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Chevrolet Vega



  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    No, I don't agree with that, especially coming from the Cogsworth Owner's Club...of course that's what they would like to believe, but really , the market doesn't support the car as being very collectible....oh, don't get me wrong, if one comes up on the auction block and the price is low enough, someone will pay a respectable price for one, but we are still talking the price of a used Honda, maybe $5,000-$6,000 for a spectacular car? Often they are "no sale" items because the number of people who care about them is very few.
  • cgsangelcgsangel Member Posts: 79
    I've owned both cars... first a 73 Vega notchback, my first new car. Then a 77 Pinto.
    First, what was right about the Vega
    1. paint job was excellent and styling .... and it never left me stranded in 4 years of driving.

    1.rust, engine, interior seats, rear wheel hop
    But I only kept it for about 55,000 miles, and the only thing that went on it was the starter solenoid (I was able to start it by giving it a push to go to the repair shop).

    Ok, and now the Pinto
    1. decent quality compared to Vega (no rust problems to speak of except a wee bit at the rear wheel wells), engine had a bit more power.
    And the bad...
    1. cam shaft went at about fifty thousand miles(the 77 had a warning (no recall back then to fix the problem) to use 5W oil because of a problem with oil lubrication at the cam, so I figure over time even the lighter oil didn't help) I had the cam replaced and the car was still going fine after six years of use. Nothing else went wrong...

    The ride in either Vega or Pinto was not very good, but both had short wheel bases and rode on bias-ply tires. The ride on the Pinto improved some with a switch to radials. I traded the Pinto for a used 79 Monte Carlo, which went over 200,000 miles (11 years) before the rear axle mounts rusted out.

    The Pinto was a far better car than the Vega, mainly due to the terrible rust in the Vega and oil consumption in the Vega after 50,000 miles. After the cam was replaced, the Pinto ran great and never used any oil between oil changes. I never had a new car since then that showed rust within the first year of ownership like the Vega did. My brother had a Vega too (74 or with the larger bumpers) and it didn't go very long before the block cracked.

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Thanks cgs...there you go... a direct report from the trenches by someone who was there and lived to tell us about it.
  • crosley4crosley4 Member Posts: 295
    On a trip back to Phoenix, AZ from Denver, Co our wagon used either 11 or 13 quarts of oil. I remember it was over 10 & an odd number.

    I solved the oil use trouble with my 72 Vega wagon by installing a 327 & T-350 trans into the car.

    Then it developed a rear differential durability problem......... LOL The stock design rear diff would last about 1 year with the 327.

    Never had a rust out problem with the car. Here in Arizona we read about rust, but don't see much of it.

  • badtoybadtoy Member Posts: 343
    That's what I had in mine, with a turbo400 tranny and Blackjack headers. A real screamer.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,387
    ...a lovingly maintained Pontiac Astre. Pontiac couldn't leave well enough alone and just settle for copying the Monza with their Sunbird...they had to go right to the root of the problem and copy the Vega, too!

    I never thought I'd find myself saying this, but it really was an attractive little car! I didn't realize it when they were new, because I always looked at them as cheap little deathtraps. But the styling has actually held up rather well on them.

    In contrast, the Pinto just looks like a cheap little car...always has, always will. I guess the Vega/Astre could at least give you the feeling that you were driving something sporty, though.

    I've always did they hold up when you put a V-8 in one? I have an old used car guide that says avoid the Vega/Monza and its offshoots at all costs, and it did mention that putting a V-8 in a car designed for a lightweight 4-cyl was not a good idea, and suspension problems were common. I think they ended up being heavy little cars too...somewhere around 2800-2900 lb? A few years before, that was Valiant/Falcon/Nova territory!

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    I don't think looks were ever the Vega's problem...they were attractively styled and still are pretty okay looking.

