John Delorean, GM vice president and Chevrolet general manager discussing the car, touting its quality of assembly and its handling capabilities. DeLorean said, "Our design concept was we wanted to build a car that does everything well, and if you drive the car you really will be very impressed. It has far and away the best handling of anything in its class. In fact it handles better than many sports cars. The performance is excellent. There is nothing that comes within a mile of the Vega for performance and handling. It out-performs any car in its price class in accelerating. This car will out-handle almost any sports car built in Europe. Not just little cars, but sports cars too. This is quite an automobile...The Vega is going to be built at a quality level that has never been attained before in a manufacturing operation in this country, and probably in the world. I think the ride and handling of some of the imports is quite mediocre. But some of them are extremely well put together. The Vega has good craftsmanship, without the faults of the imports."
Car Life in September 1970 said, "Chevrolet says Vega is more than just a new little car. Chevrolet is absolutely right." "The Vega is as separate a car as is being made in the U.S. Almost every component — in the drivetrain, the body, the trim, whatever — is designed and produced for the Vega." "The overall package is small, but interiors haven't suffered in proportion. Entry and exit will call for more bending than the average sedan driver is used to, but once inside, the size reduction isn't apparent, at least for people of average size. The surprise comes in the back, where there is more leg room than the Camaro offers." "Chevy engineers say that in a steady state cornering situation a Vega equipped with the handling package will generate a one G lateral acceleration with a roll angle of only six degrees. Wow. And double zoomie. These figures are fantastic — even better than a Corvette. Steady state cornering is seldom experienced in normal driving. It's only one measure of a car's overall handling characteristics. Nevertheless, it's a good indication that the overall cornering capabilities of the Vega should be exceptional. Drivers of the Vega should find its braking ability more than equal to the other high performance levels of the car. The Vega will provide keen competition for rival small cars, imported and domestic, be they sporty GT's or sedans, or wagons. That's an impression."
Road & Track in September 1970 "Technical Analysis & Driving Impression-Chevrolet Vega 2300" editor John R. Bond said, "Finally—General Motors produces a truly compact, truly new and truly American car to challenge the imports." "With three body syles, the Vega iis aimed at a more varied market than the Pinto. The 2-door has the angular, upright qualities of the Fiat 124 Coupe, the coupe has some of the sleekness of the Ferrari 365 GT 2+2, the wagon is VW-like in its simplicity. What is surprising is that GM should produce a car with such "engineered" (as distinct from "styled") body lines; this suggests an appeal to intellect rather than image and may be significant in breaking into the market area previously reserved for imports. A few years ago we criticized the irrational flamboyance of the Corvette; now we must applaud the sensible, if conservative, Vega. Objectives for the Vega's performance, as outlined by Chevrolet engineers were: VW Beetle economy, Maverick acceleration, Toyota Corona quietness. I can vouch for the quietness; an ingenious system of engine mounts has made it virtually impossible to tell the engine is a 4-cyl." "As a final observation, I think the Vega is beyond a doubt the best handling passenger car ever built in the U.S. It has many other good qualities, but the roadholding impressed and surprised me most of all."
Car and Driver in September 1970 "Detroit's Compact Commitment" said, "From the very start, Chevrolet is prepared to take on everyone, from VW to the sporty imports like Lincoln-Mercury's Capri and Buick's Opel Rallye Kadett. But this tremendous latitude will also have Chevrolet competing with itself. The Vega sedan will certainly appeal to many who otherwise would have been prospects for a Nova and the sporty fastback coupe is more to cut in on the Camaro territory." "The Vega has not been compromised by any hand-me-down parts. The standard Vega is meant to compete specifically with the imports and mechanically it is very much a numbers car, which is to say that it has been designed and developed to produce incredibly efficient engineering numbers. At the very start, certain numerical levels of goodness were established for characteristics like acceleration, fuel economy, interior noise, ride harshness, and stopping ability and the Vega had to match up to these pre-set goals before it could be turned loose on the public. the result is a machine that is usually awesome in its competence but occasionally inept and which clearly mirrors its computer breeding. This description applies, particularly, to the base car—a 2-door sedan with the 90-horsepower engine, 3-speed manual transmission and 2.53-to-one axle ratio—which is meant to do everything better than Volkswagens, Toyotas, Mavericks or anything else you can name." There is a small station wagon, a panel delivery and, best of all, a fastback coupe that's guaranteed to start a stampede in the direction of the nearest Chevy dealer."
