By on June 17, 2019

1972 Chevrolet Vega in Phoenix wrecking yard, RH rear view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The General made more than two million Chevrolet Vegas during the car’s 1971-1977 run, and the numbers climb much higher if you include the Vega-derived Chevy Monza and its siblings. The Vega’s many quality problems and rapid cheap-subcompact depreciation led to nearly all of these cars disappearing from American roads well before the dawn of the 1990s, but I still find the occasional example during my junkyard travels. Here’s an early Vega two-door hatch that seemed to be in pretty good shape before it hit a large animal on an Arizona road a couple of years back.

1972 Chevrolet Vega in Phoenix wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Ouch. Let’s hope the driver was wearing the Vega’s modern (for 1972) shoulder belt correctly when the deer, cow, horse, or giant mutated javelina leaped in front of the car.

1972 Chevrolet Vega in Phoenix wrecking yard, interior - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Most of the early Vegas came with four-speed manual transmissions, for the sake of cheapness and fuel economy, but the original purchaser of this car went for the automatic transmission option. Air conditioning would have been considered frivolous in a subcompact in 1972… unless you lived in Arizona, where AC-equipped white cars have been everywhere for decades. The radio is aftermarket, but I’m guessing this car once had at least the factory AM/FM unit.

1972 Chevrolet Vega in Phoenix wrecking yard, engine - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

No rust at all, which isn’t surprising, and we can assume that the powertrain was working at the time of the crash. Some lucky Arizona Vega lover may have harvested plenty of good parts off this car. Ninety horsepower when new, which would have felt like about 50 horses with that 3-speed automatic.

1972 Chevrolet Vega in Phoenix wrecking yard, speedometer - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The Vega could have been the car that rendered Toyota, Honda, and Volkswagen irrelevant in North America during the 1970s, but it never lived up to the potential of its design. The same could be said of the Citation in the 1980s. Still, both the Vega and the Citation sold in large numbers, for a while, and I still look for them in wrecking yards.

Vegas are happy cars. They enjoy their work. They enjoy being driven.

If you like these junkyard posts, you can reach all 1,650+ right here at the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand!


Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

84 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1972 Chevrolet Vega hatchback coupe...”


  • avatar
    RedRocket

    That’s not a 1972 Vega as it has crash bumpers and the revised nose and tail that resulted. No older than a 1974 model.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Steering wheel appears to have been bent by the driver’s body – ouch.

    As a 3-time Pinto owner, I was required to hate the Vega – but in fact I like the looks of the Vega better. But those engines…

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      They had a perfectly good Chevrolet 153 Four. Bone dependable. Ultimately enlarged to 3.0L (~183CID) as a Mercury Marine inboard motor. They should of used it.

      • 0 avatar
        TimK

        “Bone dependable”

        Yeah, after the odometer clicked past 30K, you could depend on having to add a quart of oil every week.

        • 0 avatar
          993cc

          I think Mr. Iron is referring to the engine they could have used instead of the 2.3 litre aluminum block engine which they did use.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            Eventually they grabbed the “Iron Duke” for the Vega.

            That would run for thousands upon thousands of miles (not that you would want it to due to it being a shaky little lump.)

          • 0 avatar
            Featherston

            +1, 993cc. I had misread Pig_Iron’s comment and thought he was conflating the Chevy II’s and the Vega’s I4s. You read it correctly.

            Along those lines, it seems that the Big Three would’ve done better if they’d worked on refining the early ’60s recipes of the Chevy II, Falcon, and Valiant into something appropriate for the early ’70s market. A single or a double rather than striking out trying for the home run, if you will.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            @Featherstorm actually Ford did keep refining the old Falcon through the 70’s and had a huge hit with the Maverick and Granada, the iterations that took the Falcon platform through the 70’s https://i1.wp.com/www.curbsideclassic.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Falcon-platform-variants.png

          • 0 avatar
            Featherston

            @ Scoutdude – Granted, they all share DNA, but the Maverick and Granada were, to my mind, more of an outgrowth of the Fairlane via the 3rd-gen Falcon.

            https://ateupwithmotor.com/model-histories/ford-fairlane-mercury-comet/

            What I was thinking was if they’d burnished the 1st-gen Falcon down into something Pinto-sized in time for the first oil crisis. My understanding is that the 1st-gen Falcon was a better effort relative to its market than was the Pinto. And that’s probably even more true of the Chevy II and the Vega.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    “deer, cow, horse, or giant mutated javelina leaped in front of the car.”