    V8 conversions can make a car better or worse depending on how well thought out the whole thing was, and how well executed. Between the weight and the torque, it seems obvious that if you leave the stock systems in place they are going to die under the strain.
  • badtoybadtoy Member Posts: 343
    It was important that you not overtax the structure of the car by adding too much power or too much tire (or worse yet, Traction Masters). By keeping the wheels and tires at a reasonable size (mine were 9" wide, 60-series Goodyears, as I recall), there was sufficient tire slippage to prevent transfering all the torque into the body structure. Having an automatic also helped. However, the car really was designed to accept not only the 4-cylinder they eventually used, but a rotary, V6 or V8 as well. They wanted the car to be able to accept any powertrain GM felt like using.
  • lemkolemko Member Posts: 15,261
    The grandmother trader her solid, reliable and fairly attractive black 1964 Chevrolet Biscayne for a new 1973 Vega. Even to my eight-year old eyes I could tell this car was shoddily built. The headliner was some perforated pressboard material that appeared warped in several places, the metal was thin and the plastic material used throughout the interior would've looked at home in a Yugo. It didn't help that the car was some funky mustard-yellow color. The front fenders of the car rusted with a vengeance and were replaced under warranty by the local Chevrolet dealer. I remember her frequent stops at the dealership for a myriad of mechanical maladies. Amazingly enough, she kept this car for 7 years replacing it in 1980 with an almost, but not quite as bad new Monza. Grandpop's cars were solid, reliable Chevrolet full-size models - a 1967 Bel Air and a 1974 Impala. They still are driving their 1989 Chevrolet Caprice Classic Brougham today.
  • badtoybadtoy Member Posts: 343
    and the interior was best in class at the time.
  • a_l_hubcapsa_l_hubcaps Member Posts: 518
    My dad once owned a Vega that he bought new in the 1970s (he thinks it was either a 1973 or 1974 model). It deteriorated so quickly that he had to sell it to a salvage yard in 1978...and it broke down for the last time just as he pulled into the yard! He says that he was stuck in traffic one time, and another guy in a Vega was sitting in the next lane. The guy yelled out, "How do you like yours?" to which my dad answered, "It's a piece of crap!" The other driver replied, "Mine too!"

    Several years ago I was at a local car show and someone had a MINT Cosworth Vega restored to perfect original condition. I thought it was a cool little car, and it ended up winning BEST OF SHOW! I guess other people have a taste for the unusual as well :-)
    -Andrew L
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Musta been a VERY local car show!
  • a_l_hubcapsa_l_hubcaps Member Posts: 518
    Well, it was sponsored by a Corvette club, so about half the cars there were various Corvettes. I guess they got sick of giving top honors to a Vette every year...or maybe they just had a sense of humor :-)
    -Andrew L
  • egkelly1egkelly1 Member Posts: 30
    I bought it in 1975. It was actually quite a good car. I think it went to around 90K miles before the engine blew. What haapened: my brother was driving it, and all of a sudden smoke started pouring out of the exhaust. He lost power 9probably a piston had cracked)and rooled to the side of the road. We had the engine rebuilt (with steel cylinder liners), and the car ran geat for another two years. Rust was a problem-I understand that some Vegas left the factory pre-rusted (no undercoating in the wheel wells)!
  • ghuletghulet Member Posts: 2,564
    in what is supposed to be a 'classic car' forum, we have topics on Vega, Pinto, Le Car, Lancia Beta and Edsel. Is someone effing with us? Classic junk maybe?
  • jsylvesterjsylvester Member Posts: 572
    I guess anything over 25 years old is considered to be "classic" in the popular vernacular.

    I haven't even begun a topic on the car my parents had for us to drive, a 1976 Ford Maverick 4 door, with the powerful 200 cubic inch I-6. Only options were AM radio and 3 speed auto.

    Myself, my two brothers, and my sister all learned to drive that car. We beat the hell out of that car, including outrunning the cops through a cornfield in it. Traded in on an 85 LTD Wagon, which my sister proceeded to total a year later.