Road Test in September 1970 said, "Chevy pulled out the stops on this one-aluminum ohc engines, four body styles, high style options put it in a class by itself." "By the time it is introduced this fall, Chevrolet's Vega 2300 will have covered enough hot, cold, wet and dry test miles to be equivalent of about 240 trips around the world. A million of these miles were on roads, on the proving grounds and off, and the rest consisted of simulated tests in engineering laboratories. Also realize that most of the tests have a severity factor about three times greater than average customer driving. This may seem like a lot, but unlike the Pinto and Gremlin the Vega is all-new even down to its tires for as far as we know... Neither of these would have experienced the teething problems encountered by engineers involved wuth the XP 887 project, as it was code-named until recently."...while sporty in appearance, Vegas have been designed as economy cars and not hot rods. The modest 8.0 to 1 compression ratio of both engines will permit operation on the forthcoming 91-octane, low lead fuels and average economy should be in the order of 23-24 miles to the gallon." "The Vega is the only domestic or imported mini-car to offer guard rails in the doors to protect against side impacts." "...one can only conclude that Vega to date has the edge in the mini-car race." "The Vega is innovative without being complex."
Super Stock in October 1970 said, "What Chevrolet did was engineer a completely new car for the tastes and needs of the 1970s, and they've done a beautiful job." "Vega 2300 is a very simple car, easy to repair, and capable of 27 mpg, making it a definite competitior for VW. Of course, Vega has quite a few more options than VW." The project code was XP-887 for a long time, but the car was named for a very bright star, and then for the size of the engine, 140 cubic inches or 2300 cubic centimeters.
Road Test in November 1970 tested a Vega 4-speed coupe. RT said, "Sitting behind the wheel of a Vega for the first time was anticlimatic though pleasurable" "To put it bluntly, the the Vega with the 110-hp engine, is sort of a junior hot rod; it reminded us vaguely of some flying time behind the stick of a military Piper." "Our test car in corners was almost completely neutral. On straightaway ride over fairly rough roads, you were vaguely aware that you weren't far off the ground. Leave it be with that statement. The Vega felt more like a typical small sports car than a Detroit sedan, however small." "With the inexpensive handling package, our test car has no peers in the cornering department. Fast turns are level, safe and normal." "Standard disc brakes give Vega stopping power that touch a record for us — of 140 feet from 60 mph." "One negative is that the Vega is noisy, we wonder if this will be acceptable to the owner of a current American compact." "We like the Vega and perhaps would wax more enthusiastic about it but except that the program is just overpowering."
Road & Track in November 1970 road tested "Vegas Plain and Fancy." R&T said, "The plain Vega sedan is as good-looking a car as you'll find in its class...with the Vega, they've turned out one of the finest-looking compact sedans in the world." "The engine proved a let down. It's extremely rough and noisy..on the positive side, freeway cruising is relaxed and quiet, the slow-running engine's noise covered by wind and road noise, and it was economical not withstanding our overall mileage figures which include some very hard driving." "The Vega in standard form rides and handles very well indeed." "Inside one finds that the large glass area–so reminiscent of those of the Fiat 124 Coupe — give outstanding vision in all directions;" "The steering is in a word, light;"
R&T on the coupe, with options: "To start with, the coupe is more graceful to look at, having a roof that drops off sooner as it progresses rearward...""...our coupe had all the performance options that can be had on the sedan as well." "The most important options on our coupe's equipment list were the L-11 engine option—20 more bhp via a 2-barrel carburetor and hotter camshaft—and the 4-speed gearbox." "The coupe's other major mechanical option was a handling package..." So optioned, the Vega becomes a pleasant car to drive, marred only by the unseemly engine racket. It also becomes something other than a low-priced economy sedan, but one is hard put to name a coupe as attractive and capable as this at a comparable price." "The basic Vega, pretty and intelligently designed though it is, is poorly equipped and rather unpleasant to drive and we don't think many customers will settle for it. The optioned car is a decidedly good package and could do real damage to the likes of Ford Capri, MGB GT, Fiat 124 Coupe, BMW 1600, etc."
