eBay Classic: 1974 Chevrolet Vega LX – Grandma’s Last Car

It’s been a while since we’ve had a new entry in The Great Vega Hunt, and this one was simply too good to pass up, despite it being a mere eBay find (how much better to see one in the wild!).

From the ad listing, the car was purchased new in 1974 by the seller’s grandmother, and is thus a one-owner Vega.

Under the hood throbs the original 2300cc engine, sporting the same tiny postage-stamp radiator that my ’71 notchback had. Starting in ’74, a coolant overflow bottle and electronic low-coolant indicator were added to mitigate the propensity of the engine to overheat (and blow the head gasket, as mine did) when coolant levels went down even the slightest amount. The ad states, “The car has 88,000 actual miles and will run and drive.  It has been sitting in her garage since 2010, as she was not able to drive it.  It definitely uses some oil and smokes some.  These motors weren’t great from the factory.” No understatement there!

The oil burning issue was largely caused by poor valve stem seals (if a blown head gasket didn’t cause cylinder wall scoring first), and was not addressed until the redesigned Dura-Built 140 engine was introduced in 1976. The hood has the usual rot where water collects (bottom right in photo), but I see they have the correct side-post battery installed (for Vert-A-Pac rail transportation). I also note a newish starter solenoid. Engine heat tended to make these stick (and thus not start). I had a bypass switch mounted under my dash to alleviate this issue on my car.

The listing also indicates the car is 100% stock and has never been wrecked, but “there is some rust in a few places.” Not surprising, given early models of these cars rusted simply sitting in the dealer showrooms. By 1974 Chevrolet had begun addressing a number of issues with the car, and the Vega of 1976-77 was actually quite a reliable little car. But by this time it was simply too little, too late. The most effective change Chevrolet made to the Vega was to reskin it and call it Monza.

Peeking inside, we see a “custom” interior, complete with the blank-off plate where the a/c vents would be if so equipped. My ’71 had a little cubbyhole here that was quite useful, given early Vegas lacked a glove compartment, as our subject car has. The most expensive option added to this car was the $58.75 AM radio. Additionally, this car has the optional 4-speed Saginaw manual (Go, Granny, Go!), which I remember having good ratios for the 75hp (net) engine.

First offered in 1973, the LX was almost as close to Brougham as the Vega ever got, and was essentially a base model notchback with the ‘custom’ interior option and a vinyl toupée and which was offered as a ‘luxury’ model.

The LX would be superseded by the Vega Cabriolet with a half vinyl roof and opera windows in 1976. Mmmm, Extra Broughamy!

The car sports Kentucky plates, which explains the overall lack of rust, and all-in-all, it’s probably a good thing I don’t have a spare $4,500 laying around or I’d have already hit the “Buy it Now” button. What a great find it would be to take to our local Cars & Coffee (Cars & Coffee, Cars & Coffee!).