    Should I start the topic? It's 25 years old now.
  • wilcoxwilcox Member Posts: 582
    I ever saw sat on top of a almost Monster Truck running platform. It was a 4 x 4, huge tired, thing with a little Vega hatch back sitting on top of it. What a sight! Well, that was the 70's for you....
  • dpwestlakedpwestlake Member Posts: 207
    What about "Jungle Jim" Lieberman's vega
  • spokanespokane Member Posts: 514
    Aluminum blocks with iron cylinder liners are common but the Vega's block, as others have indicated, had no liners. As I understood it, GM became convinced that a high-silicon aluminum alloy would be OK with no liners. They went to ALCOA to further the development of this alloy for the new Vega and, after a time, ALCOA pronounced that it was not feasible. GM disagreed and went elsewhere to purchase the alloy.

    My personal impression was the engine held up pretty well if it was not overheated - but it had such a small radiator and low-capacity cooling system that one burp was enough to cause overheating and major engine damage.

    Mercedes' current 3.2-Liter V6 has an aluminum block that successfully uses aluminum/silicon liners. Correct me if I am mistaken, please, but I believe this alloy was specifically developed for liner use only and would not be suitable for the block casting. Thus, even though Vega and Mercedes designs both utilize aluminum/silicon cylinder wear surfaces, these alloys are quite different - both metallurgically and in performance results.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    Didn't Grumpy Jenkins have a 331 Vega?

    It amazes me that GM could have been so outstanding at designing full size and intermediate cars--most people would say the best--during the '60s and into the '70s, and be so world-class lousy at designing innovative small cars.

    Not just quietly mediocre cars but spectacularly over-the-top lousy. Rope-drive Tempest, Corvair, BOP aluminum V8, Vega. I could understand these cars happening now when GM is patently clueless, but not back then when it had, what, 50% market share and looked unbeatable.

    Maybe GM was just the best at refining proven designs but got lost once it left the beaten track.

    Actually the Corvair wasn't a bad design, especially the '64-up, but it would have been a lot better if the bean counters had let the engine be aluminum. Better weight distribution would have helped the early Corvair a lot.
  • crossedrealitycrossedreality Member Posts: 72
    My father's first car was a Corvair. I never knew until I got my car, when he brought it up, saying what he had to deal with as a kid. According to him "it was a great car, except you always felt like you were on the ragged edge of disaster every moment you were in it. Oh, and I had to lean it against a tree or another car to park it."
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    That's funny because my first car was a '60 Corvair, a cast-off from my father who used it up pretty completely. Not the best car for stylin' in a high school parking lot.

    Once when my father took a corner I asked him if he could feel the car oversteering. He said "no" like it was all Nader hype but I can tell you the rear end was more than willing to go first around a corner. Wet roads were the worst/best depending on how you look at it. I put lots of miles on that car exploring the Santa Cruz Mountains and found out the quickest way down a tight winding road is generous oversteer.
  • ghuletghulet Member Posts: 2,564
    when did they improve that oversteer? I know the suspension was revamped at some point (not in time obviously), but wasn't sure if it was with the 65 restyle or before (I think it might have been 63 or 64).
    My grandfather loved Corvairs. He had just about every variety they made at one time or another (I think my parents had a wagon when I was born, and my dad had a 64 ragtop in high school). I think they're kinda cool, they're not great performers for the most part, but the size is managable, and the styling on the 65-69 has aged pretty well.

    Maybe we should start a Corvair forum?
  • a_l_hubcapsa_l_hubcaps Member Posts: 518
    I believe they did a patch-up job on the suspension for the 1964 model year, then redesigned it completely for 1965.
    -Andrew L
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    We do have a Corvair forum but it's been so long since someone posted that it's buried.

    In '64 they modified the rear suspension with a transverse spring that worked against the swing axles' inclination to negative camber. This meant you could corner with the rear tires' tread instead of just their sidewalls.

    I think what really worked against the early Corvair was that the recommended tire pressures were the same front and rear, and low too for a good ride. With that rear weight bias you really needed more pressure in the rear tires, and lots of it, at least 32 PSI rear and maybe 28 or so front.

