Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 1
The Chevrolet Vega, which was first introduced in 1971, marked a new direction for Chevrolet towards a sub-compact market previously dominated by European imports, and which also included such other American products as the Ford Pinto and the American Motors Pacer.
The Vega was very conservatively styled by American standards, being of roughly the same overall size as the Ford Capri. The engine too was much smaller than the more traditional American offerings, the standard engine for the range being a single overhead camshaft straight four of 2.3 litres.
A sporting version of the car using a twin overhead camshaft engine developed by British racing engine specialists was marketed as the Cosworth-Vega. This version was, unfortunately, discontinued in 1976, leaving the 2.3-litre as the only option. The engine was offered in three different body styles, the Notchback, the sporting Hatchback Coupe and a Station Wagon. The Hatchback offered a choice of finishes, with bold Vega GT stripes as one option.
A range of transmissions
was also offered, with four and five speed manual gearboxes and a three-speed automatic
available. The four-speed manual unit was fitted as standard as was a limited-slip differential. Suspension at the front was by wishbones, coil serings, dampers and an anti-roll bar
while the rear was mounted on coil springs and torque arms, again with an anti-roll bar
Although the engine power varied slightly depending on the local regulations to which the engine conformed, typical performance figures were a maximum speed of around 96 mph, and a fuel consumption of 30 mpg. With the demise of the much modified and very rapid Cosworth-engined version of the car, the range was definitely lacking a genuine performance variant of the original theme, but with all America's motoring restrictions and regulations there was still a place in the market for this attractive compact.
Observations on the 1974 Cosworth Vega
The Cosworth Vega was available only as a black hatchback coupe with gold lettering, stripes, wheels and instrument panel. The wheels were cast aluminum, in 13 x 6 size, anodized to their gold color. Tyres were BR70-13 radials; steel-belted Firestones. A quicker-than-standard steering ratio (16.6:1 overall) was optional on the Vega, and we think standard on the Cosworth. On the road the Cosworth Vega was a revelation, the suspension's roll resistance was redistributed toward the front to give more understeer than the standard Vega handling package - anti-roll diameters were 0.900 in. front, 0.625 in. rear vs 0.875 and 0.750 - to keep the car tame with its greatly increased power. It worked - the Cosworth Vega cornered flat and fast and it was simple work to make it corner in just the attitude you wanted it to.
Those who hoped for a smoother engine in the Cosworth would have been disappointed, however. A raucous exhaust
system and high level of engine vibration let you know that it was very much still a Vega. At high revs (the redline was 7000 rpm) the engine developed 135 bhp (@ 6400 rpm) - but it sounded and felt strained even though it was pulling strongly. It was definitely an engine that needed the high revs, too - not much torque below 4000 rpm. A high idle speed (1400 rpm) was necessary to keep within emission limits.
Quick Specifications - Chev Vega:
- Engine: Front-mounted, water- cooled, straight four. 88.8 mm (3.50in bore x 91.9mm) (3.62 in) stroke 2294 cc (140cuin). Light-alloy cylinder block and cast-iron cylinder head. Compression ratio 8 :1. 5 main bearings. 2 valves per cylinder, operated by belt-driven overhead camshaft. 1 x Holley twin-choke carburettor.
- Maximum power: (DIN) 84bhp at 4400 rpm; maximum torque H 3 Ib ft at 3200 rpm.
- Transmission: Single-dry-plate clutch and four-speed manual gearbox. Ratios 1 st 3.11, 2nd 2.20, 3rd 1.47, 4th 1.00, reverse 3.11 : 1 . Or optional five-speed manual gearbox, ratios 1 st 3.40, 2nd 2.08, 3rd 1 .39, 4th 1 .00, 5th 0.80, reverse 3.36 :1. Or optional three-speed automatic with torque converter, ratios 1 st 2.52, 2nd 1.52, 3rd 1.0, reverse 1.94 :1. Hypoid- bevel final drive, ratio 2.92, 3.42,3.73 (depending on trans- mission, and legislative area).
- Front: independent with unequal length wish- bones, coil springs, telescopic dampers and anti-roll bar
- Rear: non-independent by rigid axle, trailing arms, oblique upper torque arms, coil springs, telescopic dampers and anti-roll bar.
- Steering: Recirculating ball. Turns from lock to lock 4.40.
- Brakes: Front discs, rear drums. Optional power assistance.
- Wheels: 5 in x 13 in steel, 6 in x 13 in optional. Tyres A78-13B, BR78-13B optional. Body/chassis Saloon, Coupe or Estate car. 2-door, 4 seats. Integral.
- Dimensions and weight: Wheelbase 97.0 in; track, front 54.8 in, rear 53.6 in; length 176.4 in; width 65.4 in; height 50.0 in (Hatchback) or 51.8 in (Notchback and Estate); ground clearance 4.8 in; kerb weight 25331b (Notchback), 25961b (Hatchback), 26361b (Estate); turning circle between walls 38.4 ft: fuel tank 13.4 gals.
- Performance: Maximum speed (approx) 96mph; fuel consumption (approx) 31 mpg.