250px-1972 Chevy Vega GT

Template:Infobox automobile The Chevrolet Vega is a subcompact, four passenger automobile produced by the Chevrolet division of General Motors for the 1971–1977 model years. GM President Ed Cole formed a corporate team to design the Vega, and the Chevrolet division was assigned to bring the car to production.[1] Following the 1960s wave of American compacts that included the Chevrolet Corvair and Ford Falcon, the Vega debuted with the Ford Pinto and AMC Gremlin in the 1970s wave of American subcompacts. Introduced September 10, 1970 on the new H-body platform, the Vega's two-door model range included a Hatchback (coupe), Notchback (sedan), Kammback (wagon), and Panel Express (delivery) — each employing a Template:Convert inline-4 engine with an aluminum-alloy cylinder block and cast-iron cylinder head and single overhead camshaft. By 1974 the Vega reached its model year sales peak of 450,000 and was among the top 10 best-selling American cars.[2] The Astre, Pontiac's badge engineered Vega variant was introduced in the US September 1974.[3] The Cosworth Twin-Cam, Chevy's performance version of the Vega was introduced March 1975. The Cosworth Vega engine is a Template:Convert inline-4 using the aluminum-alloy cylinder block fitted with forged components and a 16-valve aluminum cylinder head with double overhead camshafts. The Vega H-platform expanded for the 1975 model year with the Chevrolet Monza and variants in other GM divisions.[4] But a poor public perception of the Vega had developed from early model engine and fender corrosion issues,[5] while the upscale Monza, and later the lower priced Chevrolet Chevette offered alternatives, causing Vega sales to fall despite Chevrolet's efforts to improve the car's image.[6] With just 78,000 1977 models produced, the Vega and its aluminum engine were cancelled at the end of the model year.[7]


In the fall of 1959 Detroit automobile manufacturers confronted entry-level imports and domestic small cars such as the Studebaker Lark and Rambler American and in doing so created the compact car class, including the Chevrolet Corvair, Ford Falcon and Plymouth Valiant, introduced as 1960 models.[8] By the 1970s, cars like the Chevrolet Nova, Ford Maverick, and AMC Hornet had evolved into the smallest versions of the traditional six-passenger American family cars; larger than subcompacts, many were delivered with optional V8 engines.[9]

File:Chevrolet Vega dimensions.jpg

Designers working on products intended for North America had more freedom with regards to exterior dimensions and engine sizes in relation to their Japanese counterparts due to Japanese government regulations dictating those criteria. Detroit manufacturers emulated certain import aspects with U.S market-driven improvements in their subcompact car entries.

File:Chevrolet Vega dimensions-2.jpg

The Chevrolet Vega was introduced September 10, 1970 as part of GM, Ford and AMC automakers entering a new subcompact class. The AMC Gremlin was introduced six months prior and the Ford Pinto one day after the Vega's introduction.[10] They competed directly with the successful, but aging VW Beetle, as well as Japanese imports from Toyota and Datsun. Although the Vega's conventional rear wheel drive layout and unibody was similar to the Japanese compacts, its Template:Convert wheelbase and Template:Convert overall length were longer than Toyota Corolla's Template:Convert wheelbase and Template:Convert length.[11] Template:Clear


File:Coming soon-1970 Vega Teaser.jpg


The GM Europe Opel Kadett was being sold in the United States through Buick/Opel dealers from 1967. Chevrolet and Pontiac divisions were working separately on small cars in the early and mid '60s. Ed Cole, who was GM executive vice-president of operating staffs, was working on his own small-car project using the corporate engineering and design staffs. He presented the program to GM's president in 1967. When the corporation started seriously talking about a mini-car, Cole's version was chosen with the proposals from Chevy and Pontiac rejected, and Cole's new mini-car was given to Chevrolet to sell. Not only did corporate management make the decision to enter the mini-car market, it also decided to develop the car itself. It was a corporate car, not a divisional one. In 1968 GM chairman James Roche announced that General Motors would produce a new mini-car in the U.S. in two years. Ed Cole was the chief engineer and Bill Mitchell, the vice-president of the design staff, was the chief stylist. Cole wanted a world-beater, and he wanted it in showrooms in 24 months. This was an extremely short time to design and engineer a new car, especially one that borrowed almost nothing from any other. Cole formed a GM corporate design team exclusively for the Vega headed by William Munser, who had worked on the Camaro and the Turbo-Hydramatic transmission. The Vega, like the Corvair, has long been referred to as Ed Cole's baby. It was as GM president that Cole oversaw the genesis of the Chevrolet Vega, and the car was indeed designed and brought to production in only two years.[6] Code-named XP-887, Chevrolet "teaser" ads began in May 1970, not announcing its name at first, stating-"you'll see." The car took its name from Vega, the brightest star in the constellation of Lyra located 25.3 light-years away with twice the mass and 30 times the luminosity of the Sun. Vega comes from the Arabic word waqi meaning "falling".[12]

Development 1968–1970Edit

File:1968 Vega coupe prototype.jpg

The Chevy Vega was conceived in 1968 as a simple, low-cost transportation vehicle to utilize the newly-developed all-aluminum die-cast engine block technology. In October 1968, there was only one body style – the "11" style Notchback Coupe, one engine, one transmission – the MB1 Torque-Drive manually-shifted 2-speed automatic, no headliner, one base trim level, a bench seat, molded rubber floor covering, no glove box, no air-conditioning option, ventilation only through the upper dash direct from the wiper plenum, and exterior paint on the interior. As the program progressed into development, the market changed, and so did the product:

File:Vega clay model.jpg

December, 1968 – Hatchback, Wagon, and Panel delivery styles added. Kickpad floor-level ventilation added. Optional performance engine ("L-11" 2-barrel) added; predicted production rate was 20%; actually ran at 75%. Bucket seats replaced bench seat as standard equipment. Carpeting and headliners added for hatchback and station wagon. Air-conditioning option added; (predicted production was 10%, actually ran at 45%). February, 1969 – Opel three- and four-speed transmissions added (3-speed standard, others optional), Powerglide added (now four transmissions), mechanical fuel pump replaced by in-tank electric pump, power steering option added, base "11" style Notchback trim upgraded to match Hatchback and Wagon (carpet and headliner). April, 1969 – Gauge-pack cluster option added, HD suspension and wide tire option added (ran at 40% production), adjustable seat back option added (ran at 45% production), bumpers restyled, lower valance panels added, swing-out quarter window option added (ran at 10% production). July, 1969 – Electrically-heated backlite option added (ran at 10% production), "GT" package option added at $325.00 (ran at 35% production), bright window-frame and roof drip moldings added to Hatchback and Wagon (instead of painted). This is essentially how the car launched as a 1971 model. Production began on June 26, 1970. After the National GM strike (9/70-11/70) ended, bright roof drip moldings were added to the base "11" style notchback; moldings were sent to dealers to update units already in the field in December. The car still had no glove box.[13]

Design and engineeringEdit

File:71 Chevrolet Vega Hatchback Coupe.jpg
File:1971 Vega Sedan-yellow.jpg

As introduced, the Vega was one of the first Chevrolet vehicles to have as standard equipment front disc brakes, an electric fuel pump, side guard door beams, a double paneled roof, and foam-filled, hi-back bucket seats with floor mounted controls.[14] Many service operations were intentionally designed so to be performed by owners, and a "Do-It-Yourself" service manual was included with each car. All four Vega models share the same hood, fenders, floor pan, door lower panels, rocker panels, engine compartment, and front end. In a size comparison with a 1970 Nova, the Vega has Template:Convert less overall length, Template:Convert less wheelbase, Template:Convert narrower width and Template:Convert lower height.[15] The aluminum block inline-4 engine was a joint effort from General Motors, Reynolds Metals, and Sealed Power Corp. The engine and its die-cast block technology was developed at GM engineering staff, long before the program was handed-off to Chevrolet to finalize and bring to production.[1] Ed Cole, who had been very personally involved with the design of the 1955 Chevrolet V8 as chief engineer at Chevrolet, was equally involved with the Vega engine as GM president, and was a frequent visitor on Saturdays to the engineering staff engine drafting room, reviewing the design and giving direction for changes. As the engine development progressed at Chevrolet, it became known (in closed offices) as "The world's tallest, smallest engine" due to the very tall cylinder head.[16] GM's German subsidiary Opel was commissioned to tool up a new 3-speed derivative of their production 4-speed manual transmission. Opel had a 4-speed available that was in high-volume production, but the GM finance department insisted that the base transmission be a low-cost 3-speed, with the traditional profit-generating 4-speed as an extra-cost option. Opel did just that, and tooled up a new 3-speed from scratch, just for the Vega application, whose actual cost was higher than the optional 4-speed due to the tooling investment and low production volume. Both transmissions came by ship from Germany 100 transmissions to a crate, and arrived in shipments of thousands of transmissions at a time.[16]

File:71 Chevrolet Vega Kammback Wagon.jpg
File:71 Vega Panel Express-red.jpg

Its suspension and live rear axle design, near ideal weight distribution, low center of gravity and neutral steering give the Vega world-class handling characteristics that were praised by the automotive press.[17] The overall chassis suspension was to be tuned to a new A78 x 13 tire that was being developed concurrently with the vehicle. The front suspension is classic General Motors short and long-arm. The lower control arm bushings were actually larger than those of the Camaro.[18] The four-link rear suspension copied that of the Chevelle,[6] and coil springs are used throughout. This was a significant departure from the leaf spring suspension used in the Camaro and Nova.[19] The Vega's brake system copied an excellent Opel Kadett design including solid rotors and a lack of a proportioning valve.[1] Due to its "Modular Construction Design", a Vega sedan with 578 body parts had 418 fewer parts than its full-size Chevrolet counterpart. Modular Construction Design reduced the number of joints and sealing operations resulting in stronger, tighter bodies, effectively contributed to vehicle quality and made possible a very high rate of production.[15] The Vega's body surface was the first accomplished completely through use of computers. Body surface information recorded on tape derived from the clay styling model, allowed computers to improve the body surface mathematically. Tapes developed through the computer were also used to control drafting machines in producing master surface plates which were extremely accurate. The computer was also utilized in making the hundreds of necessary engineering calculations including vision angle, field of view, rear compartment lid and door counterbalance geometries, structural stresses, deflection calculations and tolerance studies.[15] The Vega's styling was judged conservative, clean-lined and timeless.[20][21] GM styling studio's main influence was the 1967-1969 Fiat 124 Sport Coupe AC, and the Chevrolet Camaro/Corvette studio grafted a 1970 Camaro-like egg-crate grille and Chevy-style dual taillights.[22] The original approved clay model had small rectangular front parking lights below the bumper. One morning John DeLorean (GM Vice President and Chevrolet General Manager at the time) brought Zollie Frank, the owner of the world's largest Chevrolet dealership (Z. Frank Chevrolet in Chicago)[23] into the styling studio to show him the clay and get his thoughts on the design. He looked at the painted clay model, walked around it, then stood in front of it for a minute or so, and said: "Get rid of those wimpy-looking parking lights – they should be big, round things that look like European driving lights". DeLorean turned to the studio chief, told him to make the change Zollie wanted. The modelers were put to work on large, round lamps and DeLorean and Zollie came back later that day to approve the change. DeLorean mentioned to the studio chief as they were leaving that "Zollie sells more Chevrolets than anyone else on earth – he knows what the customers like." The car went to production exactly as it was revised that afternoon.[16] Template:Clear