    The three Corvairs I had certainly impressed me with the benefits of adjusting tire pressures and that carried over to front engine cars. Just recently I set the pressure in the Lincoln LS at 32 front and 30 rear to compensate for the usual front-end heaviness, then remembered the car has 50/50 weight distribution. Force of habit but I left it that way. Maybe I can get it to oversteer a little. These new cars are boring.
  • crossedrealitycrossedreality Member Posts: 72
    Yea, they sorta refined all the fun out didn't they :P
  • dweezildweezil Member Posts: 271
    "lousy" compacts from GM: Rover still uses the aluminum V8, the V6 is still with us and transaxles are pretty common these days, though not necessarily in the rear.That they even TRIED during that era is startling when a Chevy II would have accomplished the same thing [and did]for all the public cared.
    The mediocre part came when GM bean counters started pulling the plug on further development,or trying to shave pennies where they shouldn't.
    Apparently it was Ed Cole's dream to build a 'linerless' aluminum block when the 153 c.i. Chevy II 4 cyl.would have worked beautifully. [and did when Pontiac reworked it as "Iron Duke" and offered it in the Astre and Sunbird]. At HIS insistence the 2.3 Vega engine went into know the rest.
  • spokanespokane Member Posts: 514
    Amazing, wasn't it? That was the same Ed Cole that did much of the work on the excellent Cadillac and Olds OHV V8's in 1949 and then gave us the renowned Chevy V8 in 1955.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    I admire innovation but when, as in GM's case, it's badly executed or it's the answer to a question no one asked (innovation just for the sake of innovation) then I think it can be fairly criticized.

    When the aluminum V8 was used in the early-'60s BOP compacts it had a reputation for self-destructing--I knew that even as a kid then, that's how widespread its reputation was. Now in the Rover it has a new reputation as a gutless gas hog.

    The V6 was a cheap quick fix for the expensive aluminum V8, basically that V8 with two cylinders chopped off and with iron block and heads. It didn't blow up like the V8 but it was a rough runner in the early days and, like the V8, it was cast off by GM in the late '60s. Today after over two decades of refinement it's a serviceable engine--I had the supercharged version in a GTP--but it's still around because of the bean counters, not because it's a world beater.

    The Tempest transaxle had a reputation for disintegrating even behind the standard four banger, let alone the 326. The Corvair-type swing axles gave it Corvair-type handling with lots of oversteer. I had one, I know. The 194 four was another quick fix engine, a Pontiac 389 sawed in half. Interesting engine and available in a high-compression four barrel version but a very rough runner as any four that large would be. And that rope driveshaft had to be expensive to build. Lots of engineering for what?

    The Corvair had probably the most successful engineering of the bunch since it hung on through '69. Very few were sold after '66 but that's mostly because of the Mustang. I had three and they're interesting cars. The two basic problems were the low-cost swing axle rear suspension ('60-64) and an engine that was supposed to be light-weight aluminum but ended up iron. Put the two together and you had a car that could put even an alert driver off the road in a second.

    The BOP cars were completely redesigned after only three years. So on balance I see lots of engineering effort for very little results, either short- or long-term, except for a V6 that's decent but so obviously low tech that any other company would be embarrassed to still have around.
  • avalanche325avalanche325 Member Posts: 116
    Interesting posts. But, I come into this post to talk about that fine piece of GM engineering ;-) the mighty Vega.
  • avalanche325avalanche325 Member Posts: 116
    Got my first car at 15 for $50. Hey, it was a set of wheels (almost). A 74 notchback in that nasty pale yellow. A three speed manual too.

    Pretty amazing, a five year old car selling for $50, and barely worth it at the same time.

    There was just a slight rust problem: Both front fenders had holes behind the wheel arch about the size of your hand, the hood had two holes in the middle, near the hump, about the size of a half-dollar. The rear window had rust all around the trim at the bottom. Let's not forget the all too common rust around the tail lights. Remember when the dealers used to drill into the body to put their name on the car? Huge rust spots there, of course. Got a new hood from a junk yard. And a couple of cans of bondo from K-mart, and about a case of "touch up" paint. I rapidly discovered that body work was not a lot of fun.

    Then the engine. It needed a head gasket when I bought it. Put one on. You should have seen the pits in the top of the cylinder walls, which were stupidly thin to start with. Good metallurgy GM, really did your homework there!

