Classic Car Archive Specs, Facts, & History
The Chevrolet Vega was a subcompact automobile that was produced by the Chevrolet division of General Motors from 1970 to 1977.
Available in two-door hatchback, notchback, wagon, and panel delivery body styles, all models were powered by an inline four-cylinder engine with a lightweight, aluminum alloy cylinder block. Variants included the Vega GT high-performance style and the Cosworth Vega, a short-lived limited-production performance model, introduced in March 1975. The name is derived from Vega, the brightest star in the constellation Lyra.
The Vega was conceived in 1968 to utilize newly developed all-aluminum die-cast engine block technology – the first sand-cast aluminum blocks had preceded the decision to build the car by two years. A relatively large displacement engine with good low- speed torque was decided on, with gear ratios for low engine rpm to achieve economy. Engine testing totaled 6,000,000 miles.
In October 1968, there was one body style (the “11” style notchback sedan), one engine, one transmission (MB1 Torque-Drive manually shifted two-speed automatic), one base trim level, a bench seat, molded rubber floor covering, no glove box or headliner and no air-conditioning (ventilation was through the upper dash from the wiper plenum). As the market changed, so did the car in development.
In December 1968, hatchback, wagon, and panel delivery styles were added; also floor-level ventilation, and an optional performance engine (“L-11” two-barrel) which, predicted as 20% of production, accounted for 75%. Bucket seats were standard. Hatchback and wagon received carpeting and headliners. Optional air conditioning, predicted as 10% of production, rose to 45%.
In February 1969, Opel three- and four-speed transmissions (three-speed standard, others optional); Powerglide were added (now four transmissions); mechanical fuel pump replaced by in-tank electric pump; power steering option; base “11” style notchback trim upgraded to match hatchback and wagon carpet and headliner.
In April 1969, the car gained gauge-pack cluster, HD suspension, wide tires; adjustable seat back (45% of production); bumpers restyled, lower valance panels added; swing-out quarter window option (10% of production).
In July 1969, an electrically heated backlight option (10% of production); “GT” package, $325.00 extra (35% of production); bright window-frame and roof drip moldings added to hatchback and wagon.
This is essentially how the car launched as a 1970-1971 model. Production began on June 26, 1970. After the national GM strike (September to November 1970), bright roof drip moldings were added to the base “11” notchback, with moldings sent to dealers to update units already in the field.
The wheelbase on all models was 97.0 inches and width was 65.4 inches.
The Hatchback Coupe with its lower roofline and a fold-down rear seat accounted for nearly half of all Vegas sold. The Sedan, later named Notchback is the only Vega model with an enclosed trunk, and had the lowest base price. The Kammback wagon has a lower cargo lift over height and a swing-up lift gate. The Panel Express panel delivery model has steel panels in place of the wagon’s rear side glass, an enclosed storage area under the load floor, and a low-back driver’s seat. An auxiliary passenger seat was optional.
The aluminum-block inline-four engine was a joint effort by General Motors, Reynolds Metals, and Sealed Power Corp. The engine and its die-cast block technology were developed by GM engineering staff, and then passed to Chevrolet for finalization and production. Ed Cole, involved with the 1955 small-block V8 as chief engineer at Chevrolet and now equally involved with the Vega engine as GM president, often visited the engineering staff engine drafting room on Saturdays, reviewing the design and directing changes, to the consternation of Chevrolet engineers and manufacturing personnel, who knew he wanted a rush job. The engine in development became known in-house as “the world’s tallest, smallest engine” due to the tall cylinder head.
|Engine||0 to 60 MPH||Quarter Mile||Source|
|140ci (90hp)||13.5 sec||19.5 @ 72mph||Chevrolet|
|140ci (110hp)||11.5 sec||18.5 @ 76 mph||Chevrolet|
Ask Vega expert Richard Ehrenberg