Models and changes 1971–1977Edit

The Hatchback was the most popular Vega model with its lower roofline and useful hatchback with fold-down rear seat, and accounted for nearly half of all Vegas produced.[7] The Sedan, renamed Notchback in 1973,[24] had the lowest price at $2090. It has more rear seat head room than the Hatchback and is the only Vega model with an enclosed trunk.[25] Car and Driver said in 1971. "The plain Vega sedan is as good-looking a car as you'll find in its class...with the Vega they've turned out one of the finest-looking compact sedans in the world."[26]

File:71 Vega Panel.jpg
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The Kammback Wagon with more cargo capacity and a swing-up liftgate, retains the Coupe's handling capabilities.[27] The Panel Express, a one passenger Panel delivery based on the Wagon, has steel panels in place of the rear side glass, and an additional enclosed storage area. An auxiliary front passenger seat was optional. In mid-1971 a GT option package for Hatchback and Kammback models was introduced. It included the L-11 two-barrel carburetor engine, F41 Handling suspension, 6-inch-wide GT wheels with trim rings, center caps and A70-13 raised white-letter tires, black-finished grill and lower body sills, full instrumentation and a hood/deck sport stripe option.[28] Dan Gurney, the first driver to win combined races at Formula One (1962), NASCAR (1963), and Indy Car (1967) tested a Vega GT on a NASCAR oval. Gurney said: "The engineering seems to shine through. I like it; I like it very much."[29] Yenko Chevrolet sold the Yenko Stinger II through 1973. Based on the Vega GT, its 140 CID L11 engine featured high-compression pistons and a turbocharger producing Template:Convert. Included were front and rear spoilers and side striping with "Yenko Stinger II" identification. 1972 models were essentially carried over from 1971 with a few refinements and additions, including revisions of the rear shock absorbers, and exhaust system. The Turbo-hydramatic 3-speed automatic transmission was added. A custom cloth interior option was new and a glove box was added and replaced dash storage bin.[30] The 1973 Vega had over 300 changes, including new exterior and interior colors and a new standard interior trim. The front bumper was extended Template:Convert on stronger brackets with a steel color keyed filler panel to meet the 1973 5-mph front bumper standards. New Saginaw manual transmissions replaced the Opel-designed units, and the Powerglide transmission was discontinued.[31] Two new models were introduced- The Estate (Woody) Kammback introduced in January, featured vinyl wood side trim. (ran at 8% production);[13] The LX Notchback introduced in May included a vinyl roof (ran at 3% production)[13] Both models included the custom exterior and interior options. In April, 1973 the First Cosworth Pilot Program was conducted at Ste. Thérèse, Quebec Assembly Plant (Lordstown Assembly was not operating due to adjacent Fisher Body Stamping Plant strike) Seven silver cars were built for Engineering.[13]

File:73 Millionth Vega.jpg
File:Millionth Vega interior.jpg

On May 17, 1973 the millionth Vega was produced at the Lordstown assembly plant[32] - a bright orange GT Hatchback with white sport stripes, Millionth Vega door handle accents, a neutral custom vinyl interior, and orange accent color carpeting. A special limited edition "Millionth Vega" was produced to replicate the milestone car.[33][34] 6500 were built at 10 per hour from May 1 to July 1.[13] 'Hot Rod magazine said: "They'll probably sell a million of 'em."[34] Subzero-temperature durability testing of GM's rotary Wankel engine installed in 1973 Vegas began in Canada. Initially planned as a 1974 Vega option, the engine was first delayed, then planned for the proposed Vega-based Monza 2+2. The 1975 Monza's high floor tunnel was designed to accept the Wankel, but GM canceled the engine due its inability to meet emissions and fuel economy requirements. The 1974 model year brought the only major exterior design changes, due to the revised Federal front and rear Template:Convert bumper standards-A slanted header panel with a steel louvered grill (replacing the plastic egg-crate grill), and recessed headlamp bezels complement the larger, front Template:Convert aluminum bumper. Front and rear license plate brackets were relocated and a larger rear Template:Convert aluminum bumper was used. A revised rear panel on Notchback and Hatchback had larger single unit taillights and ventilation extractor grills were eliminated on trunk and hatch lids.[35] Overall length was increased six inches (152 mm) compared to the 1971-72 models due to the front and rear 5 mph bumpers. In January, 1974 plastic front fender liners were added after thousands of sets of fenders were replaced under warranty on 1971-74 models.[13] In February, 1974 The Vega Spirit of America Hatchback limited edition was introduced. It featured a white exterior, white vinyl roof, blue and red striping on body-sides, hood and rear-end panel, Spirit of America I.D. on front fenders and rear panel, white "GT" wheels, trim rings and Chevy center caps with A70-13 raised white-letter tires, and a white custom vinyl interior with red accent color carpeting.[36] 7500 were built through May.[13] Vega sales peaked for 1974 with 460,374 produced.[7]

File:1973 Vega GT red.jpg
File:1974 Vega GT-midnight blue.jpg

1975 was a "rolling model change" at 100 cars per hour with no downtime. The 1975 Vega had 264 changes including High-energy electronic ignition and catalytic converter. Power brakes and a tilt steering wheel were new options. A new special custom cloth interior option was offered with interior trim and carpeting upgrades similar to the Monza 2+2.[37] The Pontiac Astre was introduced. Pontiac's badge engineered version of the Vega was offered in Notchback, Hatchback and Safari Wagon models. A Panel Delivery version was also offered in 1975. SJ models (hatchback and wagon) are luxuriously appointed. GT models (hatchback and wagon) and 'Lil Wide Track' and Formula (hatchbacks) offered a choice of sporty models. The Vega's design expanded starting in the 1975 model year with additional car lines in four GM divisions - Chevrolet Monza, Pontiac Sunbird, Buick Skyhawk, and Oldsmobile Starfire. In March, 1975 the Cosworth Vega was introduced after a year and a half delay. The first salable production Cosworth was built on the 27th. Chevrolet's single color ad stated, "Cosworth Twin Cam-one Vega for the price of two."[38] It features an all-aluminum Template:Convert DOHC 16 valve inline-4 with stainless steel headers and Bendix Electronic fuel injection. All 1975 Cosworth Vegas are black with gold accent stripping, gold-colored aluminum wheels and a black custom vinyl, black custom cloth, or white custom vinyl interior with a gold "engine turned" dash bezel and gold-plated plaque with Cosworth ID and build number.[39] In 1976, eight additional exterior and two additional interior colors were offered. Only 3,508 were built through 1976. The Vega Panel Express was discontinued at the end of the 1975 model year. Never a big seller, Panel Express sales peaked the Vega's first year at 7,800 units. After leveling off to an average of 4,000 units per year, only 1,525 were sold in 1975.[40]

File:1974 Spirt of America Vega.jpg
File:1977 Chevrolet Vega GT.jpg

1976 Vegas were refined with extensive engine, chassis, and body integrity improvements. Chevrolet advertised the 1976 Vega as "Built to take it."[41] A facelift included a revised header panel, wider grill, revised headlamp bezels-all made of corrosion resistant material-and tri-color taillights for Notchback and Hatchback. The 2.3L engine, named Dura-built 140, received improved cooling and durability refinements. The chassis received the Monza's upgraded components including the box-section front cross-member, larger rear brakes and torque-arm rear suspension, replacing the four-link design, and effectively eliminating wheel-hop on rough roads. The body received extensive anti-rust improvements.New models introduced were the GT Estate wagon and the Cabriolet Notchback. The Cabriolet package replaced the LX and featured a half vinyl roof and opera windows similar to the Monza Towne Coupe.[42] The Cosworth Vega was discontinued. 1977 was the final year for the Vega, carried over from 1976 with a few revisions and additions. The Notchback was re-named Coupe. The Dura-built 140 engine received a version of the Cosworth engine's pulse-air system to meet the more strict 1977 Federal emission standards. A full console was a new option, and the GT received blacked-out trim and a revised side stripping option. Vega production totaled more than 1.9 million vehicles in seven model years. At its peak, total Vega production was 2,400 units per day. Ed Cole retired from General Motors in 1974, and was killed in an airplane crash in 1977. After a three year sales decline, Chevrolet without emotion, trimmed the Vega from its line-up after the 1977 model year. Pontiac also dropped the Astre, but the Vega-based Monza and variants continued through 1980. Template:Clear


