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Car and Driver's SS/Sedan Challenge 1973 Vega GT

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In the 1970s Car and Driver challenged its readers to a series of Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) sanctioned, showroom stock sedan races at Lime Rock Park in Lime Rock, Connecticut -The Car and Driver SS/Sedan Challenge. With Bruce Cargill-representing the readers-having won Challenge I in 1972 in a Dodge Colt, and Patrick Bedard -C&D's executive writer-the victor of Challenge II in 1973 in a Opel 1900 sedan, Challenge III would be the tie-breaker event.

73 Vega GT-bronze metallic

1973 Vega GT - Bronze metallic

On October 12, 1974 C&D's Bedard piloted their 1973 Chevrolet Vega GT #0 in Car and Driver's SS/Sedan Challenge III and had just edged out an Opel to win the race. "The lone Vega outran every single Opel, Colt, Pinto, Datsun, Toyota and Subaru on the starting grid. From the summit of the winner's platform the car was in the impound area, a metallic bronze coupe with a big yellow zero on its battle-scared flank. It was driven it there after the victory lap, the tech inspectors had pushed it off the scales probing under the hood, looking for the secrets of its speed. It had done the job-this Vega GT faced off against 31 other well-driven showroom stocks and it had finished first.

After purchasing the year-old Vega in California for $1,900, Bedard contacted Doug Roe, a former Chevrolet engineer with a reputation as a Vega specialist mentioning the showroom stocker. Roe replied: "Better overfill it about a quart. When you run them over 5,000 rpm, all the oil stays up in the head and you'll wipe the bearings. And something has to be done with the crankcase vents. If you don't it'll pump all that oil into the intake." Bedard said, "On its very first lap around Lime Rock the Vega blew its air cleaner full of oil. And it also ran 215 °F (102 °C) on the water temperature gauge. When I called Roe about the overheating he said all Vegas run at 215 degrees on the water temp gauge. It would be ok to about 230 degrees. Then it would probably start to detonate. I wasn't even convinced that it could finish. And I didn't even know all of its bad habits yet.

C&D Vega GT Showroom Stock Sedan

Car and Driver 1973 Vega GT #0
on its way to victory

Five laps from the end I discovered that once the tank drops below a quarter full, the fuel wouldn't pick up in the right turns. Twice per lap the carburetor would momentarily run dry. And if that wasn't bad enough, the temperature gauge read exactly 230 degrees and a white Opel was on my tail as unshakably as a heat-seeking missile. But it was also clear that no matter how good a driver Don Knowles was and no matter how quick his Opel, he wasn't going to get by if the Vega simply stayed alive. Which it did. You have to admire a car like that. If it wins, it must be the best, never mind all of the horror stories you hear, some of them from me."

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