Hot Rod in November 1970 "Vega Small Car Star" said, "The Vega is a hard car not to like. Even the men who run companies that build competitive cars admit that. It is the result of the largest single expenditure by Chevrolet and General Motors for any single car model. The investment reaches into the hundreds of millions of dollars." "Plain driving comfort is without drawback. Like the Camaro, this car has relatively low spring rates, forward of the crossmember steering linkage, and its handling ability is accomplished by a matching of good suspension geometry and stabilizer bars." Braking is by front disc with rear drums, and power assist is neither available nor needed. The front discs take 70 percent of the braking duties, and on successive stops from 60 miles per hour, our car came to a halt in less than 110 feet." "If a car can go quicker than 18 seconds, it will beat the Vega in the quarter-mile. Shiting at just a hairline over 5000 rpm, our best elapsed time was 18.173. This was in stock form with nearly a full tank of regular fuel." "The four-speed is the only non-U.S. part on the car. It is made in Germany and is also used in the Opel GT. Having observed it first on a display table, we weren't ready for the ease with which it can be powershifted. Nothing to it: just bang on the stick." "Handling is one of the Vega's highest points. It squirts through high-speed turns or around sharp corners with almost neutral steering, although foolish executions or sharp changes will bring on understeer. While the front wheels are still in command, the most predominant feel is one of oversteer. It is only a hint, but a welcome one. Power steering is available but seems unnecessary...Steering effort is hardly noticeable."
Motor Trend in December 1970: "Car of the Year: Nominees," MT selected the ten best cars nominated for 1971 Car of the Year — American Motors Gremlin, Ford Pinto, Chevrolet Vega, Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang, Pontiac Firebird, Dodge Charger, Mercury Couger, Oldsmobile Toronado, and Buick Rivera. MT said, "Wait a minute, you say, isn't unfair to compare a $2,500 Vega to a $6,000 Toronado? Yes, in a word, but for Car of the Year nominees, the most important consideration is value received for monies paid. In other words, the car that wins in the end is, we feel, the best value in relation to its price tag in terms of how it delivers in terms of engineering, performance and styling." We nominate the Chevrolet Vega because not only is it a new car, but it represents a number of concepts new to the American auto industry. First, Vega production is done in large part by robots, automated like our foreign competitors, in an attempt to compensate for the "human error" which has lowered the quality in many Detroit-made cars. Secondly, the Vega has a fresh engine idea — aluminum block with no iron liners — creating a healthy power-to-weight situation. The third reason the Vega was nominated was for its marketing — for instance, the offering of a hatchback coupe, a sedan, a wagon, and a sedan delivery, two of then with a "GT" package available — outstroked the competition at the outset. Plus their advertising was brilliantly calculated to reach the "thinking man" — or the VW buyers. For all these reasons the Vega was nominated."1971
Motor Trend February 1971: "1971 Car of the Year Chevrolet Vega 2300"—Built for the age of reason—MT said, "In a conference room in Palm Springs, California after a grueling 4-day ride and drive that saw 10 of Detroit's finest put through a 1000 mile wringer, we — the CARS (Conference of Automotive Research Specialists) — Karl Ludvigsen, Roy Richter, Mike Jones, and Bob Bondurant) and the MT Staff — cast our votes and made Vega 2300 Motor Trend's 1971 Car of the Year." "Even though our Car of the Year votes represent the individual thought of each man, it is appropriate that the final choice was a car that reflects Detroit's timely response to the people's needs instead of a copy writer's idea of what they should need. So, the Chevrolet Vega 2300 is Motor Trend's 1971 Car of the Year by way of engineering excellence, packaging, styling, and timeliness. As such, we are saying that, for the money, no other American car can deliver more." "Chevrolet has never lost sight of the fact that the Vega had to be satisfactory basic transportation in its lowest form. And in the last analysis, that is what swung the balance, the fact the base Vega was a magnificent automobile without any options at all. That you can actually purchace a normal car that will handle nearly as well as the higher priced GT version, the straight-as-a-plumb-line-stopping disc/drum brakes and all. And, in the U.S. of A. it's been very hard to find that in the last ten years."