140 CID OHCEdit

File:Vega 140 Engine.jpg

Sports Car Graphic magazine said in September, 1970: "The new die-cast aluminum Vega 2300 (engine) is a masterpiece of simplicity. There are many innovations made to reduce the number of pieces and improve repairability. One belt drives cam and water pump. The movable water pump is also the belt tensioner. The oil pump is on the crankshaft and is also the front engine cover."[43] Collectable Automobile magazine said 30 years later in April, 2000: "The Vega engine was the most extraordinary part of the car." [44] The Vega engine is a 140 cubic inch (2.3 liter) inline-4 featuring a die-cast aluminum cylinder and case assembly and a cast-iron cylinder head with a single overhead camshaft (SOHC).[45] The cylinder block is an open deck design with siamesed free-standing cylinder bores. Outer case walls form the water jacket and are sealed off by the head and the head gasket. The block has cast iron main caps and a cast iron crankshaft. The cast iron cylinder head was chosen for low cost and structural integrity. The overhead valvetrain is a direct acting design of extreme simplicity. Only three components activate the valve rather than the usual seven of a typical push rod system. The camshaft is supported by five conventional pressed-in bearings. The camshaft is driven from the crankshaft by an externally mounted continuous cogged belt and sprocket system. Six v-grooves on the outside of the belt drive the water pump and fan.[46] The large bore and long stroke design provide good torque and lower rpm operation for reduced wear. Compression ratio for the standard and optional engine is 8.5:1, as the engine was designed to operate on low-lead and no-lead fuels. A single-barrel carburetor version produces Template:Convert. The two-barrel version (RPO L11) produces Template:Convert. From 1972 on, rating was listed as net horsepower. The one-barrel engine produces Template:Convert. The two-barrel option boosts output to Template:Convert. The relatively large (for an inline-4) engine is naturally prone to vibration and is subdued by large rubber engine mounts. Vibration and noise levels were reduced in the 1972 models with a redesigned exhaust and better driveline damping. The 1972 Rochester DualJet two-barrel carburetor required an air pump for emission certification and was replaced in 1973 with a Holley-built 5210C staged two-barrel carb. Emission control revisions made in 1973 reduced power output by 3 bhp, although the engine's cruising noise levels were reduced.[47] High energy electronic ignition was added for 1975.[48] Non-air conditioned cars had a small Template:Convert by Template:Convert radiator core. The reason for the relatively small radiator was the aluminum engine block and its superior heat conductivity as compared to iron.[11] At the very beginning of the experimental engine program at GM engineering staff, Ed Cole stated in a meeting that there would probably be no need for a traditional radiator, due to the excellent heat rejection to the air from the aluminum block. He felt that coolant could simply be passed through the heater core, with outside air ducted through the core and exhausted under the car to provide auxiliary cooling. Several pre-prototype cars were built this way at his insistence, and all of them were dismal failures from a cooling perspective. After having one seize up while he was driving it at the Milford proving grounds one Saturday, he backed away from his theory and allowed the design to continue with a conventional cooling system.[16]

Dura-built 140Edit

File:Dura built Vega engine.jpg
File:1976 Vega-1977 NY Auto Show.jpg

The 1976 2.3 engine, named "Dura-built 140", featured improved coolant pathways for the aluminum-block, a redesigned cylinder head incorporating quieter hydraulic valve lifters, longer life valve stem seals which reduced oil consumption by 50%, a redesigned water pump, head gasket, and thermostat. Warranty on the engine was 5 years/Template:Convert.[49] "August 1, 1975. 8 a.m. Outside the southern edge of Las Vegas. Three medium orange Vegas start their engines. They won't be turning them off much during the next 58 days except for rest and food stops, refueling and maintenance. They have a job to do."[50] Chevrolet conducted an advertised 60,000 miles in 60 days Durability Run of the 1976 Vega and its Dura-built 140 engine. Three new Vega hatchback coupes equipped with manual transmissions and air conditioning were driven non-stop for Template:Convert in 60 days through a Nevada desert, Death Valley test loop with air temperatures seldom under Template:Convert degrees. Fuel stops and oil changes were supervised by the US Auto Club. All three 1976 Vegas completed a total of Template:Convert with no failures. (One car needed a timing belt replacement and twenty four ounces of coolant)[51] The 1976 Vega was marketed as a durable and reliable car. The 1977 Dura-built 140 engine, painted blue its final year, added a pulse-air system to meet the more-strict 1977 U.S. exhaust emission regulations. The Chevy Monza standard engine was the 140 inline-4 its first year in 1975; the Dura-Built 140 for 1976-77.[52] Pontiac used the 140 engine for the Astre in 1973-74 (Canada), 1975 and the Dura-Built 140 engine in 1976, in both the Astre and Sunbird.[53] Oldsmobile's first four-cylinder offering was the Dura-built 140, standard in the 1977 Olds Starfire.[54]

Aluminum engine blockEdit

File:Vega aluminum engine block.jpg
File:Vega block cylinder bores.jpg

GM Research Labs had been working on a sleeveless aluminum block since the late '50s. The incentive was cost. Engineering out the four-cylinder's block liners would save $8 — a substantial amount of money at the time. Reynolds Metal Co. developed an alloy called A-390, composed of 77 percent aluminum, 17 percent silicon, 4 percent copper, 1 percent iron, and traces of phosphorus, zinc, manganese, and titanium. The A-390 alloy was suitable for faster production diecasting which made the Vega block less expensive to manufacture than other aluminum engines. Sealed Power Corp. developed special chrome-plated piston rings for the engine that were blunted to prevent scuffing. Basic work had been done under Eudell Jackobson of GM engineering, not at Chevrolet. Subsequently, Chevrolet was given job of putting the ohc sleeveless, aluminum block into production. The Vega engine block was cast in Massena, New York, at the same factory that had produced the Corvair engine. Molten aluminum was transported from Reynolds and Alcoa reduction plants to the foundry, inside thermos tank trucks. The block was cast using the Accurad process. The casting process provided a uniform distribution of fine primary silicon particles approximately Template:Convert in size. Pure silicon provides a hard scuff and wear resistant surface, having a rating of 7 on the mohs scale of hardness, the same as quartz. The blocks were aged 8 hours at Template:Convert to achieve dimensional stability. The technical breakthroughs of the block lay in the precision die-casting method used to produce it, and in the silicon alloying which provided a compatible bore surface without liners. Before being shipped to Tonawanda, the blocks were inpregnated with sodium silicate, where they were machined through the outer skin.[55] From Massena, the cast engine blocks were shipped as raw castings to Chevy's engine plant in Tonawanda, New York. Here they underwent the messy etch and machining operations. The cylinder bores were rough and finish-honed conventionally to a 7 micro-inch finish then etched by a new (then) electro-chemical process. The etching removed approximately Template:Convert of aluminum leaving the pure silicon particles prominent to form the bore surface.

File:Vega engine block cylinder bore.jpg
File:Vega engine piston plating.jpg

With a machined weight of Template:Convert, the block weighs Template:Convert less than the cast-iron block in the Chevy II Template:Convert inline-4. Plating the piston skirts was necessary to put a hard iron skirt surface opposite the silicon of the block to prevent scuffing. The plating was a four layer electo-plating process. The first plate was a flash of zinc followed by a very thin flash of copper. The third and primary coating was hard iron, Template:Convert thick. The final layer was a flash of tin. The zinc and copper were necessary to adhere the iron while the tin prevented corrosion before assembly of the piston into the engine. Piston plating was done on a 46 operation automatic line.[46] From Tonawanda, the engines went to the Chevrolet Lordstown assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio.[46] Eudell Jackobson of GM engineering pointed out one of the early problems with unexplained scuffing and discovered excessive pressure on the bore hones was causing the silicon to crack. This need to both develop and actually manufacture the engine was a product of the program schedule. He said:"...We were trying to put a product into production and learning the technology simultaneously. And the pressure becomes very, very great when that happens. The hone-pressure problem was solved before engines actually went out the door, affecting pre-production engines only."[55] Template:Clear

Stillborn L-10 EngineEdit

Although the optional L-11 engine with 2-barrel Weber carburetor became a mainstream part of the program in December, 1968 (and ran at a 75% level in production), the Chevrolet engine group had an intense dislike for the tall iron cylinder head with its unusual tappet arrangement and side-flow "Heron" combustion chamber design that had been thrust on them from engineering staff, and set out to design their own. The design evolved rapidly as a "crossflow" aluminum head with a single centrally-mounted overhead camshaft and roller rocker arms operating intake valves on one side and exhaust valves on the other, remarkably similar to the Ferrari V-12 cylinder head design of that period; it was almost 4" lower than the production head, was a lot lighter, had true "hemi" chambers with big valves, and made excellent power. Numerous prototypes were built, and manufacturing tooling was started in anticipation of approval for production. The real story never came out, but some combination of corporate politics ("You don’t need another cylinder head – mine will work just fine") and additional program investment killed the program. Had it gone to production, it would not have had the differential expansion head gasket problems that plagued the iron-head engine, and would have provided significantly higher performance than the optional L-11 engine.[16]

Cosworth Twin-CamEdit

Template:Infobox Automobile generation The 1975-76 Cosworth Twin-Cam is a limited production, performance version of the Vega. Its purpose was to "create excitement" for the entire Vega line. Only 3,508 were built from March 1975 through 1976.[7]

Development 1971–1974Edit

The racing version was known internally at Cosworth as Project EA. It was not a successful racing engine due to engine block structural failures. Chevrolet later offered a special heavy-duty block with thicker case walls for racing applications, but by that time Cosworth had moved on.[55] The Vega production version was developed and built by Chevrolet at its Tonawanda engine plant. The first 1971 development engines delivered an impressive Template:Convert.

