with the useful hatch back feature, and the CV was even more so. GM, of course, did its usual half hearted effort in producing the CV. (I wonder how the new Z06 'vette ever got built.) Yes, it should have had a lot more horse power, but it was a very good, unique and advanced (for its time) car. I wouldn't mind an updated version - of course with the lastest engine technology (say a clean 160 HP), IRS and creature comforts like AC and anything but that slippery vinyl interior.
  • tdugovictdugovic Member Posts: 34
    I was refering to the early 70s before 74.

    I am not really a big vette fan. Never owned one.

    But I do like the 68-73 body styles a lot.

    And the C3s may not have rolled off the line with tons of power in the later 70s, but could easily be modded to perform to the enthusiasts standards and still looked very sweet.

    I have seen some very nice C3s that I would love to own. I really like the body lines. And the small block 350 is an easy motor to mod.
    350 hp easily done.

    japanese cars of the EARLY 70s sucked big time. Almost ANY car was better than what they were able to roll off the line in the early 70s. (except the pinto and a couple of other acceptions).

    unless of course your idea of a good car was one that cost next to nothing, had absolutely NO power, and you were worried about spending a few bucks on gas so EVERYTHING else became secondary.

    The vega was a pretty decent car especially when compared to Japanese cars of its time.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    It's too bad the Japanese didn't build the Vega, they would have gotten it right! It really was an awful car in terms of durability. The Datsun 510 was a super car in comparison, I think, as was the Toyota Corona. The 510 offered overhead cam, great handling, great reliability, all for something like $1,800 or so. The Vega didn't stand a chance.

    I thought the Cogsworth was promising...I wish they had made THAT car the mainline Vega!
  • lokkilokki Member Posts: 1,200
    I thought that the Vega was a great looking car and when they turned one over to Cosworth, I thought that GM had really found its way into the future. Small high performance car with a DOHC engine, good brakes, and good handling!

    Their reputation for rust hadn't bubbled to the surface (of the paint) yet, so that wasn't a factor.

    The preproduction versions were good for about 150 hp, if I recall... I really wanted one.
    It coulda been the original GTI, if the lawyers hadn't gotten involved.

    Then came the production models with 110 hp?

    I've never understood why they didn't go with the higher output. Does anybody know?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    lokki, here's a short history of the car. You may find it interesting, I did.

    To answer your question directly, it was always my understanding that the car struggled to meet emissions regulations, and that these delays finally forced GM to put the car out to the marketplace, "ready or not".

  • lokkilokki Member Posts: 1,200
    Very interesting reading; Thank you. I guess that one has to give GM (or some brave engineer) credit for at least having tried.

    I always think of Vegas with the original small bumpers rather than the heavy bumpers of the later years. I'd forgotten that the Cosworth had to be saddled with those too.

    I'd also forgotten that they cost as much as a Corvette.

    I notice that the article suggests that they are very collectible. Do you agree?
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