    I know a chupacabra dent when I see one…

    In all seriousness, I’m kinda surprised there isn’t blood, around the interior, from the driver’s injuries- a big hit like that on that car, with its fold up like a tin can crashworthiness/safety engineering!

    • 0 avatar
      pwrwrench

      Mulder and Scully are on their way to investigate the Chupacabra report.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      They’re actually pretty stout. One like this with automatic and a/c would weigh close to 3000 lbs. The front structure is all metal, and all welded, with bolt-on fenders. Somebody here hit something really hard. They were designed in the late ’60s.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        “They’re actually pretty stout. One like this with automatic and a/c would weigh close to 3000 lbs.”

        Um, 3000?

        This brochure has it right around 2,400lbs curb weight (2349 basic weight plus 48 for the Powerglide option or plus 88 for the Turbo Hydra-matic): http://www.gmheritagecenter.com/docs/gm-heritage-archive/vehicle-information-kits/Vega/1972-Vega.pdf

        (Hopefully the URL makes it through the wordpress filter. It’s from a site called gmheritagecenter dot com.)

        “Stout” and “Chevy Vega” is a matter of opinion…

        • 0 avatar
          993cc

          ’74 would have been heavier due to the bumpers and so on. Maybe not 600 lbs. heavier, but you never know. It was very heavy for a small car of its era, not that you could count on that translating into strength.

        • 0 avatar
          pwrwrench

          In the mid-70s I worked near a city work yard. They had a vehicle scale and for a while they were agreeable to weighing cars we brought over. Even gave us a paper slip, like a cash register receipt with the weight on it. I was a little surprised, at first, to find that the manufacturers listed weights were under the actual. By as much as 10% and that’s with deducting me sitting in the car.
          So that “3,000Lbs” might not be that far off.
          However that has little to do with what will happen in a crash.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        (Too late to edit my own comment)

        The V6 would add a little more weight, but still, 3,000lbs seems a bit much.

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    It’s my understanding that GM wanted to make a big advance with, not just the engine, but the entire car. By making it easier to assemble and with fewer parts (read, lower cost).
    The cast aluminum engine block was part of that with no steel/iron cylinder liners. It was supposed to have other things in the casting to resist wear from the piston/rings. The production did not match the design idea and high oil consumption was a frequent problem.
    Auto machine shops made some money installing sleeves in the blocks.
    It took a few decades for the manufacturing process to catch up with the idea. I recall when Porsche and Mahle came up with the Nicasil process for their cylinders. They worked quite well, but were not cheap. Something a mass producer, such as GM, would avoid.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      The Vega block is high-silicon alloy (like Nikasil) with tin-plated pistons. The main problems with these engines were the cast iron head and the open-deck block design (coefficient of expansion issues), and poor oil drainback from the head. They redesigned the head for ’76, fixing the drainback issue, and added hydraulic lifters that didn’t need adjusting. They went to a 5-year / 60,000 mile engine warranty. All Vegas also had the in-tank electric fuel pump wired through the oil pressure sender so that a loss of oil pressure would shut off the fuel pump, and ’75 and later cars added a low coolant sensor and warning light.

      • 0 avatar
        pwrwrench

        I recall reading in several articles about the Vega block, that the design idea was to have the wear resistant elements only in the cylinder wall area. Apparently that did not happen consistently and fast wear and high oil consumption resulted.
        A friend had a Vega given to him around 1980. He got tired of having to add oil almost every day. He had a 40 mile round trip drive to work. He removed the engine and had a machine shop install liners in the cylinders. He told me that when he removed the head he could move the pistons about 1/8 inch, side to side, in the cylinders.