    My father owned a gas station and we had a 55 gal drum of mixed oil. We used to set the empty oil cans on a tray on top to drain the last drops. Over the years it was about 3/4 full. My trusty Vega used so much oil, that I drained that in about a year! Self changing oil, what a concept.

    Then the water saga started. I used to carry 6 gallons of water at all times. After about a year, it used more and more water. In its final 6 months, I used to get in and crank the engine and water (pure liquid) would shoot out of the exhaust. After that cleared a couple of cylinders would fire up. After 5 miles or so I could even get all four going.

    It got so bad in the end, that the car had about an eight mile range before totally overheating. My girlfriend lived 16 miles away. I could get there in two "hops", with steam spewing out when I arrived. It was nice having time to tlk to her parents while the car cooled off. (they were all good sports about it)There was so much compression leaking into the water jacket, that with the radiator cap off a good rev could shoot water at least 6 feet in the air.

    Well, after all, it cost me $50, I drove it for two years, and sold parts off of it for about $200 which I used to buy my second car.......another Vega!
  • ghuletghulet Member Posts: 2,564
    you were a glutton for punishment (two Vegas).
    I remember a family member buying a 69 Impala for $50 and driving it for about a year also (77-78). This car was pretty beat up, but had the trusty 350 2-barrel. I think it finally died due to overheating as well. Traded for a cousin of the Vega, a brand new 78 Pontiac Sunbird. Woo hoo!
  • dweezildweezil Member Posts: 271
    I stand corrected. On paper the record looks pretty good. That bean counter engineering has been used over and over with 6s and 4s and 8s designed to share parts and engineered to suit.
    Ghulet: you missed out on the best part of the Vega: the "Dura-Built 2300" all aluminum OHC 4. By 78; your Sunbird would have had the "Iron Duke" 2.5 ohv. 4 that went on to power everthing but Cadillacs in the 80s!!!Don't you LOVE the names???
  • ghuletghulet Member Posts: 2,564
    had the optional V6 (I'm guessing the 3.8). All that weight in the front made for *awful* winter traction.
    I do remember the Iron Duke; my aunt had an 82 or 83 Firebird with one, mated to an automatic. Zero to sixty in about 15 seconds.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    Maybe we should change the name of this topic to "GM: what were they thinking?".
  • hatesuvshatesuvs Member Posts: 1
    I started reading through these Vega messages and was laughing so hard that I thought I'd toss in my two cents; sorry, nothing as hilarious, just some 25 year old memories.
    I was headed for my last 2-1/2 years of college (after J.C.) in 1974, was going away from home and needed a car with a new-car warranty, good MPG (after suffering the long filling station lines from the '73 Arab oil embargo), some decent space to haul my stuff, and plentiful dealer support locations.
    CHOICES? - VW Beetle - NOPE-no heat for Chicago winters, 20 year old body style, no space. PINTO - NOPE - Simply didn't have a single cool line anywhere in the entire body style. ANY JAPANESE STUFF? - At that time, my perception was that they used recycled tinfoil and Budweiser cans to stamp out the "sheetmetal", if you could call it that. Tinny wasn't nearly a strong enough word. Dealer suppport back then was awfully few and far between for Japanese dealerships, also. FIAT? - 'nuff said.
    So I ended up with a 1974 Vega GT Kammback (read- wagon). Had a 4-speed, and I averaged about 23-24 MPG combined driving. I had it Ziebarted, though it still showed a couple of small rust-through holes behind the front wheel wells four years and 65K miles later.
    I never had any major problems with it, though I was pretty bent on maintaining it (oil changes, tune ups, radiator flushed, etc.) cause it already had a bit of a reputation just 4 years after its initial release. I don't remember the oil consumption when new, but at the end it burned a quart every 1,000 miles.
    Had to have a new carb put on it around 50K, but it never overheated on me. Perhaps the Chevy gods were looking after me on this one, eh??.
    Perhaps the 'one that got away', though, was the German-built Buick Opel. In addition to the sports coupe (Manta??), didn't they also offer a 2-door sports wagon? I remember people used to call the Opel GT "the poor man's Vette" due to the miniaturized resemblance to the 68-73 vintage. It was '75 or '76, though, that GM struck a realtionship with Isuzu, I think, to badge one of Isuzu's small cars and call it an 'Opel' by Buick. That was certainly the end, don't you think?
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    Wasn't the Iron Duke just the 153 CID four banger standard in the early Nova? The same engine that sold lots of optional sixes? There's another GM survivor from the early '60s. After the Dura-Built fiasco I guess GM decided to turn out the lights in the engineering department.