Road & Track in April 1971 on the Yenko Turbo Stinger II R&T said, "A turbo-charger and other good things transform the Vega into a sports car. Even the SCCA says so." "The turbocharger unit comes off Rajay's shelf and the installation is very simple. The new carb is a sidedraft Bendix. The pistons in the turbocharged Vega will be forged instead of cast. Evidently this is one of the places where Chevrolet engineers have provided advice based on experience." "The result of all this is 155 bhp at 4800 rpm. Yenko says the prototype car carrying driver and passenger using the optional 3.36 gears did the quarter mile in 15.5 sec. and went through the traps at 85 mph. By comparison of our recent test of a Vega with the 110-bhp engine shows quarter-mile times of 19.3 and 69 mph. Even more impressive was Yenko's claim of 6.1 sec from 60-80 mph. Our test car needed 15 seconds to do it." Price isn't final but Yenko claims it will be about $3400."
Motor Trend in April 1971 on the Yenko Turbocharged Vega GT said, "...a smog-clean turbocharged Vega will destroy any of the old "classic" performance cars in the quarter-mile." "you can put a 140-cubic inch engine car through a quarter in the low-fifteens for only $700..." "You don't really use the turbocharger until you've topped 3000 rpm, then it cuts in, not with a boot, but very smoothly. As a result you don't really experience a drastic difference in acceleration than a stock Vega in a normal stoplight fashion. You just seem to magically find yourself going one heck of lot faster than in a stock version. Start by banging home the clutch at 3500 and it's another thing altogether, the 'chargers 13 pounds of boost making the Vega a mini-Z/28. Added to the Vega's already excellent handling, the combination makes for one of the most delightful cars which can be put together in the U.S. today and more than a match for several highly-touted imported sports sedans."
Track and Traffic April 1971 tested a 110-hp 4-speed coupe. They said, "In all departments: handling, steering, acceleration and general livability, we found the Vega quite delightful." "Clutch action is quite light, and it's impossible to beat the synchronizers on fast shifts." "The brakes need considerable pedal pressure but they work extremely well (discs front/drums rear). The Vega generally gives a feeling of nimbleness not usually found in a domestic machine." "It's an attractive, well-balanced package with enough handling built in to make it forgiving in just about all situations." "The 110 Vega is at its best (noise-wise) under 65, and over 80 mph, between these speeds you'll find the heaviest noise and vibration." "Performance wasn't eye-opening; 60 mph was reached in a trace over 14 seconds." "As a styling exercise, the Vega is really attractive. In fact, it's a head-turner, especially when finished in the warm orange of our test car." "There's one thing the Vega will (hopefully) do for the North American driver, and that's to educate him on the joys of good handling. He might not be persuaded to buy the Vega for this reason, but once behind the wheel, he'll discover something not known in his previous Impala/Galaxie/Fury. The Vega just might have a hand in an automotive renaissance."