        • 0 avatar
          JimC2

          “He told me that when he removed the head he could move the pistons about 1/8 inch, side to side, in the cylinders.”

          What did that even sound like when it was running?? A dozen buses running? A truck full of scrap iron driving over several train tracks?

          The Vega engine block metallurgy is pretty well documented. If they had got it to work then it would have been a small but revolutionary technological advance and a great victory for GM. Alas, they simply didn’t bother to finish developing the technology and foisted it on customers long before it was ready for prime time.

          The other problems with the Vega are well documented too. The aluminum engine block + iron cylinder head was a really dumb idea, just dumb. That’s like building a really advanced suspension and then using special order, extra small, crappy bias ply tires. The only other time I can think of somebody trying an aluminum block with an iron head was on one of the Skoda engines in the 1980s, and it didn’t work out well for them either. I’m sure the ten pound heads at corporate were really proud of themselves for saving a few bucks on each cylinder head and they probably had glorious looking charts of sales projections to “prove” it.

          • 0 avatar
            pwrwrench

            He said he turned the radio up. I never heard it run. Soon after he fixed the motor he sold it.

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            “He said he turned the radio up.”

            (chuckle)

            I should have guessed! :)

          • 0 avatar
            -Nate

            Piston slap is annoying but not very loud, it’s nothing like a bearing knock…..

            -Nate

          • 0 avatar
            Featherston

            @ JimC2 – The Cadillac HT-4100 also was an aluminum block/iron head engine, as were its 4.5 and 4.9 successors. The 4100 is widely criticized but the 4.5 and 4.9 are well liked.

            I’ve never really found a good explanation of what the advantages of the Al block/Fe head arrangement is. Clearly there have to be some for GM and Skoda to have tried it. Similarly, I’ve never really found a good explanation of what GM changed to make the 4.5 and 4.9 good engines.

            The only obvious advantage I can think of is that, assuming similar sizes, an Al block/Fe head engine would be the second lightest of the four Al-Fe permutations.

    • 0 avatar
      Guitar man

      The engine had a toothed timing belt, but guess what ? The water pump was driven by the _smooth_ side. You know the side that’s smooth and also carries all the strength fibres for the belt ?

      Now, you’d think if they did that, the belt would need to be so tight it would wreck the bearings on the water pump making it seize and snap the belt ?

      Guess what….

      • 0 avatar
        pwrwrench

        Many engines have the water pump driven by the timing belt. Honda, VW, Audi, BMW, Mitsubishi, have built engines this way.
        Like anything else the reliability/longevity of the system has much to do with the quality of the components (water pump bearings) and maintenance.
        Back in the 1970’s when engines with timing belts started to appear in large numbers there was some confusion about when to replace the belt. Further replacing the water pump and idler/tensioner pulleys at the same time is often disputed.
        Typically the bearings in all those spinning things last about the life of one and a half timing belts.
        I do not know if the Vega water pump bearings failed any more than other similar vehicles.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    This is a 74-5. The 73 still had the first generation nose but with a 5 mph front bumper and 2.5 mph rear.
    If GM only had the sense to institute some build quality standards in these, an extra dip in the preparation and primer tank, better paint and installation of wheel well shields that were left off because of bean counting. After all Corvairs and Novas of the era were well constructed and didn’t have these issues.
    As far as the aluminum block issues are concerned they should have used iron cylinder liners like the later ones or used the early 153ci Iron four from the Chevrolet II, an Opel motor or lop two cylinders off of the Delorean Pontiac OHC-6.

    A co worker of mine had a 78 Monza wagon with the Buick 231 and a 5 speed and it was decently made
    and quite balanced. Typical GM,; well into the model cycle the issues are ironed out.

    Used ones were all over my town in the 70’s. Friends of mine would buy them inexpensively and do a engine rebuild or a V6 or V8 conversion.

    • 0 avatar
      MartyToo

      I’m surprised that no one mentioned the factory 8 in the Monza which had a spark plug that couldn’t be changed without lifting the engine. My friend owned one yet I don’t remember him complaining about repairs.