File:Cosworth Vega Press Photo.jpg

During early 1973, Cosworth development was proceeding relatively on schedule at engineering, and production of pilot units had been scheduled to take place at Lordstown in April, 1973 with a production launch scheduled for August, and later re-scheduled for May, 1974. Shortly before the pilot build was to gear up at Lordstown, the adjacent Fisher Body plant went on strike, shutting down Lordstown assembly and resulted in the pilot being moved to Ste. Thérèse, Quebec at the last minute. Ste. Thérèse was building Vegas on one shift at 30 per hour at the time, and was preparing to add their second shift, so they had additional training manpower available that could be dedicated to organizing and executing the Cosworth pilot along with Lordstown personnel. Lordstown body, paint, trim, chassis, and final assembly staff, along with material & production control and quality & reliability staff relocated to Ste. Thérèse for about 10 days, where they were joined by a number of engineers and specifications people from Chevrolet engineering and Bendix. Seven silver Cosworths were built, with the planned "off-line" final assembly operations done in their final repair area by several veteran Ste. Thérèse repairmen they dedicated to the program. The cars were built on schedule, thanks to the Chevrolet and Bendix engineers who sorted out some of the mis-matched components that had been released and got the cars running properly, and returned to Lordstown.[56] Chevrolet general manager, John DeLorean chose black over Cosworth silver, the original choice, as the car's exclusive color. 1974 pre-production cars were released to the automotive press, but a burnt exhaust valve in a test engine caused the engine to fail the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency‎'s Template:Convert emission control system durability test. This delayed the car's introduction a year and a half while Chevrolet revised the Cosworth engine's emission control system, the Bendix Electronic fuel injection and the timing specs. It passed the EPA test the second time, and the Cosworth Vega was introduced in March, 1975 with significant differences from the cars that were built at Ste. Thérèse.[55]

122 CID DOHC-16 valvesEdit

File:1976 Cosworth Vega -2673.jpg

The Cosworth Vega engine is a 122 cubic inch (2.0 liter) inline-4 and features a die cast aluminum cylinder and case assembly and an aluminum, 16 valve cylinder head with double overhead camshafts (DOHC). The head design was assisted by Cosworth Engineering in England. The camshafts are held in a removable cam-carrier which also serves as a guide for the valve lifters. Each camshaft is supported by five bearings and is turned by individual cam gears on the front end. The two overhead camshafts are driven, along with the water pump and fan, by a fiberglass cord reinforced neoprene rubber belt, much like the Vega 140 (2.3 liter) I-4 engine. Below the cam carrier is a 16 valve cylinder head constructed of an aluminum alloy using sintered iron valve seats and iron cast valve guides for added durability. Forged aluminum pistons are used for added strength with improved durability under severe operating conditions. The engine features an electronic fuel injection system, and a stainless steel exhaust header. Each engine was hand-built and includes a cam cover sticker with the engine builder's signature.[57] Final rating was Template:Convert. The engine develops its maximum power at 5,600 rpm and is redlined at 6,500 where the SOHC Vega engine peaks at 4,400 and all is done at 5,000.[58]

Overview 1975–1976Edit

File:1975 Coswoth Vega.jpg

All 2,062 1975 Cosworth Vegas were black with gold "Cosworth Twin Cam" lettering on the front fenders and rear cove panel and gold pinstriping on hood bulge, body sides, wheel openings, and rear cove. Black exterior color wasn't available on lesser Vegas until the following year. The black or white custom vinyl, or black custom cloth interior includes a gold engine-turned dash bezel and gold-plated dash plaque with build sequence number, a specific 8000 RPM tachometer, and a Cosworth Twin-Cam Vega steering wheel emblem. At US$5,916, it cost double a normal hatchback, and only $900 less than a Corvette.[59] The Cosworth package includes a 'torque arm' rear suspension which provides optimum rear axle power control. This unit compares to the assembly used on the Monza 2+2. The Monza 2+2 axle is also used and provides a 3.73:1 gear ratio from a 7-1/2" ring gear. No other gear ratios were available, but a limited slip differential was optional. GT special springs, shocks, and stabilizer bars are included as are exclusive BR70-13 BSW radial tires on British-made 6 inch, gold-painted cast aluminum wheels with Chevy center caps. The Vega engine overheat protection system is used on the Cosworth package. This adds add coolant and temp/press warning lights to the instrument cluster. If the radiator coolant level becomes one quart or more low, a sensor, located in the radiator, activates the add coolant light. If the coolant temperature reaches Template:Convert. or greater or if the engine oil pressure drops below Template:Convert, then the temp/press light is activated. Air conditioning was not offered on the Cosworth Vega, due to interference between the induction system, specifically the air cleaner and the air conditioner's evaporator case. Power steering and power brakes were also not offered.[60]

File:76 Cosworth Vega 2673.jpg
Car and Driver reported, "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-Template:Convert times of 8.7 seconds.

For 1976, the Cosworth, like all Vega models, received a facelift including a wider grill and tri-color tail lamps and the extensive body anti-rust improvements. A new Borg-Warner 5-speed manual overdrive transmission with 4.10 axle was optional in addition to the std. Saginaw 4-speed manual with 3.73 axle. The exhaust system featured a single outlet tailpipe as opposed to the dual outlet pipe on the '75. Eight additional exterior colors were offered in addition to black and two additional interior colors were offered. Still, only 1,446 were built for 1976. The Cosworth Vega, although meeting the more strict 1977 emission standards in advance, would not be offered in the Vega's final year. Production fell well short of projected sales of 5,000 per year. Introduced a year earlier in 1974, as planned, the car might have met its sales goal. 1,500 unused Cosworth engines were simply scrapped for lack of demand.[61] Template:Clear

Engine output summary Edit

Year Standard Engine Optional Engine & GT (Z29) Cosworth Twin-Cam (ZO9)
1971 Template:Convert @ 4400 rpm

Template:Convert of torque @ 2400 rpm

Template:Convert @ 4800 rpm

Template:Convert of torque @ 3200 rpm

1972 Template:Convert @ 4400 rpm

Template:Convert of torque @ 2400 rpm

Template:Convert @ 4800 rpm

Template:Convert of torque @ 2800 rpm

1973 Template:Convert @ 4400 rpm

Template:Convert of torque @ 2000 rpm

Template:Convert @ 4800 rpm

Template:Convert of torque @ 2400 rpm

1974 Template:Convert @ 4400 rpm

Template:Convert of torque @ 2400 rpm

Template:Convert @ 4400 rpm

Template:Convert of torque @ 2400 rpm

1975 Template:Convert @ 4200 rpm

Template:Convert of torque @ 2000 rpm

Template:Convert @ 4400 rpm

Template:Convert of torque @ 2800 rpm

Template:Convert @ 5600 rpm

Template:Convert of torque @ 4800 rpm

1976 Template:Convert @ 4200 rpm

Template:Convert of torque @ 2000 rpm

Template:Convert @ 4400 rpm

Template:Convert of torque @ 2800 rpm

Template:Convert @ 5600 rpm

Template:Convert of torque @ 4800 rpm

1977 Template:Convert @ 4400 rpm

Template:Convert of torque @ 2800 rpm

Notes: Optional L11 engine standard on 1977 models[62] All horsepower ratings are SAE Net[63]


The Chevrolet Vega was initially popular with the automotive press, winning awards and praise for its innovative engineering, timeless styling, and sports car-like handling.[64][65][66] Chevrolet advertising for the Vega included ads promoting awards won by the car.

File:1971 Vega Car of the Year Ad.jpg
File:1972 Chevrolet Vega Ad.jpg

Car and Driver magazine in 1971 awarded top pick to the Vega above the Ford Pinto, AMC Gremlin, VW Beetle, Toyota Corolla and Chrysler Simca. The Vega's tall 2.53:1 axle ratio allowed a low 3,000 rpm at Template:Convert. It was the only car aside from the shortened compact Gremlin that could cruise at 70 miles per hour or above. The Vega's ride and handling were highly rated. It was the quickest of the cars tested, taking 12.2 seconds to reach Template:Convert. C&D credited the Vega "an excellent combination of performance and economy" and called it "a car for all occasions."[67] Car and Driver in a 1972 Super Coupes test rated the Vega GT's styling over Pinto Runabout, Opel 1900 Rallye, Mazda RX-2, Capri 2000, and Toyota Celica, saying: "...If looks alone determined the best Super coupe, the Vega GT would win hands down without ever turning a wheel."[68] Car and Driver readers voted the Vega "Best Economy Sedan" three years in a row (1971–'73) in C&D's Annual Reader's Choice Poll. In 1971, the Vega's first year on the market, it managed to unseat the incumbent import, breaking its eight year winning streak.[69] Motor Trend magazine in its August 1970 issue praised the Vega GT saying: " comes close to what a racing GT car should be, in handling, performance and comfort. Because it's basically a low-priced compact, the results are all the more surprising and rewarding."[19] Motor Trend included the Vega as one of the "Ten Best Cars of 1971"[70] Motor Trend selected the Vega Car of the Year for 1971. MT said: "The base Vega is a magnificent automobile without any options at all." "We choose the Vega as the Car of the Year because of Vega's engineering excellence, timeliness, styling, and overall value...for the money, no other American car can deliver more."[71] Motor Trend in the 1972 comparison test "A Back Door To Economy" chose the Vega GT best car over the Ford Pinto Runabout and Gremlin X saying: "Chevy has had it all along."[72] Motor Trend selected the Vega GT "1973 Car of the Year in the economy class" saying: "The Vega was judged solid, warm and comfortable, with a good finish."[73] In 1973 the Vega Wagon's Template:Convert fuel economy was rated number ten in Motor Trend's mid-summer cruise of "15 Cars To Own in a Gas Crisis".[74] In 1974 the Vega LX Notchback's Template:Convert was rated number nine in Motor Trend's "50 Cars Worth Their Weight In Gold".[75] In 1975 The Vega was included in Motor Trend's "10 Best Selling (American Made) Cars" test. The Vega had been vacillating on the sales charts from just out of the top 10 to just into the top 10. MT concluded Monza sales hurt the Vega and would continue to do so.[2]

File:71 Chevrolet Vega Ad-Promo.jpg
File:1973 Chevy Vega GT Ad.jpg

Road & Track magazine said in September 1970, "Vega is the best handling car ever sold in America."[76] Road & Track in their 1970 road test "Vegas Plain and Fancy" praised the car's styling, fuel economy, and ride quality but criticized the engine. "With the Vega, they've turned out one of the finest-looking compact sedans in the world." "The engine proved a let down. It's extremely rough and noisy..on the positive side, freeway cruising is relaxed and quiet, the slow-running engine's noise covered by wind and road noise, and it was economical not withstanding our overall mileage figures which include some very hard driving." "Ride and handling were departments in which we also expected good things and here we weren't disappointed. The Vega in standard form rides and handles very well indeed." [77] Road & Track in their Vega owner survey (of early models) said: "The level of assembly doesn't match the virtues of the design."[78] Road & Track in a Vega GT road test said: "The 1973 Vega is still the stylish, somewhat sporting economy car it was when new, but improved. The Vega's engine is much improved, with cruising speed noise levels lower than most economy cars." R&T concluded: "After what we've said about earlier Vegas, it's a pleasure to report the current Vega is attractive, respectably quick, and frugal-and it's the best highway car in class. Well done Chevrolet."[79] Road Test magazine in September, 1970 said: "Chevy pulled out the stops on this one-aluminum ohc engines, four body styles, high style options put it in a class by itself." "It's innovative without being complex."[80] Road Test in a July 1974 Test report on a Vega LX Notchback concluded Vega engineers had tamed the low-speed characteristics of the engine. "...It's wonderfully torquey and flexible at drive-away normal driving low and mid-range torque is what counts and this engine has plenty of it." "...The Vega's ride quality is not like that of a Caprice, but neither is it a choppy little-car ride thanks to the big car rear suspension (coil springs and control arms), ample suspension travel and reasonably good damping." The standard manual steering was criticized as being on the heavy side and too slow to permit fancy maneuvering. Braking performance was highly rated which was credited to the brakes themselves and the big (radial) tires. In summary they said: "The 1974 Vega is a vastly improved car over the original and even over last year's model. All of the important gripes have been taken care of and it can face up to its competition, domestic and imported on a feature by feature basis."[81]