Car and Driver in September 1971 said of Yenko's Turbo Vega, "By coupling a small Switzer turbocharger to the intake system, Don Yenko has managed to boost horsepower to 155 and to turn his specially trimmed Vega GT hatchback into a formidable performer." "The turbo Stinger is a delight to drive...a heavy throttle application at any speed range brings the blower into play, not with a bang but extraordinary smoothness."
Motor Trend in October 1971 "Vega Z/29-50% more power for under $100" said, "Our quick fix made a different car out of the Vega. On the road we weren't taking any sass from intermediate imports or even domestic compacts at stoplights or anywhere else." "The result at small cost—under $20 for the Dyno-Tune kit and under $80 for the header (now in production)—is a Vega that really lives up to its C.o.t.Y designation, taking nothing from the likes of almost any intermediate-priced sports car you care to name nor, for that matter from domestic intermediate V8s either, a number of '72 econo-ponycars included. In fact it's what latter day ponycars should be."
Motor Trend '71 Buyers Guide said, "Here comes the reason why there hasn't been too much say about some of the other '71 Chevrolet nameplates. Engineering and styling the Vega from scratch in four different body styles was a total effort far more demanding in manpower than the Pinto or Gremlin programs." "Everything about the Vega is designed for easy service. The fenders, the bumpers and the grill bolt on. Headlights may be aimed without removing the bezels. The instrument cluster comes out with the removal of a couple of screws. The lacquer paint is claimed not to need wax or polish for life. Standard equipment includes front disc brakes, guard beams in the doors, bucket seats, power ventilation system and a choice of 10 colors." "A folding rear seat is standard for coupe and wagon models. Suspension is by coil at each wheel and a handling package complete with wide oval tires is available." "Vega styling is quite reminiscent of 1955 Chevrolets from the front with the vertical checkerboard grill and high-mounted single headlamps in each fender." "Vegas, in summary, are a striking quartet."
Road & Track in March 1972 "Driving Impression: 1972 Vega" said, "Chevrolet engineers have had a year to clean up Vega's rough edges, and though the roughest edge (the engine) remains very rough indeed it is noticeably improved, along with several other details." "Despite having to meet tougher emission regulations for 1972 the new car runs as a car is supposed to run: smooth idle, no stumbling or stalling, no lean surge at medium speeds. The 1971 engine was desmogged by "engine modifications" only—retarded spark, lean carb setting, heated air intake, etc.—and it just barely ran. For 1972 the cost department gave the engineers a break and let them use air injection, which meant they could give the engine a bit more fuel to work with and let afterburning clean up the exhaust." "There are no styling changes we are happy to report...The changes all count for something; there's a little glovebox on the dash, the assembly quality is noticeably better, and the engine is quieter." "...we cannot be nearly as harsh on the Vega as we were in 1971. It's a better car and its price is more competitive."
Hot Rod magazine in March 1972 road tested a '72 Vega GT Kammback. HR said, "Highway and street driving is excellent. Vision is likewise. Interior comfort is excellent." "Vega GT wagons make sense. They hold people comfortably (though not large ones in the back seat) and they carry spare parts in the cargo section." "The car never looks like something you had to buy...It's the kind of car we'd buy to look good in, work on, add to, and wash once a week."
Motor Trend in a May 1972 "Twin-Cam Vega" technical article said, "When Britain's Cosworth Engineering went looking for an aluminum block for its new sports car racing engine, they discovered the Chevy Vega. The result: Triple the power from less displacement." "The EAA weighs only 228 pounds complete...from 121.7 cubic inches (1994 cc) it has already produced 270 horsepower at 8750 rpm and better than 170 lbs-ft of torque at 7000 rpm. That makes it the words's most powerful unsupercharged two-liter racing engine. And, believe it or not, at heart it's pure Chevrolet Vega." "Now this engine is in production at Cosworth;s Northampton, England plant. Sixty are set to be made and sold this year at $6,250 apiece." "It's hard to imagine a small, sporty car that would be more exciting than a Vega GT with one of these engines under the hood." "With the right gearbox, tires and chassis tuning it could make the Vega a true sports car that could match credentials with some of the best in the $4,000 class from Europe, not to mention its potential as a Trans Am racer."