    This is off topic but what I see GM doing now reminds me a lot of the last days of automakers like Hudson and Studebaker. Keeping obsolete engines like the 3800 in production, using designs like the Bonneville well past the point when other makers would have restyled them, or overstyling old designs like the Sunbird to make them at least different if not current. Lots of quick fixes or no fixes.

    Reminds me of those early-'50s Hudson and Stude body shells that sprouted fins in '57 in a desperate attempt to get hip. Not a good sign.
  • crossedrealitycrossedreality Member Posts: 72
    Uhrm, by no measure is the 3800 obsolete.
  • modvptnlmodvptnl Member Posts: 1,352
    the Pontiac version was the "ASStre". The Sunbird was the Monza I believe. I've personally never seen a Vega motor go over 40,000 miles but the Iron Duke was stout and bolted right in. The Duke saw duty in some Jeeps also.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    The Sunbird I'm taking about is the Pontiac version of the current Cavalier. It's the one styled like Buck Rodgers' space ship.

    Is the 3800 obsolete? GM seems to think so since it's tried to replace it twice, first in the late '80s with the DOHC 3.4 and more recently with the Shortstar.

    The 3800 has been massaged to the point where it's a very good 1962 engine. Granted, it offers better low end than some of the competition but it's not nearly as smooth or quiet and it runs out of breath way too quickly for a modern sedan engine. (But it would make a great engine swap into a Vega or Astre--loved those mailslot taillights.)

    The problem with the 3800 and Iron Duke isn't that they're bad engines, it's that the competition is lightyears ahead in offering the refinement most buyers want. A smooth modern engine makes a car a better driver--that's why everyone but GM spends millions of dollars every few years to upgrade their engines. I don't know if that's the only reason GM continues to loose market share but it's got to be a big one.

    So what has this got to do with Vegas? Back to my original point: when you look at GM's fours and sixes its record has been a little sketchy lately.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,387
    Speedshift, I think the Pontiac you're thinking of nowadays is the Sunfire. Pontiac changed the name from Sunbird when they restyled for '95. I don't know what their rationale was behind it. Maybe GM's marketing thought "Sunfire" was younger and hipper sounding, and "Sunbird" was too 70's?

    I had an '82 Cutlass Supreme with a Buick 231. It's amazing, for as good a reputation as that engine has today, it was a whole different story back in the 70's and early 80's. Mine was sounding its death knell around the 73K mile mark. I called the local junkyard to find out if they had any used engines, and they said all their 231's were shot. Asked 'em how much it would cost to rebuild, and the guy responded "I don't know, I've never seen one worth rebuilding". Now, I seriously don't know how well this car was maintained before I bought it. It was 11 years old and I only paid $800 for it! One of my supervisors though, predicted it would die before 80,000 miles. He had a Pontiac Bonneville with that engine, and that's when it blew. Sadly, my mechanic said the same thing.

    One other thing I remember about that was a nightmare to work on. As crowded as everything was under the hood of a Cutlass Supreme, I'm sure it must've been even worse in something like a Vega or Monza!

    Just were these things with 350's in them? If the 231 was enough to cause suspension problems, what kind of havoc did a V-8 wreak? My neighbor used to play around with Vegas back in the 70's and early 80's, and had dropped a 350 into them on several occasions.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    Andre, thanks for the correction. The last time I looked seriously at these cars was around 1991 when, as I recall, the Iron Duke was standard and a Brazilian-built OHC four was optional.

