Two years ago now, Paul Niedermeyer launched the Great Vega Hunt, a quest to find a beater Chevy Vega still powered by the 2300 inline four. Examples didn’t exactly flood in; it took more than a year for this ’73 notchback to turn up. Could I have at last unearthed another?
Who knows. This car was parked on private property in a neighborhood I didn’t know very well – it felt especially unwise to go trespassing to find out. Anything could be under that hood. But this car’s daily driver condition (oof, that dent had to smart) does offer some hope that an original 2300 engine still provides the power. Of course, for ’76 that engine received some improvements meant to dispel its poor reliability reputation, and was rechristened “Dura-built 140.” The Vega’s body was also made more resistant to rust, and the car received chassis, brake, and suspension upgrades from the Monza.
This is a lifelong Indianapolis-area car, given its Bud Wolf Chevrolet badge. And this car proudly wears two stickers that were so, so common in central Indiana back in the day: one for the Amoco Motor Club, and one that proudly announces “I heart WIBC.” You remember the AM station in your town that used to play music meant not to offend your grandmother and always had news at the top of the hour? That was WIBC.
Related reading: Announcing the Great Vega Hunt, 1974 Vega Kammback, 1974 Vega Hatchback
What an attractive car these later hatches were. Hope they are able to attend to the dent promptly.
I agree. These were great-looking cars. I especially liked the revised front header panels.
I remember reading somewhere that the amber section of the taillights didn’t actually “blink”, but that the red section worked as both brake light and turn signal.
Looks real enough to me but I’ve heard that myself too. Can anyone confirm multiple sightings (ie not just a single car that may have had wiring or flasher repairs with the wrong year or wagon parts?
I’m old enough to remember these when they were new, and I think JD is correct – the orange section was just to make it look trendy in a European manner.
Not sure about the Iron Duke, but the OEM exhaust pipe for the 2300 exits right behind the left rear wheel. Can’t see one there in this photo, so it’s either missing, or Something Else lurks under the hood. Given the ride height looks fairly stock, I’m guessing it’s just rusted off.
I have a saved eBay search for Vegas and maybe one in five still has its original 2300… not always in running condition, though!
Would a 1975 Pontiac Astre do? I saw one (a hatchback) the other day, and heard the thrashy hum of that “2300”. No trail of oil smoke, though. They did feature it on Jalopnik a couple of years ago, but I want a photo of it myself and will post it if I’m that lucky.
A friend of my mother’s had a Vega like this when I was a boy. I found the Pontiac Astre more attractive than the Chevy Vega.
I really dislike those taillights, they look like they were penned by the same person who created US road signs.
Agreed – those taillights look cheap and nasty. The original style had style.
Can’t tell from the pictures – did they run touch up paint over the driver 1/4 panel where the rest of the chrome stripe was? Or did it somehow not take any paint with it when it came off following the accident?
It’s probably got the original engine, but impossible to tell. In any case, the “Dura-Built 140” version fixed some of the most egregious shortcomings of the first generation 2300 engine, like the much too small cooling system, among others.
I should have been more explicit: when I said “with the original 2300 engine” I meant to limit the Vega Hunt to pre-Dura-Built 140 engines, which were not called the “2300” anymore.
Something I’d like to challenge someone to find, is a 1978 Monza hatchback (Vega body). Supposedly when the Monza nameplate took over for the Vega wagon and Vega Hatch, there were some produced of what basically was the Vega hatch with the 78 Monza grille. I’ve never seen one, or even a photo of one. Only proof seems to be body codes and model codes that they do exist.
Not familiar with this site, hope it’s cool to link it here, but it looks like you’re right. I had no idea!
I think that has to be the first photo I’ve seen of one. The wagons I’ve seen in real life, both the Monza & Sunbird, which were replaced by the J-body wagons in late 81/early 82.
With the small production run, I suspect that the Monza S was only produced to use up leftover 1977 Vega bodies.
I bought an off-the-lot dark green 72 hatchback for $2700 and it seemed to have a sign on it that said “Hit me.” Also it smoked and it rusted and blew oil so GM gave me not one but two engine replacements. The second replacement came, I believe, because of the snarky comments from traffic reporters about some poor idiot and his overheated Vega on the rush-hour Long Island Expressway.
So naturally I’m looking for a good diecast of a stock one to put on my shelf to relive the memories.
They’re out there. I have one in lime green. The “Fresh Cherries” series which also offers an orange Pinto and a Gremlin. Die Cast Direct is a good source.
I have the hatchback in Mediterranean Blue (same color as my ’71 notch). Unfortunately, I have yet to see any notchback diecast models.
Cute little car ! .
If only GM had……
Yeah right ! like they’d ever do the right thing .
(NOT a GM hater ~ I’m a die hard Chevrolet fanboi but I’m also honest)
I always did like the styling of these cars, even with the big bumpers. This one looks lovely in the silver colour with those slotted wheels. However I do agree with other comments about the taillights: they look terrible, not well integrated and like an afterthought.
When did these cars start using the “Iron Duke” 4-banger, was that 1977?
The Vega never used the Iron Duke, although the Astre did in 1977.
Well that was probably what confused me. Always knew the Astre was just a bad-engineered Vega, so thought they used the same engines. The Astre was very popular up here in Canada, I remember seeing a lot more of them in the late ’70s and early ’80s. The Pontiac brand was always very popular here.
I remember every single one of these Vega derivatives, although keeping them straight was a little confusing even back when they were common. These cars had become kryptonite by 1976 or so.