File:1973 Chevy Vega GT ad.jpg
File:1974 Chevrolet Vega GT Ad.jpg

Hot Rod magazine in 1972, road tested a Vega GT Kammback, and said: "The car never looks like something you had to buy..It's the kind of car we'd buy to look good in, work on, add to, and wash once a week."[82] Hot Rod in a 1972 models introduction issue voted the Vega GT "Best Buy" of the entire 1972 Chevrolet line. Hot Rod, on the Millionth Vega, said: "Chevrolet was so smitten with the car, they've built 6143 Millionth Vegas. The series is basically a styled-up Vega GT with some nice interior touches..They'll probably sell a million of 'em."[83] Small cars magazine said in 1972: "Z/29 Vega GT: It's either the sportiest economy car in the world or the most economical sports car in the world."[84] Super Stock Magazine in a 1972 Vega GT road test said: "It is a damn nice little car with plenty of room, great handling, and a pretty high level of overall finish..."[85] Motor Trend in a 1975 Cosworth Vega test said: "The Cosworth Vega goes like the proverbial bat out of Carlsburg Caverns" "At moderate speeds, the car is as close to neutral handling as any American I have ever driven..."[86] Road & Track in its 1976 Cosworth Vega road test noted the reduction in displacement added an important degree of smoothness, a result of the shorter stroke. "We can't resist saying that with the Cosworth Vega engine, the Vega now runs the way it should have run all the time-easy, smooth, good response, good handling: a nice balance between performance and economy." "For all its exotic features, however, the Cosworth Vega engine is not a high performance unit with a specific output of only Template:Convert per liter, modest indeed when compared to engines of equal sophistication." The Cosworth Vega's handling was rated very good. R&T concluded: "All the drivers agreed that it is a far better handling car than those Vega derivatives that have been fitted out with V6 or V8 engines."[87] The 1974 Pre-production Cosworth Vega made Car and Driver's Top 25 Acceleration Champs. The Cosworth Vega was the quickest 0-60 mph car of 1974 with a time of 7.7 seconds.[88] Car and Driver in 1977 said John R. Bond, retired editor of Road & Track once caused himself and GM trouble with the Federal Trade Commission by calling the Vega the best-handling sedan from Detroit in the pages of his magazine. C&D said: "...though he may have been stretching the point a bit, the Vega/Astre does handle awfully well, provided there are no bumps in the road. The suspension is well tuned and the car stays flat and goes where its pointed."[89]

File:1975 Chevy Vega Ad.jpg
File:1975 Cosworth Vega Ad.jpg

Car and Driver chose the Cosworth Vega as one of the "10 Best Collectable Cars" in its fourth annual Ten Best issue, saying: "We're talking about historical significance here."[90] Car and Driver' in its 35th anniversary retrospective issue in 1990 mentioned the Vega three times: Detroit Fights Back - Ford Pinto and Vega 2300: "...they are the best, most import-beating subcompacts that American Technology knows how to build. If VW and the other small intruders survive this attack, they'll be assumed invincible." Cosworth Vega Preview - "A sixteen-valve head on a Vega aluminum block seems like a neat idea to us, so we rev up our prose. The car when it finally arrives, cannot keep up with our feverish preview." Showroom-Stock Challenge III - "We win again, this time in a-Vega GT, proof that truth is stranger than fiction." Detroit Fights Back - "The Pontiac Astre is introduced. It's a Vega with better decals."[91] Popular, in 2008 listed the 1971–1977 Chevrolet Vega one of 10 cars that damaged GM's reputation.[92] Car and in 2009 included the 1971 Chevrolet Vega on its "10 most Embarrassing Award Winners in Automotive History" list, criticizing Motor Trend, 38 years after the fact for selecting the 1971 Vega "Car of the Year."[93] Motor Trend Classic magazine in a 2010 "Loving Look Back" drive of a Vega GT, Pinto Runabout and Gremlin X said: "Chevrolet spun the Vega as a more American, upscale car. And let's face it, the car looked hot. So can you blame us for falling hook, line, and sinker for the Vega and naming it 1971's Car of the Year?" "Surviving Vegas are like a fossil record of everything that was wrong with the American auto industry circa 1970, but well-maintained examples are also great looking, nice-driving, economical classics—like Baltic Ave. with a Hotel, the best ones can be had for $10K or less." "Emotionally, Jim Brokaw summed it up in January 1972: Gremlin has power, but Pinto has the price, and a much quieter ride. Which car is best? Vega." [94]

Lordstown AssemblyEdit

GM purpose-built an advanced $75 million plant, Lordstown Assembly in Lordstown, Ohio, to produce the Vega. When completed, Lordstown was the world's most automated auto plant. 90 percent of the necessary welding was performed by 26 high-tech unimate industrial robots performing 520 welds on each Vega. Sub-assembly areas, conveyor belts and quality control were all computer directed. Vega production at Lordstown was projected at 100 cars an hour from the beginning: one vehicle every 36 seconds. This was nearly twice the normal volume and by far was the fastest rate in the world.[1] Two exits on the Ohio Turnpike were constructed to handle traffic to and from the plant.

GMAD–Late 1971Edit

File:Lordstown Assembly -Vega.jpg

The worker at Lordstown had only 36 seconds to do his job instead of the normal minute. With 25 percent more line workers than needed, the speed of assembly didn't bother most workers at first, and the Vegas that came off the line in those early months were well built. They still had mechanical flaws but issues such as fit-and-finish were not a problem. Then in October 1971, General Motors ordered Chevrolet and Fisher Body to turn over Lordstown to the General Motors Assembly Division (GMAD) One of its missions was to cut costs. Typical Lordstown employees (average age, 22) were products of the '60s. They'd grown up in an age of civil disobedience. GMAD ran a much tighter ship and discipline became more rigorous. The United Auto Workers (UAW) claimed that 800 workers were laid off at Lordstown within the first year of GMAD's arrival and the line speed didn't slow. Feelings got worse with management accusing workers of intentionally slowing the line and sabotaging cars by leaving parts off and doing shoddy work. Quality did suffer, and in March 1972, the plant's 7,700 workers called a wildcat strike that lasted a month and cost GM 150 million dollars.[55]

100 cars per hourEdit

As initial production ramped up toward the goal of 100 per hour, a major problem developed in the Paint Shop. At 85 per hour, the incidence of runs, pops, and sags became a major issue, with nearly 100% of the units requiring repair, and they had to plateau the rate through the spray booth at 85 per hour. They simply couldn’t lay the paint on fast enough with conventional pressures and tips, and when they increased pressures and opened up tips, they got runs and sags everywhere. Fisher Body paint engineering didn’t have a solution, so they called DuPont (lacquer paint supplier); DuPont sent in experts and chemists with two mobile paint laboratories. They literally developed a whole new paint chemistry and application specifics over a weekend (NAD – Non-Aqueous Dispersion Lacquer). There were production paint colors to that new formulation within a week, which enabled them to continue the production ramp-up successfully to 106 per hour in the paint shop. The body shop main line ran at 109, paint at 106, hard trim at 104, and chassis & final assembly at 102 in order to maintain 100 average off the final line with the inevitable occasional short stops for minor breakdowns. Masking, painting, and demasking the GT's optional sport stripes was something to see at 106 per hour.

File:Lordstown Assembly Vega.jpg

After two years of production, sales asked for a wood-grain option for the Kammback wagon, and it was released at the beginning of the 1973 model year. Nobody at Lordstown had applied wood-grain film to a car since the Caprice wagon in 1969, and it was nearly impossible to apply to the Vega body contours at 100 bodies per hour without wrinkles and tremendous scrap of the material. Wood-grain was pulled from the production schedule, and they called in an expert from Schlegel, the wood-grain film supplier, to refresh everyone's skills and show them how to do it at their high line rate. He set up shop in the company car garage, and trained a team of twelve people – six from each shift – on three wagons they sent through the system on purpose without the film installed. Everyone picked up the techniques, and they put wood-grain back in the schedule the next day and ran with no problems. The normal Chevrolet Broadcast Sheet (referred to today as the "Build Sheet") was an 8-1/2"x 11" printed form, with many boxes for part numbers and/or broadcast codes for both body trim and chassis operations. It became obvious that they couldn’t use the standard Chevrolet sheet, as they were printed in about 30 locations throughout the plant on teletype printers and it wasn’t possible for the printers to print the standard-length broadcast sheet at 106 per hour. About 80 per hour was the best they could do. (None of the other plants had ever run at more than 65 per hour). There was no help from the printer manufacturer, so John Hinkley, plant coordinator, arbitrarily cut the length of the sheet in half, condensed the codes, and created a body broadcast for trim and final operations and a chassis broadcast for chassis and engine line operations; this was the only way the printers could keep up with production. The front end of a Vega on the Final Line looked like it was "papered" with sheets – it took twice as many broadcast sheets per car as at any other plant and about 600 of them per hour filled up in the trash cans at the end of the line.[16]


The Vega was designed to be shipped vertically, nose down. Special rail cars known as Vert-A-Pac cars designed jointly between General Motors and Southern Pacific and held 30 Vegas versus 18 in normal tri-level autoracks. Each Vega was fitted with four removable, cast-steel sockets inserted into the undercarriage.[95]

File:Vert A Pac railcar.jpg
File:Vert A Pac(2).jpg

Chevrolet conducted vibration and low-speed crash tests to make sure nose-down Vegas wouldn't shift or be damaged in railcar collisions. Chevrolet's goal was to deliver Vegas topped with fluids and ready to drive to the dealership. To do this Vega engineers had to design a special engine oil baffle to prevent oil from entering the No. 1 cylinder, batteries had filler caps located high up on the rear edge of the case to prevent acid spilling, the carburetor float bowl had a special tube that drained gasoline into the vapor canister during shipment, and the windshield washer bottle stood at a 45 degree angle. Plastic spacers were wedged in beside the powertrain to prevent damage to engine and transmission mounts. The wedges were removed when cars were unloaded. The rail car doors were opened and closed via forklift.[96] Template:Clear