    The 350 Vega was a very popular swap and there were plenty of articles about it but I don't remember much of the details. I do know that with the Monza 262 small block, a factory option, you had to loosen one motor mount and jack up the engine to do some sort of minor maintenance--change the oil filter, I think. I imagine you had the same problem with the 350 Vega, and getting to the plugs must have been a real bear too. Of course guys who drove 350 Vegas didn't mind skinning their knuckles.

    I think you could get away with using the front coils from the AC-equipped Vega to compensate for the extra weight of the V8. The stock rear end could handle a fair amount of torque if you were using an automatic and no slicks, but if you had traction the GM ten-bolt was essential (and would have helped with the weight distribution as well).

    I always thought the Buick V6 was a natural for the Vega/Astre, especially something based on the larger 252-4v. Wonder what happened to that displacement?

    I was kind of partial to the Astre with its GTO-style taillights, and I thought the rare two-door sedan was sharp in a business coupe sort of way. The wagon was nice too.

    I'm pretty hard on GM in general and Pontiac in particular but that's coming from a long-time GM guy who's more than a little disillusioned with what used to be the leading American automaker. I've owned three late-model Pontiacs--'93 Grand Am with Buick 3.1, '95 Firebird Formula V8 and '98 GTP--and couldn't wait to get out of them. But I have a short attention span and a deep-seated fear of commitment ;-).
  • crossedrealitycrossedreality Member Posts: 72
    I'm a current Pontiac owner...GM is still ok in my book!
    And while the 3.8 may be old, and I agree with you on many points, it actually is very refined. The supercharged version is amazing.

    Of course, if given the choice I would put a VW/Audi 1.8t motor in everything too small for an LS6, so maybe I need to shut up now....
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,387 that, to me at least, their product lineup is more appealing than it's probably been in over 20 years. Yet they're struggling, and I hear that they want to totally revamp and sell nothing but Vibe-esque vehicles. Yuck! Not that the Vibe is fact, I kinda like it. But one is enough...we don't need a whole division devoted to them!

    Speedshift, I always liked the Astre, too. There's one near my home that's kind of a fluorescent green, and I swear it looks like it rolled off the showroom floor. Actually, it looks better than that, because I hear that some of 'em left the showroom with the rust already forming ;-)

    As for that Buick 252, I forgot about it being a 4-bbl, but I think it was only produced from 1980-84. I know by the time my grandparents bought their '85 LeSabre, only engine choices were a 231-2, 307-4, or the 350 diesel. Was the 252 bored or stroked, compared to the 231? I'm guessing if it was bored, the water jacket might've been narrower, and it would've been more subject to overheating?
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    Oh yeah the 350 Diesel, or how to turn a good gasoline V8 into a grenade. I still think we should rename this topic "What were they thinking?".

    That's a good point about overheating. The 4.1 was bored out. I have a book on V6 performance from 1982 with photos of the 3.8 and 4.1 short blocks, and the 4.1 cylinder bores don't have much meat between them compared to the 3.8. No wonder they never turbocharged the 4.1--those thin cylinder walls would have done some serious flexing under pressure.

    It's interesting reading about the Buick V6 circa 1982. I'd forgotten it had the same convoluted oiling system the smallblock Buick had--makes sense, they're both based on the 215 aluminum V8. I wonder how much of that Rover cleaned up.

    Was also reminded that the 3.8 block is heavier than it needs to be because the original V8 tooling had the bracing and deep skirt an aluminum block needs. I know they lightened the block in the early '90s, the Series II engine.

    Large water passages in the block deck made the early ones weak and prone to warping. Combine that with only eight bolts to clamp down each head and keeping head gaskets must have been a problem. That explains the high mortality rate in the '80s.

    There was a heavy-duty 3.8 block in 1982 that they must still use, or something like it, with the supercharged 3.8.

    Note to topic police: we're still on topic here since the V6 was available in the upmarket versions of the Vega, the Monza and Starfire. But my feeling is that as a topic the Vega is pretty thin material although it does have the man-made disaster factor working for it.