At that time, I had a ’72 Vega, my parents had a Pinto.
The Vega was a ball to drive; the Pinto, ok at best. Both were 4-speed wagons but the Pinto often felt like I could get out and walk faster. In contrast, I was able to whip that Vega to 110MPH. Ok it was on a slight downhill grade…
My issues began with a rusty core support. On a three-year-old-car. My 18-year-old bad self pulled a power shift from first to second, got rubber, and the radiator let loose from the support. The idea of simply clamping in a radiator the way GM did on those Vegas, was a foreign concept to me.
Blown head gasket, cracked head…I kept driving the thing because I was broke and had a car payment, finally trading it on a ’68 Chrysler that had its own set of problems.
I learned some life lessons – and a lot about repairs – from that car. Wish they’d had POR-15 back then, and I wish I’d followed a co-worker’s advice, “put a 283 in it!”.
Of course, then I’d have probably killed myself…
With the stock steelies and tires (whitewalls!), I can’t imagine this having anything but the original engine, since the temptation to upgrade other components is too great after changing something as major as the engine.
Well, I put a “built” SBC 350 in my ’66 Pontiac Tempest, and left the outside bone stock, right down to the original hubcaps. Surprised more than one punk hotrodder with that one, I did!
I had a Vega, back when they were new, or at least lightly used, cars. Mine had around 10K miles when I purchased it and I got another 10-12 thousand miles out of it before it started using a lot of oil. I thought then and still think that these were attractive cars, especially the hatchback. They certainly had their faults but they had some plusses as well. I will write in considerable more detail about my Vega experience when I get to it in my COAL series. Note to self, quit talking about writing up the COAL and actually do it.
I bet this car has low mileage and was a “little old lady car” for many years. I think it actually looks quite nice in the silver color. Too bad they have such a bad reputation.
The Amoco Motor Club and WIBC stickers peg this perfectly as a little-old-lady car.
I just saw something I never knew existed – a Vega Cabriolet? I just checked the ’76 brochure and it looks like a true blue GM factory option. Are we talking about a Vega Brougham here??? WOW!! You learn/see something new every day!
I must have missed CC that day Ed! What a fantastic write-up! Never knew about the Astre appearing in Canada first either. Glad you enlightened me!
Nice find, JG! I will go so far as to call the Vega hatchback one of the most attractive US cars of the entire 1970s, maybe in the top 5? Not usually a silver car fan, but the silver looks very nice on this one. That the silver paint looks as good as it does is another “grandma car” tell. GM’s 1970s silver lacquer was not known for its ability to hold a shine for long unless it lived indoors.
I went to high school in the mid-80s and a classmate had a Monza hatchback…5 speed manual, not sure which engine it had, but he was always bragging, without irony, that it had “self-changing oil”…in questioning him, it turns out it burned so much that he just kept adding oil as needed. He didn’t seem to realize that it was a defect, he thought it was a really cool feature/upgrade from normal cars.
I knew of a guy back in the early 1980s who had rigged up a funnel and hose so he could add oil to his Vega on long trips without having to stop. True story!
Pretty nice looking Vega. A couple of years ago there was a very tired Cosworth Vega running our area here in Southern Hoosierland.
I once lived in Indy and later worked there a couple of days a week. You sure pegged WIBC right.
I recall looking at a Cosworth Vega at the dealer in 1976 or thereabouts. The engine was cool but that front end which was just painful to look at after the previous baby Camaro style. I’ve no idea what the sticker price was but, being a teenager working at the local gas station, it might as well have been a million dollars.
You’re not far off on the price. The MSRP of a Cosworth Vega wasn’t that much lower than a new Corvette. Needless to say, they didn’t sell too many of them. It’s most notable as being one of the last car projects initiated by John Z. Delorean during his tenure at GM (although he would be gone years before the Cosworth Vega eventually saw production). If GM had been a bit more realistic on the price, the Cosworth Vega would have been okay.
Does it count if its on the internet?
67K ’72 coupe with what appears to be the original engine and its in Paul’s neighborhood. (well, the state anyway, which is a good thing because if it were close to me Id want to buy it and swap in an LS1)
Shame it’s not a real GT. Those stripes aren’t correct either…
Dang, missed it by a bit. Drove my 77 wagon to work today but it should be a Durabilt. I really don’t know what year block it has, but the head is a 77. Just passed CA smog check too.
The only original Vega Ive ever found had fallen to pieces with rust literally the guards and doors were on the ground having fallen off, a runner? unlikely and Ive not been back to see if the remains are still there.
I have to admit, this is a good looking car, but that engine……..
I bought a new Vega in 72. I drove a 72 Pinto Squire….with automatic, and what a previous poster said about Pintos being slow, really said it all.
My Vega was the cheapest new car I would own at $2200. And it wasn’t just the price that made it cheap. The instrument panel looked like it came from an Impala and was hacked by a cleaver to fit the smaller space. The front fenders, hood, and headlight buckets looked like they were assembled by blindfolded UAW members….or maybe their children.
Luckily, I traded my Vega before it developed big problems.
I had a 72 Pinto in the 80s. With a 4 speed manual it was a fun little car. The 2.0 had more spunk than the 1.6. The below CC refers to the C&D Pinto also.
I have a 72 wagon with the 2300. It’s not the original one that came in the car but it is also a 72. I think I might still have the original engine to the car somewhere too. It ran when parked. But it’s been sitting for a few years under a tarp.