World Car Guide June 1972 in a Vega Kammback wagon road test said, "In brief: Loaded with everything including air conditioning and the sporty 4-speed gearbox, this Vega wagon was not inexpensive. With maximum speed in excess of 90 mph, performance was adequate but the best freeway mileage was a mediocre 18.6 miles per gallon." "Steering is quite neutral without over or under steering. Cornering is easy and stable with remarkably little leaning at normal speeds." "On slippery roads the optional "Positraction" at $40.75 proved its worth. The optional handling package-6-inch rims, ant-roll bars, etc. is a good investment for those with sporting proclivities. At $131.25 extra, we'd apt opt for this package with which are test Vega was equipped. Surprisingly, the ride is good and the brakes are superb." "The 4-speed shift lever was a joy to operate." "Our test Vega had air conditioning, an excellent unit that costs $359.80 and is well worth every cent." "The wall to wall carpeting was of good quality but the fitting and attaching to the floor left something to be desired. External body panels, likewise were rather poorly fitted around the front and rear, and here and there the finish was certainly not up to the standard. The upholstery, however was well finished and fitted in soft vinyl. The rear seat is for very small children only." "In summation, the writer must say that driving the Vega is much more pleasant than engaging in the same operation in a Maverick or a Comet but inferior, from the pleasure standpoint, to driving a Pinto or an Opel."
Road Test in a July 1972 Vega GT Kammback wagon road test said, "Our good running GT started easily from cold and most amazing of all it had none of the cold engine stumble so characteristic of this year's crop of cars." "Although straight-line go-power is not the Vega's forte, it does get high marks for more important areas to everyday driving. First of all, the Vega has really good brakes...so well balanced that we recorded a 100 ft panic stop from 60 mph with a straight line skid under lockup." "The Vega really comes into its own when driven hard on back roads. It has near neutral handling which simply means that it goes where its aimed with no fuss or excessive sawing on the steering wheel." "The ride is firm but stable in all types of terrain and is well within the boulevard standards." "Summing up the Vega GT wagon, we like it for size, ease of handling and economy."
Super Stock in a July 1972 Vega GT rad test said, "It is a damn nice little car with plenty of room, great handling, and a pretty high level of overall finish." "From any angle, the Vega GT's styling is beautifully uncomplicated." "The Vega GT has an awful lot of good things going for it in the chassis department, as well. The car was engineered from the beginning to handle and stop as well as possible for the size and price class its in, and the engineers did the right thing in almost every area." The disc/drum brakes are are superior to just about any of the competition's brakes, and hard, repeated stops from 60 mph didn't bother the stoppers at all." "On banked turns, flat tight turns, and curves, the Vega handled beautifully with a minimum steering effort."
Small Cars in a '72 Vega GT road test said, "Z/29 Vega GT: It's either the sportiest economy car in the world or the most economical sports car in the world." "We liked the styling of the coupe. It's clean and sporty." "Out on the ride and handling course at Raceway Park, the Vega could come storming around bends flat out in a four-wheel drift in a completely neutral attitude with very little lean thanks to the front and rear sway bars." "The car has lots of potential to be a great little fun car to drive, especially in Z/29 trim...if we were buying a Vega, we'd install a 4.11 rear axle ratio and stiff shocks plus a set of 185/70-13 tires and exhaust headers. All these things are available now from accessories manufacturers; there's even a supercharger already out for the Vega. With these accessories, the Vega would indeed have the right to wear GT badges."