    What's more interesting is the big picture: that an industry leader like GM would have so much trouble designing an innovative small car drivetrain, going all the way back to 1960.
  • jlflemmonsjlflemmons Member Posts: 2,242
    This was my first new car. Had a heavy duty 4spd with the best syncro I have ever seen in a manual. You could drop to 1st gear at 60 with no problem. The engine was indestructable, but it would only breath to about 4700 rpm. This was the un-even fire, or staggerfire engine. It used a solid state V8 distributor with two plug wires missing. Fire 2 cylinders, skip one, fire four, skip one. Couldn't make that sucker idle. This was the first revision of the 225ci. Next came the 231 evenfire, then the 3.8L SFI. The SFI engine used three coils and no distributor. Each coil had two plug wires. One cylinder would fire on the compression stroke while the other plug wire would fire a different cylinder on its exhaust stroke. Cleaned up the emissions that way. This engine also breathed much more freely and in the Ciera had stainless steel welded headers. The SFI engine also used needle bearings and as such was the first generation to come with a warning against using 20W50 oil, long used in these engines here in the southwest. This version was available in the Olds Ciera in '87 and was rated for 150HP. With a 4spd auto, the Ciera could both smoke the fronts on full throttle take off, and get 30MPG on the highway at 70MPH. Later on, tweaking of the engine got it up to 185HP, 210 (I believe) with a supercharger. While I have always been a V8 kinda guy, this is still one of my favorite engines.
  • avalanche325avalanche325 Member Posts: 116
    Maybe we could start a new thread with this.

    Engine configuration.

    It seems to me, in the 60s and 70s, at least. That 4 cylinder engines, in general, NOT counting the Vega, were fairly reliable. V8s were also reliable. In-line 6s, especially the slant 6, were reliable, BUT the V6 seemed to be a disaster.

    I am not really talking brand specific.

    What do you guys think???
  • ndancendance Member Posts: 323
    Strikes me that the basic problem is one of physics, not particular manufacturer's implementations.

    I think of the V6 as a packaging compromise. You DO get a lot of displacement for the external size of the engine, but at the cost of vibrations of all types. The most goofy example of this is the VW/Audi variants of V6 (which I expect run smoothly due to well-designed motor mounts). To be fair, the short crankshaft has to be of some advantage.

    I'm suprised we haven't seen more boxer 4 layouts. You end up with a good spot for a spare, very little vibration and low placement.

    On the other hand, I'm suprised how well inline 6's have held up in high performance use (BMW). I appreciate the smoothness over an I4, but seem to remember (as an example) the differences in longevity in the Datsun teams in the early '70s comparing 510 and 240Z engines (which are basically identical aside from cylinder count and are thus a good example). The I4's cranks would last all season while the I6 cranks would need a serious looking at after every race. I suppose advances in metallurgy in both the reciprocating parts and the bearings accounts for this.

    Of course, if anybody gave a lick about the environment or oil dependency, we'd all be driving I4's (aside from commercial use). They can be built to provide plenty of power in 'reasonably' sized cars, this would be a world consisting of things like the "Smart" car at the bottom and maybe a Passat at the top.

    You wanna go fast in I4 world? Buy a Cosworth Sierra.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,387
    ...hasn't that topic been done before? As for V-6 engines, well, GM was the only American producer of them until the 80's. I know Ford had a 2.8 that was used in the Capri and other cars, but didn't it come from Germany?

    The first domestic V-6 I can think of from Ford was the 232 "Essex" V-6, which I think came out in 1982 as an optional engine on the Granada/Cougar, and probably a credit-delete option on the T-bird/XR-7. Chrysler didn't have a V-6 until 1987, when they chopped 2 cylinders off their 318 to make the 3.9 that's still used in the trucks to this day.

    So back in the '60's and 70's, I guess you can say GM made both the best AND the worst V-6'es!
  • egkelly1egkelly1 Member Posts: 30
    The little SAABs had them into the 1960's. They were really compact, although I guess balance problems would have been quite noticable. A V-4 block would really be space -efficient!
This discussion has been closed.