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    I don’t see anything about the engine in the photo that resembles the Vega 2300 or Durabuilt 140 except the rough placement of the distributor. Is it a Chevy 2.8 liter V6 out of something else?

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Hint 1972, ’73 and ’74 are the easiest cars to spot because of the bumpers

    1972 no impact bumpers

    1973 front impact bumper

    1974 front and rear impact bumpers

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      The ’74-up models had the forged aluminum 5 mph bumpers, with anodized aluminum coating. This one has the bumper rub strips (extra cost option).

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    The old man had one of these ’72 – bought new – for a short period of time until the engine went. After that it was a 70s-something Volvo station wagon that was loads of trouble. He had a knack of getting the worst of GM, having also owned a diesel Olds 98 and a Cadillac with the 8-6-4!

    He eventually got sick of it all and we were a 80s Nissan family for a number of years.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    It’s a ’74 – has the “cooling slots” instead a grille, the square taillights, but no HEI distributor – the HEI would make it a ’75.

  • avatar
    relton

    The 4 speed manual trans was an option. A 3 speed was standard.

    The 3 speed auto was a Hydra-matic 250. Early Vegas had a 2 speed Powerglide.

    The best Vega I had was a 74 that I put a Ford 2800 V6 engine in. The V6 weighed less than the Vega 4, and the Ford bell housing mated to the Vega 4 speed. It made a nice car.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Standard 3 speed manual was described as being geared like it was a 1-3-5 transmission, it felt like you were skip shifting because of the wide spacing of the gear ratios.

      • 0 avatar
        pwrwrench

        I recall walking by a Chevy dealer shortly after the Vega went on sale. There was a guy standing next to a Vega that was parked at the curb. It had paper taped to the windows with things like “VW Si, Vega No” written on them.
        I asked the guy what was wrong with the car and he said that no matter how far he revved it out in 1st it would lug in 2nd.
        He also told me that the dealer would not take it back, not surprising as auto sales are (still) considered final.
        This was long before “Lemon Laws” and was probably one of the types of incidents that led to them.
        Another happy GM customer.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      The THM250 was a decent transmission (my base ’75 had that). Basically a THM350 with one less clutch pack. Okay for small engines like the 2300.

  • avatar

    I read somewhere that the tragic flaw was the omission of an expansion tank for bean counting reasons

    • 0 avatar
      relton

      There were so many fatal flaws it would take all day to list them.

      Early cars had radiators way too small, and no expansion tank. Later cars at least had an expansion tank, but the rad still wasn’t big enough.

      The block was an open deck design. The cylinders stood up all by themselves. With a little use, they would warp and distort, causing the head gasket to leak. When antifreeze leaked into the cylinders, it destroyed the cylinder wall coating. The pistons were iron plated, and antifreeze damaged that coating as well.

      All except the very last Vegas had mechanical valve lifters. It was an odd arrangement, but if the valves were set to spec, they were noisy. Set to be quiet, they burned, and caused further overheating.

      The water pump was driven by the timing belt, and tensioned the belt. When the water pump failed, the timing belt stripped, and the engine stopped.

      As the engine aged, galvanic corrosion took place in the cooling system between teh aluminum, iron, steel and brass parts. This often caused leaks in the heater core, loss of coolant, and overheating.

      The fuel pump was inside the gas tank. Common today, but unique in 1971. The rubber fuel line in the engine compartment was pressurized. After enough heating and cooling cycles, it would crack, and fuel would spray all over the engine. That sometimes caused real overheating.

      • 0 avatar
        dukeisduke

        I replaced the rubber line once a year. After seeing gas boiling off on the exhaust manifold one time (!), I learned not to let that go.