The DeLorean factorEdit

File:DeLorean and Vega in 1971.jpg

John Z. DeLorean, General Motors vice president and Pontiac general manager was promoted to Chevrolet general manager in 1969, a year prior to the Vega's introduction. In Motor TrendTemplate:'s August 1970 issue, he discussed the upcoming car, touting its quality of assembly and its handling capabilities. DeLorean stated: "The Vega is going to be built at a quality level that has never been attained before in a manufacturing operation in this country, and probably in the world.." "There is nothing that comes within a mile of the Vega for performance and handling... It out-performs any car in its price class in accelerating...This car will out-handle almost any sports car built in Europe. Not just little cars, but sports cars too. This is quite an automobile...I think the ride and handling of some of the imports is quite mediocre. But some of them are extremely well put together. The Vega has good craftsmanship, without the faults of the imports."[97] In contrast to the 1970 interview, "The Vega" chapter in On A Clear Day You Can See General Motors -John Z. De Lorean's Look Inside The Automotive Giant by J. Patrick Wright, published nine years later, DeLorean was critical on corporate decisions associated with the car's design, weight, pricing, even its name. "A study of the conception and gestation of the Vega reveals not a lesson in scientific marketing and development, but rather a classic case of management ineptitude..." "This program produced a hostile relationship between the corporate staffs, which essentially designed and engineered the car, and Chevrolet Division which was to sell it. From the first day I stepped into Chevrolet, the Vega was in trouble. General Motors was basing its image and reputation on the car, and there was practically no interest in it in the division. We were to start building the car in about a year, and nobody wanted anything to do with it. Chevy's engineering staff was only going through the motions of preparing the car for production, but nothing more. Engineers are a very proud group. They take interest and pride in their designs, but this was not their car and they did not want to work on it."[98] The biggest objection from the Chevrolet engineering staff was reserved for the Vega engine. GM Engineering policy group chose the engine pushed by Ed Cole and the corporate staff which used an aluminum cylinder block, a cast iron head and a longer stroke design which was traditionally less polluting. He said: "They were using an innovative production process using aluminum while they were relying on an old basic design for the engine, and Chevrolet engineers were ashamed of the engine."[98]

File:1972 Chevrolet Vega testing - Belgian blocks.jpg

DeLorean's most important problem was to motivate the division to get the car into as good shape as they could before introduction. "As the starting date approached, I put tens of additional inspectors and workers on the line and introduced a computerized quality control program in which each car was inspected as it came off the line and, if necessary, repaired. The first 2,000 Vegas built were test driven and a sizable proportion of the others thereafter. As the Lordstown, Ohio, assembly plant was converted to Vega production, we introduced an intense program for quality control with the target of making the first cars off the assembly line the best quality cars, from a manufacturing standpoint, ever built." DeLorean continued: "Work that had proceeded on the car revealed that the GM central staff had completely misgauged the weight and cost of the car they designed. As general manager of Chevy, I was called upon to explain why the car differed from GM chairman James Roche's announcement given two years earlier. How could I call the car "competitive" when it weighed almost 400 pounds more, and was priced more than $300 above the intended foreign competitor. While I was convinced that we was doing our best with the car that was given to us, I was called upon by the corporation to tout the car far beyond his personal convictions about it. This conflict never resolved itself fully in my mind and was one of the factors that precipitated my departure from the company. I said with a clear conscience that it was a quality car, and I believed it was because the first 2,000 cars were road tested off the assembly line and millions of dollars was spent to reinspect and repair each vehicle."[98] In naming the car, DeLorean said: "Studies were conducted showing one name stood out - Gemini. When pronounced it almost said "G-M-ini. Marketing studies notwithstanding, Ed Cole liked the name Vega and so did top corporate management, who disregarded Chevrolet's test results."


Frank Markus, Technical Director of Motor Trend test drove a 1973 Vega GT for the Motor Trend Classic Fall 2010 issue. He said: "After a few gentle miles, I begin to understand how this car won its awards and comparison tests."[99]

File:Chevrolet promo poster from 1973.jpg
File:Chevrolet promo poster -2 from 1973.jpg

Motor Trend magazine selected the Vega one of the "Ten Best Cars of 1971."[70]

Motor Trend awarded the Vega "Car of the Year" for 1971.[71] American Iron and Steel Institute awarded the Vega in 1971 for–"Excellence in design in transportation equipment."[100] Service Station Management and Motor Service magazines in a July 1972 survey, the Vega was voted–"Easiest to service, least mechanical problems and best overall in its class" by independent servicemen."[101] Motor Trend awarded the Vega GT "Economy Car of the Year" for 1973.[73] Car and Driver magazine Reader's Choice Polls voted the Vega "Best Economy Sedan" in 1971, 1972 and 1973.[102] Car and Driver included the Cosworth Vega as one of the "Top 25 Acceleration Champs" in the 1974 article–History of 0-60.[88]

Car and Driver selected the Cosworth Vega one of the "10 Best Collectible Cars" in its fourth annual Ten Best issue in 1986.[103] Template:Clear Chevrolet marketing for the 1971-1975 Vega included dealer sales folders and mailers of reprinted articles of the car's awards and road tests


Although the Vega sold well from the beginning, the buying public soon started to question the car's quality. It had every right to; it came out prematurely and still had glitches. Development and upgrades continued throughout the car's seven year production run addressing its engine and cost-related issues.[104]


File:1968 Vega wagon prototype.jpg

Jerry L Brockstein, assistant to Henry Haga, head of the Camaro/Corvette studio where the Vega prototype was restyled, recalls finalizing the Vega bodies: "Chevrolet was trying to build this car as cheaply as possible and wanted us to take a lot of money out of it. At first the metal was so thin on the Kammback wagon that in the test facilty it kept buckling under its own weight, as Fisher Body had to come back and put stiffening ribs in the roof."[105] Note though, Fisher often under-engineered prototype bodies; it was easier and more economical to reinforce a weak body than to shave one that had more strength than needed. Chevrolet, in a January 1971 Vega engineering report stated: "Early difficulties were experienced at the front and rear suspension attaching points. Using scaled suspension members to impose static loads, stress evaluations were conducted. It was determined that addition of reinforcements, metal gauge increases, and some redesign of the pieces would give desired structure."[11]

Fisher BodyEdit

File:Lordstown Vega Elpo dip.jpg

Fisher Body pioneered its Elpo (electrophoretic deposition of polymers) full-body dip primering process, which was designed to prevent rust — but in practice did not. The Elpo process followed a seven stage zinc phosphate initial treatment and itself involved submerging the assembled Vega body in a vat containing reddish-brown paint-primer particles in Template:Convert of water. The metal bodies received a positive electrical charge during the dip, the primer particles carried a negative charge, the body traveled the distance of the tank, submerged for two minutes, and finally bodies would leave the vat in a rocking-motion that lifted the body from the vat and shed excess primer. The dip would theoretically coat all surfaces of even the most remote recesses. The body was then dried, wet-sanded, sealer-coated and finally sprayed with acrylic lacquer and baked in a Template:Convert degree oven. In practice however, the Elpo dip did not flow to every recess or reach every surface. Vega expert Gary Derian, interviewed by Collectable Automobile in 2000 explained: "The design of the front end caused air to be trapped at the tops of the fenders, so they never got coated. Early cars had no inner fender liners, so the tops of the front fenders got blasted by sand and salt thrown up by the tires, and they quickly rusted." Derion pointed out, too, that a rust-prone gap existed between the front fenders and the cowl vent. Moist debris and salt would pack into this area rusting through the metal in a few years.[55] Despite Vega's original design having specified molded plastic front fender liners at the outset of production, the $2.28 per-car liners were subsequently deleted after a cost review. As the primary design targets for the Vega were to produce a 2,000-pound car to sell for $2,000.00, such costs were scrutinized carefully. As a mid-model change during model year 1974,[16] five years after production began and after GM had spent millions to field-replace thousands of rusted Vega fender sets, the plastic fender liners were reinstated. Rust could also affect the rocker panels, the door bottoms, the area beneath the windshield, and the primary body structure above the rockers. Starting in 1976, Chevrolet began spraying the inner doors with an aluminized wax, and manufacturing front fenders and rocker panels with galvanized Zincrometal.[55]

140 CID engineEdit

File:72 Vega Kammback engine.jpg

The Vega was subject to two recalls early in its production run involving its 140 CID engine. 130,000 cars fitted with L11 option addressed a concern over backfiring caused by the two-barrel carburetor. The second recall, in the early summer of 1972, involved 350,000 cars with the standard engine driven by a perceived risk that a component in the emission control system might fall into the throttle linkage, jamming it open[106] Eudell Jackobson of GM engineering confirmed the problem involving the early two-barrel Rochester carburetor. Because of the inherent second order unbalance of the 4-cylinder engine, relatively soft engine mounts were required. Due to the soft mounts, the Vega engine sometimes shook to the extent that it would loosen the screws holding the top cover to the carburetor body. The top cover would then jump up and down, which activated the accelerator pump, which shot raw gasoline through the cylinders and into the exhaust system. Fuel would puddle inside the muffler and eventually explode, resulting in backfire. The early mufflers would blow out towards the fuel tank, so later ones were engineered so they'd blow away from the tank. Thread-locking fluid was also applied to the carburetor bolts in production.[55] For 1973, the Rochester carburetor was replaced with a Holley-Weber design.[107] Jackobson added: "After the engine had been in production for a while, customers would go back to the dealer complaining about oil consumption... the mechanic would peer down the bore scope and observe cylinder scuffing. We eventually found out that the problem had never been the scuffing of the (cylinder) bore. The real problem was the valve stem seals. They'd harden, split, fall off, and oil would leak down past the valves and into the combustion chamber. So we did some experiments. When we got an oil burner, we simply replaced the valve-stem seals, and that cured it."[55] 1976-77 Dura-built engines had redesigned seals that reduced oil consumption by fifty percent.[108] The Vega's cooling system came in for criticism. Although it held only Template:Convert and had a tiny two-tube, Template:Convert radiator, when topped off the Vega cooling system was adequate.[109] But most owners tended not to check the coolant level often enough, and in combination with leaking valve-stem seals, the engine would often be low on oil and coolant simultaneously. This caused overheating, which distorted the open deck block, allowing antifreeze to seep past the head gasket, causing piston scuffing inside the cylinders.[55] In response, Chevrolet added a coolant overflow bottle and an electronic low-coolant indicator in 1974 that could be retrofitted to earlier models at no cost. Fred Kneisler from GM engineering maintained that too much emphasis had been put on overheating problems versus the real culprits: brittle valve stem seals and too-thin piston plating. Regardless of the cause, damaged cylinder walls were common. Under a revised Template:Convert engine warranty for 1971-1975 Vegas, an owner with a damaged engine had a choice to have the short block replaced with a brand new unit or a rebuilt steel-sleeved unit. This proved costly for Chevrolet. The 1976-77 Dura-Built 140 engine had improved engine block coolant pathways, a redesigned head gasket, water pump, and thermostat, and had a 5-year/Template:Convert warranty[108] Despite its lack of success with the Vega, the liner-less aluminum/silicon engine technology that GM and Reynolds developed turned out to be sound. Mercedes-Benz and Porsche both successfully commercialized the technology and use sleeveless aluminum engines today, the basic principles of which were developed for the Vega engine.[6] Template:Clear


