Much like Prince Akeem went looking for a bride in Queens in Coming To America, I should’ve known Las Vegas was the place to go for a Vega. Right as you make your way out of McCarran International, you’ll probably see this 1971-73 Chevrolet Vega welcoming you to the city. It’s not quite as flashy as the Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas sign but it’s a local landmark in its own right and a worthy submission for the Great Vega Hunt.
It seems to have been here a while, if not for quite as long as Betty Willis’ famous sign. I’ve seen it pop up on Facebook groups. You can even see it on Google Street View, accompanied by a couple of 80s box Caprices and a 1973 Cadillac Sedan de Ville. Since the Google vehicle captured it in February 2018, it’s been treated to some new tires so it hasn’t been left to rot.
It’s no trailer queen, however, as this front-end damage can attest. The front bumper is missing so the licence plate is sitting on the dashboard. There’s also some bondo, a bit of rust around the rear window, and some standard dings and scratches you’d expect to see on an almost 50-year-old car.
The interior, like the exterior, has some minor cosmetic issues. It’s in need of a reupholstering although it otherwise looks intact.
Like the ’74 I photographed on the other side of the country, this Vega is the most popular of all Vega variants: the standard hatchback. Priced around $100 higher than the notchback, the hatchback nevertheless outsold its trunked sibling considerably: by 3-to-1 in ’71, then almost 5-to-1 in ’72 and ’73. In contrast, the Pinto Runabout hatchback only narrowly outsold the trunked version most years. The two Pintos looked much more alike than the two Vegas, however.
Both the hatchback and notchback Vegas were handsome little cars but the advantage of a big hatch and a spacious load bay evidently appealed more to consumers than an enclosed trunk and a quieter cabin. The hatchback, like the kammback wagon, could also be had in sporty GT trim with its 110 hp version of the flaky 2300 four.
With so few visual changes between 1971 and 1973, I can’t pin down the exact model year of this Vega. It could be a ’73 in that year’s Chamois color or it could be a ’71 in faded Yellow Orange. Can anyone identify the year?
Whether it’s a ’71, ’72 or ’73, it certainly meets the criteria Paul set out for the Great Vega Hunt. One wonders though: is it still on its original engine? If so, the owner should head on over to the Strip and try their luck at the tables.
Photographed in Paradise, NV in September 2018.