      • 0 avatar
        dukeisduke

        If you didn’t let them overheat, and kept the coolant in good shape, you were okay. I replaced timing belts every 60,000 (they were non-interference, BTW), and installed a new water pump at the same time – cheap insurance. I also had a three-row radiator made for my second one (a ’76 GT with a/c), and that helped a lot. It usually never ran over 210 once I did that, even with the a/c on. I experimented for a while with a Hayden electric fan using a 190F thermostat, and also wired to come on with the a/c, but it didn’t work as well as the stock plastic flex fan – the temperature went up and down with the electric fan going off and on. I also tried a Derale metal flex fan, but it wasn’t any good, either.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      Maybe on early cars, but by the time this one was built, they had them.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    Friend of mine once owned a Monza with a 396 taken out of a Corvette. His dad was into rebuilding ‘vettes, so my friend also once had a 327 powered S-10.

    Driveshaft ended up snapping while he was drag racing the Monza – no driveshaft loop so it was a traumatic ending for the car.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    The Vega chassis and engine were the first “corporate” designs.
    Done at the GM tech center (not Chevrolet engineering). Much institutional knowledge was not used.
    As production time neared, and troubles multiplied, they threw it “over the wall” to Chevrolet where it was treated like bad case of flu virus.
    It’s easy to look back and see the fail, but at this time, GM’s biggest worry was government anti-trust problems. A decade later, not so much.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      Yeah, they really pissed off Chevrolet with that, especially when they started cranking up the line speed.

      The chassis design was related to Opel (coil springs all around), and they handle very good, especially with the GT option with front and rear sway bars (the front bar is a 1″).

    • 0 avatar
      WildcatMatt

      John DeLorean’s chapter on the Vega in On A Clear Day You Can See General Motors is particularly interesting.

      The Vega came as a corporate design at the same time GMAD was taking over the assembly plants from the divisions. Clearly Ed Cole was a big fan of centralization.

  • avatar

    I usually check the door tag for model year (because the junkyards are often wrong), but this one could have had a door swap. Or a bumper swap. Or I just went with what the junkyard said, which happens sometimes. I had to shoot the engine photo through a gap in the non-opening bent-up hood, so I couldn’t make out what engine it was; now that it has been pointed out, I can see that it’s some kind of V engine. I shot this car two years ago, so I don’t remember it well. Frankly, all the blood kind of grossed me out.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Just a little maccabe question…

      How often do you find cars in junkyards with visible body damage and blood in them?

      • 0 avatar
        Featherston

        On topic, this is both fascinating and horrifying: https://walkerart.org/collections/artworks/unpainted-sculpture

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        I remember the occasional face-printed windshield, in my junkyarding days, but I always figured they kept the bloody cars somewhere else where regular people weren’t allowed to go or they just crushed them right away.

      • 0 avatar

        I find crashed cars with blood on the airbags all the time, but usually amount of blood you’d get from not-so-serious injuries. The really grisly crashes tend to not go to U-Wrench yards.

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          The week that I got my drivers license The Old Man took me to the yard where the local police brought all the vehicles involved in major personal injury collisions or traffic incidents in which major charges were being laid.

          Don’t know how it works now, but back then they had a special yard/holding area for these, as they held/were regarded as evidence.

          We spent about one hour in that lot, with me being exposed to some very grizzly sights. Once you have seen the damage that can be inflicted on a human by a car crash, you tend to have a bit of a change of attitude.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      Did it have any biohazard stickers on it? You usually see those on insurance auction cars.

      The VIN on the dash is the best way to tell the year. On this car, it would be 1V77B4U for a ’74, and 1V77B5U for a ’75. 1 is Chevrolet, HV is Vega Hatchback, 4 or 5 is year, and U is Lordstown Assembly.

      I can tell this is a ’74 or ’75 because of the bumpers, the front fenders (different from the ’71-’73 cars, and the center a/c vents (two little rectangular ones here, instead of the three square ones on the ’71-’73 cars.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    On the ’71 cars, if you were really cheap, but didn’t want a manual, you could order them with Torque-Drive, which was a Powerglide without automatic shifting (offered on Novas, too, for 69 bucks). Manual like a manual (you had shift from low to high and back), but without a clutch or clutch pedal to deal with.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    Regarding the comments about how the Vega could have been improved, I remember reading that it wasn’t the point. Per Brock Yates’ “The Decline and Fall of the American Automobile Industry” (1983), these cars were designed to be junk–if they weren’t, they may steal sales from the more-profitable Nova, Chevelle or full-sized cars, and GM wasn’t about to allow that. He quoted someone as saying that the Vega (and Ford Pinto) were designed to bring about the impression that small cars were, by necessity, cheap cars, and that they (quote approximate) “were to act like hired assassins: to get rid of the nuisance imports and disappear from the scene as quickly as possible.” Of course, they managed to only bring about the impression that American small cars (and only American small cars) were junk; the rest soon became history. As did the Vega and Pinto.