Due mostly to inflation, but also because of emissions and safety mandates, prices of all automobiles rose 50 percent during the Vega's seven-year lifespan. The same basic Vega that cost $2090 in 1971 carried a retail price of $3249 by the end of 1977. And since all other cars suffered the same inflationary rise, less expensive cars were in greater demand than those with higher prices which helped Vegas sell.[110] The 1975 Cosworth Vega however, at $5,918 was priced $892 below the Corvette. "Cosworth. One Vega for the price of two" as it was advertised,[111] was priced out of the market, and fell well short of its projected sales goal.

1971-77 Vega
1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977
MSRP-base price
$2090–$2328 $2060–$2285 $2087–$2323 $2505–$2976 $2786–$3244 $2984–$3450 $3249–$3745
1975-76 Cosworth Vega
1975 1976
MSRP-base price
$5918 $6066

Production notesEdit

1,966,157 Chevrolet Vegas were produced from 1970 through 1977, including 3,507 Cosworth Vegas.[7] The majority were built in the United States at the GM Lordstown Assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio. Starting In 1973 through 1974, Vegas were also built at the GM of Canada plant Sainte-Thérèse Assembly in Quebec.

197158,800168,30042,8007,800-277,700 GT Package introduced mid-year for Hatchback and Kammback (includes-L11 110 hp 2bbl engine, ride and handing suspension (includes-stabilizer bars front and rear, firmer springs and shocks, A70-13 raised white letter tires, 6" wide GT wheels w/trim rings and center caps), black grill with chrome outline moldings, clear parking light lenses, GT emblems-front fenders, window reveal moldings and lower body chrome moldings w/black accents, black finish lower body sill, instrumentation package w/tach and clock, four spoke sport steering wheel w/GT emblem, passenger assist handle and two position driver's seatback)
197255,800262,70072,0004,114-394,592 Carry over except - Revised exhaust system, Revised rear shock absorbers, Emission control air pump added for 2bbl engine, Optional custom cloth interior added, Glove box replaces dash storage bin. Horsepower ratings change from "gross" to "net" figures.
1973-----395,792 Over 300 changes including revised Emission control system, Extended front bumper with heavier brackets and steel, painted filler panel, Holley carb replaces Rochester units on 2 bbl engines. American-built Saginaw three and four-speed Manual transmissions replace the German Opel-built units of '71-'72 models. 3-speed Turbo-Hydramatic transmission replaces 2-speed Powerglide. New shift linkage with revised selector console, BR70-13 white stripe steel belted Radial tires option, New "Vega by Chevrolet" nameplates- front and rear (changed from "Chevrolet Vega 2300"), New exterior & interior colors, New std. vinyl seat trim, Interior wood trim revision (GT/custom interior), LX option for Notchback (includes-vinyl roof, black grill with moldings, LX emblems-front fenders, wheel opening moldings, clear parking light lenses, custom interior and sport steering wheel) Estate option for Kammback Wagon (includes-woodgrain exterior side trim with surround moldings, Estate emblem-tailgate, custom interior and sport steering wheel), Full wheel covers option, New body side molding w/ black rubber insert option, New sport stripes w/color-keyed side molding option for Hatchback, Limited edition Vega GT-Millionth Vega-bright orange exterior with white sport stripes, neutral custom vinyl interior with orange accent color carpeting.
197463,591271,682113,3264,287-452,886Front and rear end re-designed to accept the (stricter for '74) federally required Template:Convert bumper standards, Aluminum bumpers front and rear with inner steel spring similar to the 1974 Camaro, New steel, louvered grill with vertical parking lamps and recessed headlamp bezels, New Notchback/Hatchback rear panel with larger single unit taillights, new lower valence panels, Relocated license plate brackets front and rear, Fuel filler relocated to passenger side rear quarter panel (previously under a hinged rear licence plate), Coolant recovery system added with dash low coolant warning light, Larger 16 gallon fuel tank, Full front fender inner liners added mid-year, Ventilation extractor vents removed from trunk lid/hatch on coupes, Full wheel covers now included with LX/Estate options, Color keyed dual sport mirrors with driver's side remote feature (included with GT, LX and Estate), Optional bumper rubber strips and guards (included with GT, LX, and Estate), New std. pattern cloth seat trim, Revised gauge graphics. Limited edition Spirit of America Hatchback- white with red and blue stripping, white custom vinyl interior with red accent color carpeting.
197535,133112,91256,1331,5252,061206,239264 changes including electronic ignition, catalytic converter, larger lower Ball joints, Power brakes and Tilt steering wheel options, BR78-13B GM-spec steel belted wsw Radial Tires option, New quiet sound group option, New GT side stripes option-black or white (replaces hood/deck stripe option), Special luxury cloth interior option (similar to Monza), GT Estate introduced. Cosworth Vega introduced March '75.
197627,61977,40946,114-1,446160,523Panel Express discontinued. Revised and newly-named Dura-built 140 engine, Vega chassis/floor pan now shared with Monza (including Torque-arm rear suspension and larger rear brakes). New Delco Freedom maintenance-free battery, New Borg Warner 5-speed transmission option with 4.11 final drive axle ratio, BR78-13B GM-spec steel belted radial tire option now available in bsw, wsw, and rwl. Extensive anti-rust improvements on Vega's body (including "four layer" fender protection with zinc coated and primed inner fenders and wheelwell protective mastic, galvanized steel rocker panels, zinc-rich pre-prime coating on inner doors, expandable sealer installed between rear quarter panel and wheel housing panel, and a corrosion resistant grill and headlamp housings). New tri-color taillights for coupes, Cabriolet Coupe equipment option (Notchback w/half vinyl top and "opera windows", full wheel covers and wheel opening moldings). New Sky-Roof option with tinted reflectorized sliding glass. Cosworth Vega now available in eight additional exterior colors and two additional interior colors at mid-year. Limited edition Nomad Wagon (includes restyled rear side windows)
197712,36537,39525,181--78,402Cosworth Vega discontinued. 1bbl version of 2.3 engine discontinued, 2.3 2bbl engine now std. 3-speed manual trans. discontinued, 4-speed manual now std. Notchback renamed Sport Coupe, New color keyed full console option, New GT blackout moldings, Revised GT side stripes option, Gold colored Aluminum Wheel option (leftover Cosworth stock).
Total----3,5081,966,157Model breakdown not available for 1973 model year.


Concept carEdit

File:1973 Chevrolet XP-898.jpg

The 1973 Chevrolet XP-898 is a front engine, rear wheel drive design based on the Chevrolet Vega using many of its components including the Template:Convert aluminum-block inline-4 engine. The vehicle has a Template:Convert wheelbase with an overall length of Template:Convert. This two-seater sports coupe offered a unique look at alternative engineering approaches to future techniques in design and manufacturing. The vehicle was built with a frameless fiberglass foam sandwich body and chassis. The entire body consisted of four lightweight fiberglass outer body panels, the floor pan, firewall, upper front, and upper rear with a rigid urethane foam filling the designed clearance between the panels. The structure and appearance of the car were designed so that the body could be assembled using four lightweight molded outer skin sections. With the outer skin panels placed in a foaming mold, liquid urethane was injected between the panels where it expanded and bonded the body into a single, rigid sandwich structure. The result was a vehicle body virtually free of squeaks, rattles, and vibrations. Once the urethane hardened (which took about fifteen minutes), the suspension, drive train, hood and doors were bolted to reinforcing plates, which were bonded to the fiberglass panels. A key consideration in the engineering design of the XP-898 was the advantage of improved crash worthiness of the sandwich construction technique. The energy absorption characteristics of the vehicle enabled engineers to simulate crash conditions for the vehicle at speeds up to 50 miles per hour without catastrophic failure to the structure.[113]

Vega variantsEdit

The Vega body was used for several rebadged variants. The 1973–'77 Pontiac Astre, essentially a Vega clone, used all four Vega body styles and Vega engines through 1976. The 1978–'79 Chevrolet Monza and Pontiac Sunbird wagons used the Vega Kammback wagon body with engines supplied by Pontiac and Buick. The Chevrolet Monza line also offered the Monza 'S' in 1978 using the Vega hatchback body.[114]

Pontiac AstreEdit

File:1973 Pontiac Astre.jpg

Pontiac introduced the Astre in Canada September 1972, sold there exclusively for the 1973–'74 model years. It featured Pontiac's trademark split grill, emblems, steering wheel, and 1967 Firebird-styled taillights (notchback and hatchback) to help distinguish itself from the Chevrolet Vega.[115] The Astre was introduced in the US September 1974 as a 1975 model, giving Pontiac dealers a needed fuel efficient subcompact.[116] The Astre used the Vega Template:Auto CID engine through 1976. Transmissions are the 3 and 4-speed manual, 5-speed manual with overdrive (1976–'77 option) and the 3-speed automatic. SJ models, optional on hatchback and wagon, feature soft nylon upholstery, cut pile carpeting, padded and cloth covered door panels, and a fabric headliner, plus rally instruments, the two barrel engine, four-speed or automatic (over a 3-speed manual) gearbox and radial tires. A GT package was optional for the hatchback and wagon.