    • 0 avatar
      conundrum

      Yes, and not surprisingly the same point-of-view was espoused in Car and Driver since Yates was a regular there. It makes sense.

      I came back from five years in the UK when my parents bought a ’74 Vega. No car over there I experienced had such a vibratory noisy engine – not one. Nor one more likely to have head gasket failure. None reeked of such overt cheapness. Other manufacturers had at least a modicum of pride in their wares and the way they were perceived by the car buying public. Not GM. There wasn’t a hint of refinement in the Vega design except the styling, merely bucketloads of cynicism. All it did was shout at its owners that they were cheapskates for not buying a Nova which wasn’t exactly wonderful either. That one did its best to make you feel guilty you hadn’t bought a Chevelle, and was a dozen years old in basic design by 1974. The original Chevy II came with a base 153 cubic inch concrete mixer four, so GM had already learned how to make a vibrating slug – I lived in a rural area and everyone stumped up for the 194 cubic inch six for an extra $120 – the four was torture and the reviews reflected its crapiness. In true GM fashion, that crap 153 engine was filed away, then given a resuscitation and wax job, and allowed to vibrate its way into the Citation so that people would want the V6. GM was good at shooting itself in the foot by shortchanging its customers’ expectations. Market share decline followed.

      • 0 avatar
        Drew8MR

        My mom bought one just as my dad was assigned to Ramstein. Ever been in a 73 Vega with the automatic on the Autobahn? No bueno to say the least. That thing felt like it was going to fly apart at 70.

    • 0 avatar
      pwrwrench

      I wonder if the Managers at GM and Ford were that calculating. I can certainly understand if they thought, “If you want a better car pay more for a Nova/Chevelle or a Maverick”. The Vega and Pinto were what was later called “entry level”. That does not excuse the problems that those cars had.
      There was plenty of trouble to go around, ask anyone that had a Ford slip from Park to Rev.

    • 0 avatar
      Guitar man

      But the Vega was a very expensive car to develop. The aluminium engine was bleeding edge technology.

      BTW they had used that engine prior to the Vega on an English car (Vauxhall Chevette) and it had proved an absolute disaster – so they went ahead and approved it for the Vega…

      • 0 avatar
        RichardF

        To clarify, the UK Chevette range never had the Vega engine.

        Base model UK Chevettes had a small 1256cc pushrod four, as used in the existing, parallel Viva model range.

        A high performance UK version sold in small quantities, the Chevette HS and HSR, used Vauxhall’s home grown slant four.

        Mainstream versions of this engine were a single OHC, all-iron design, for which Lotus then designed a twin cam 16 valve alloy head, with Vauxhall’s cooperation.

        In this form it was used initally in the Jensen Healey roadster, then subsequently in various Lotuses, and in the Chevette HS/ HSR, which in its time became successful in top level rallying, in the UK and Europe.

        The mainstream single OHC slant fours had no particular reliability or durability problems, being very robust. The 16 valve versions were alloy head on an iron block, like most such designs, whereas the Vega was the opposite. They had teething problems with things like oil consumption, but no fundamental issues to compare with the Vega unit.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    That was my impression during the early 70’s. If I remember correctly Ford and GM were more interested in getting the consumer into a midsize and full size cars with V8s and were hoping that bad experiences with their small cars would steer the consumer away from them. During the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo there was a shortage of smaller cars like the VW Bug, Pinto, and Vega and that is when the Japanese cars started to take off. After that people discovered that a small cheap car does have to be unreliable and that is when people started to shift to Japanese cars. Detroit was to blame for their own decline.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    A Veaga, rust free no less .

    That had to hurt ~ not only the steering wheel is bent, the bottom of the dashboard too ~ I’ve done that boogie and it hurts and leaves permanent damage .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I remember when the Vega and Pinto were introduced in the Fall of 1970 as mini-cars. That was the first time I remember the words mini-car. My father and I went to the nearby Chevy dealership when the Vega was introduced–there were 2 models on the showroom floor both sold and the dealer was taking orders and charging MSRP. It was a big deal when the Vega and Pinto were introduced as the VW killer. Three years later I was working a Summer job at a Shell Self-service station and one of my co-workers had a 71 Vega on its first replacement engine which he put in at 50k miles and at about 75k miles it needed another one. The co-worker compared the life of a Vega to a booster rocket on a Saturn rocket. That co-worker traded the Vega in on a Datsun.

  • avatar
    MarkZ06

    My first car was a 1973 Vega GT that I actually drove for 104,000 miles over 12 years…it loved to burn oil but never broke down. There was a company called EICO that made performance parts for the 140 cid 4 and I ultimately was able get some decent performance out of it. In stock form you needed too peg the throttle to the floor to keep up with traffic on modest highway upgrades.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    The absolute low point for Detroit

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    Perhaps one of the things that gave the Vega a bad rep was that prior to its entry into the car world, most American cars had all iron engines. As a young mechanic in the early ’70s I saw and worked on many engines that lost all their coolant due to a split hose. Some got so hot the spark plug wire insulation turned to ash for six inches out from the heads. Replace the broken hose and plug wires, fill with coolant and often good to go.
    Usually a bi-metal, or all aluminum, engine will have warping or cracking that means more extensive repairs are needed.
    Of course in today’s world, this is the most common cause of a car going from a value in the thousand of $ to near 0. Failed hose leading to engine problems requiring thousands to repair.

  • avatar
    beken

    I had a 1974 Pontiac Astre. The in-tank fuel pump was replaced many times. I went in and adjusted the valve lash every 3 weeks, added a quart of oil every week. At about 90,000 miles, installed steel liners in the cylinders. Rebuilt the carburetor twice.

    Rust was cut out of the fenders and new sheet metal was welded in. I installed my own clutch. The car was easy to work on and it gave me great experience in working on cars.

    I did one top speed run on the car and it got to 106 miles per hour. What could I have been thinking? Any minor mishap, and I would be dead in that thing.

    Still, in 1985, I sold it to the mechanic that installed the steel liners for me, for $500.

    I still think it could have been a good car, but wow, was it ever under developed. My Datsun 510 owning friends all laughed at me. The memories of my youth.

  • avatar
    snakebit

    Based on the taillight design, either a 1974 or 1975. And, as others have posted, why Chevrolet didn’t have the presence of mind to use the Iron Duke four cylinder from day one instead of designing and pig-headedly getting behind the aluminum 2300 for years has me shaking my head in disbelieve. Folks complain that the Iron Duke was a rough-running and noisy motor, but as someone with plenty of experience driving brand new Vegas in the early 1970s, so was the 2300 in new Vegas. The one asset that Vega had over Pinto was its look, admittedly much more beautiful. Mechanically and from a sheet metal evaluation, the first five years of Vega were deplorable, saved only by the Monza 2+2 variation which, when ordered with a V8, was the car the Vega should have been.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • pwrwrench: Many engines have the water pump driven by the timing belt. Honda, VW, Audi, BMW, Mitsubishi, have built...
  • kurkosdr: Global warming is very real, but we can’t do anything to stop it, ave for setting a global birth...
  • Rocket: I fail to see the logic behind this strategy. If the Voyager were going to be exclusively a fleet offering or...
  • Lou_BC: True.
  • Lou_BC: @mopar4wd – This looks like a HD variation of what GM did with their 1500 Trail Boss. I’m all for...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributors

  • Timothy Cain, Canada
  • Matthew Guy, Canada
  • Ronnie Schreiber, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States
  • Mark Baruth, United States
  • Moderators

  • Adam Tonge, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States