A unique package was offered in 1975. Dubbed the 'Lil Wide Track, it was the creation of Jerry Juska of Dymar to help with lackluster Astre sales. Juska took his ideas to Dave Landrith of Motortown corporation who specialized in custom auto work. The package included a front air dam, rear spoiler, appliance wire mag rims, window louvers, a chrome exhaust tip, and bright stripe decals for the hood, body sides, rear spoiler, door handles, and wheel centers. They assembled a couple of cars in Jan. and Feb. 1975 and took pictures to local Detroit dealers where the package gained acceptance. The package added a little over $400 to the price of the Astre but dealers felt the difference in looks was worth the price. Production was switched from an old warehouse in suburban Detroit to a factory beside the Lordstown Vega/Astre plant. An estimated 3000 Lil Wide track Astres were ordered by dealerships, and eventually the package components were offered as a dealer installed kit.[117]
File:Pontiac Astre Lil Wide Track.jpg

Pontiac introduced the 151 CID (2.5 L) OHV "Iron-Duke" inline-4 engine for the 1977 model year. An updated version of Chevy's Nova engine last offered in 1970, the final model-year Astre was the first Pontiac to use the engine. 1977 models also featured a new vertical design grill and Aluminum wheels (13") were a new option. The Astre Formula was introduced which included the handling package, chrome valve cover, three-piece spoiler, Formula T/A steering wheel and special decals.[118] Car and Driver in a 1975 Astre road test, said, "For $180 over the price of a Vega, the Astre features upgraded interior trim-primarily the items for which Chevrolet charges $134 in their custom interior. You also have the opportunity to go one big step up in luxury if you choose the SJ line which is available in hatchback and wagon body styles."[119] Car and Driver in a 1977 Astre road test, said, "The Astre is the Vega-polished and refined and significantly improved, but still a Vega in perhaps its ultimate state of development..It remained for Pontiac to do what Chevrolet probably should have done in the first place: the substitution of the marvelous old Chevy II cast-iron four-cylinder econo-motor for the much-troubled aluminum-block Vega engine. Sliding in and starting the engine was a revelation because its so quiet and smooth compared to the Vega. Also the Astre's interior trim was judged more plush than Vega's." Template:Clear

Chevy Monza 'S' & Monza WagonEdit

File:Monza S.jpg

The Vega Hatchback body style continued in 1978 as the Monza 'S', marketed as the price leader for the Chevy Monza line. To help differentiate the Monza 'S' from the Vega, it featured Monza's new front end header panel and grill with Chevy bowtie emblem, steel front and rear bumpers (replacing the Vega's aluminum bumpers), Monza front fender nameplates, and a two-spoke color keyed steering wheel with Monza emblem. White wall tires and full wheel covers were standard as were bumper rub strips. In addition, there was an expanded engine availability. Pontiac's Template:Auto CID OHV 'Iron-Duke' in-line 4 was standard. A choice of two V6 engines were available. Buick's Template:Auto CID Template:Convert V6 and Template:Auto CID Template:Convert V6. The 4-speed manual was standard with all engines. The 5-speed manual with overdrive and 3-speed automatic transmissions were optional.[120]

File:78 Monza Estate Wagon.jpg

The Vega Kammback wagon body style continued in 1978–79 as the Monza Wagon. It featured the new Monza front end and grill, front and rear steel bumpers with rub strips, Monza front fender namplates, standard white-wall tires, full wheel covers and steering wheel with Monza emblem. The Monza Estate, like the Vega Estate wagon it replaced, features wood grain sides and rear trim with outline moldings and the custom interior. Monza wagon models included, as standard, the 151 CID I-4. The Template:Auto CID and Template:Auto CID CID V6 engines were optional. The 4-speed manual was standard with all engines. The 5-speed manual with overdrive, and 3-speed automatic transmissions optional.[121]

Pontiac Sunbird Safari WagonEdit

File:78 sunbird wagon.jpg

The Pontiac Sunbird Safari wagon replaced the discontinued Pontiac Astre Safari wagon which was essentially carried over with Sunbird badging. Using the Vega Kammback wagon body, it was produced for the 1978–79 model years retaining the Vega/Astre aluminum bumpers, unlike the Monza wagon, which featured a new front end and steel bumpers, but 1979 Sunbird wagons featured a revised horizontal styled grill. Standard powertrain was Pontiac's 151 CID I-4 with a 4-speed manual transmission. Previously unavailable for Astre were Sunbird's optional 196 CID and 231 CID V6 engines. 5-speed manual and 3-speed automatic were transmission options.[122] Template:Clear

Vega variant Production
1975–1977 Pontiac Astre 147,773
1978 Chevrolet Monza 'S' Hatchback 2,326
1978–1979 Chevrolet Monza Wagon 41,023
1978–1979 Pontiac Sunbird Wagon 11,336
Total[7] 192,458

Hot rodding and racingEdit

V8 VegasEdit

File:'71 Chevrolet Vega (Auto classique).JPG

Because of the Vega's design, light weight and low cost, it is often modified. A small-block Chevy V8 engine fits in the engine compartment; and a big-block will fit with modifications. The Vega was not offered with a factory V8 option, but Vega-based models Monza, Sunbird and Starfire were.[123] In 1972, Hot Rod magazine tested a prototype Vega featuring an all-aluminum V8. The fitted engine was the last of several Template:Auto CID units used in Chevrolet's Corvette research and development in the late 1950s, bored out to Template:Auto CID for the Vega application. Hot RodTemplate:'s road test of the prototype with Turbo Hydramatic, stock Vega differential, and street tires yielded quarter mile (~400 m) times under 14 seconds.[124]


Motion Performance of Baldwin NY and Scuncio Chevrolet sold new, converted V8 small and big block Vegas. Heavy duty engine mounts and front springs were fitted to support the increased engine weight, a larger radiator for the increased cooling demand and modified driveshaft were required. For engines over Template:Convert, or with a manual transmission, a narrowed 12-bolt differential replaced the stock Vega unit. Drag racer Bill "Grumpy" Jenkins in the 1972 season, won six of eight National Pro-Stock division events with his Pro Stock, Template:Auto CID-powered '72 Vega, Grumpy's Toy X.[125] In its first event, the untested Vega made 9.6 second passes and won the 1972 Winternationals. Jenkins' '74 Vega, Grumpy's Toy XI, was the first full-bodied Pro Stock drag racer with a full tube chassis, as well as the first with MacPherson strut suspension and dry sump oiling.[126] Jenkins' '74 Vega sold for $550,000 in 2007.

Car and Driver's Showroom Stock #0Edit

In the 1970s Car and Driver magazine challenged its readers to a series of Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) sanctioned, showroom stock sedan races at Lime Rock Park in Lime Rock, Connecticut-The Car and Driver SS/Sedan Challenge. With Bruce Cargill-representing the readers-having won Challenge I in '72 in a Dodge Colt, and Patrick Bedard-C&D's executive writer-the victor of Challenge II in '73 in an Opel 1900 sedan, Challenge III would be the tie-breaker event. Drivers paid a $1.25 entry fee, and 25 placed would share a $5000 minimum purse. There were 10,000 spectators. An "Advance Sale Heavy-Hitter Ticket Deal" was offered through the magazine including a decal, a free Shaefer beer, and $6.00 apiece tickets good for a full day of SCCA Formula Ford racing in addition to the SS/Sedan qualifing heats and the 25-lap C/D Challenge race.

File:73 Vega GT-bronze metallic.jpg

On October 12, 1974 C&D's Bedard piloted their 1973 Vega GT #0 in Car and Driver's SS/Sedan Challenge III and had just edged out an Opel to win the race. Bedard recalls: "The lone Vega outran every single Opel, Colt, Pinto, Datsun, Toyota and Subaru on the starting grid. A 25 lap sprint into racing's hall of fame." [127] Bedard drove the car to the impound area after the victory lap, a metallic bronze coupe with a big yellow zero on its battle scared flank, water boiling out of the coolant tank, a moan broadcasting from the cam drive, its left front tire rough and chunked. The tech inspectors checked under the hood looking for the secrets of its speed. It had done the job-this Vega GT faced off against 31 other well-driven showroom stocks and it had finished first. "It was clearly a car nobody cared about. The ad in the paper asked $2100... I thought about offering $2000 but I thought they'd jump at it. So I asked what they had to have for it. The old man said $1900..." After completing the purchace in California, Bedard talked to Doug Roe, a former Chevrolet engineer with a reputation as a Vega specialist. He mentioned the Vega showroom stocker-Roe replied: "Better overfill it about a quart. When you run them over 5,000 rpm, all the oil stays up in the head and you'll wipe the bearings. And something has to be done with the crankcase vents. If you don't it'll pump all that oil into the intake."[127] On its very first lap around Lime Rock the Vega blew its air cleaner full of oil. And it also ran Template:Convert on the water temperature gauge. When he called Roe about the overheating, Roe said: "All Vegas run at 215 degrees on the water temp gauge. It would be ok to about 230 degrees. Then it would probably start to detonate."[127] Bedard wasn't even convinced that it could finish. And he didn't even know all of its bad habits yet. Five laps from the end he discovered that once the tank drops below a quarter full, the fuel wouldn't pick up in the right turns. Twice per lap the carburator would momentarily run dry. And if that wasn't bad enough, the temperature gauge read exactly 230 degrees and a white Opel was unshakably on his tail. Bedard said: "It was clear that no matter how good a driver Don Knowles was and no matter how quick his Opel, he wasn't going to get by if the Vega simply stayed alive. Which it did. You have to admire a car like that. If it wins, it must be the best, never mind all of the horror stories you hear, some of them from me."[127]

See alsoEdit

File:71 Vega Panel Express & 73 Vega GT-Millionth Vega.jpg


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  125. Super Chevy-5/94, p.16.
  126. Super Chevy, 5/94, p.16. The Motorsports Hall of Fame of America biography of Jenkins (retrieved 26 December 2007) dates it to 1972.
  127. 127.0 127.1 127.2 127.3 Car and Driver-January 1975. An unlikely victory in an even more unlikely car.

External linksEdit

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