Small Cars in a '72 Turbostinger road test said, "The important changes happen under the hood. A small Switzer turbocharger coupled to intake system boosts horsepower to 155." "The Turbo-Stinger is a ball to drive." "Suddenly, you're accelerating very quickly and picking up speed faster than you ever have before in a Vega." "...there's a characteristic smooth surge that doesn't quit til you lift your foot. The surge is just one great rush with no one point where all hell breaks loose. There is no moaning or whining from the blower and no roaring from the exhaust—just quiet power. Operating with a stock rear axle of 3.36 to 1, Yenko claims the Vega Stinger can cover the quarter mile in 15.3 seconds in the 90-91 mph range. Top speed is a claimed 120."
Cars International in a '72 Vega GT station wagon road test said, "...Just then, out of the corner of your eye you see a tight 40 mph curve looming ahead...the car, still traveling 20 mph faster than the posted speed limit, heads toward the apex of the turn. To your pleasant surprise the Vega wagon takes the turn with the utmost ease. Body roll is almost non-existent as the Vega maintains a flat, stable attitude through the bend. At the conclusion of your test drive, you'll probably realize as we did that the Vega GT in a lot of respects is as close to a true GT as a car can get, but on the other hand, as much an Americanized compact as the Pinto or Gremlin. To start with, the Vega's strong points would definitely lie in its smooth styling and outstanding handling." The styling, or for that matter, the design of the overall exterior and interior package is the best we've seen on a small car. As for the handling...you've got a car that'll run curves around any other station wagon and put many an import in the weeds." On the minus side there are three unsatisfactory areas: engine noise, quality control, and price. The first area we should point out that the engine settles down to a fairly quite buzz at freeway speeds." "...since our test car costs over $3400. No matter how you look at it that's quite an expenditure for an "economical" little car, even if its the best handling, best looking station wagon we've driven."
Motor Trend '72 Buyers Guide said, "Few will deny that Vega is an excellent car. It has all it takes to make a successful package: styling, superior handling, above-average power, and passenger comfort on a par with anything else in its class. Its quality, after a shaky start, is the best in GM, though this statement must be tempered with the qualification that the simpler a car is designed—the fewer parts that go into its assembly—the better quality level it will have. Its early defects were well publicized in the press, but quietly and quickly fixed through the year. By the end of 1971 most of the obvious bugs had been worked out, and the car had established a good reputation with the public."
Service Station Management and Motor Service magazines in a 1972 survey, the Vega was voted –"Easiest to service, least mechanical problems and best overall in its class" by independent servicemen.1973
Road & Track in a June 1973 "Vega 2300 Owner Survey"—The level of assembly doesn't match the virtues of the design R&T said, "The Vega is smaller, more nimble, and more sporting and has generated more technical interest than the rest of the maker's line since the 1963 Corvette. The Vega is thus of interest to Road & Track readers, who bought the car and responded to our owners surveys in numbers sufficient to allow a survey of 150 owners rather early in the model's life." Fully 20% of the owners responding to our survey are less than 21 years old...and 65% are between 21 and 30. The models and options reflect an interest in machinery, with 65% of the cars having the GT package...only 10% of the cars had automatic transmissions and 4% had the basic 3-speed manual. For utility 40% bought the hatchback coupe (or was this for style?)...For comfort, 24% have air conditioning...13% of the owners volunteered they had made changes after purchase—shock absorbers, engine tuning kits and headers being the most popular.
The most popular reason for purchase was handling with 53%. Close behind that was style with 51%. The Vega's design attracted 47%. The Vega's low price was a lure for 19% and 24% said they were influenced by its promise of economy..."
"Five Best Features—Reliability, Handling, Economy, Design, Comfort. A whopping 65% found Vega handling to be the best thing about the car. "Five Worst Features—Engine Roughness, Lack of Power, Gearshift, Quality, Noise." "The favorite "worst"—and it was close—was noise and vibration... And 21% complained about a lack of power." "The engine gave trouble to one-third of the owners...The head gaskets blew for 8% of the owners...20% reported carburetor troubles as a separate category." "70% would buy another Vega and 30% wouldn't, show a high degree of dissatisfaction with the car." "And while we have have many owners with problems we also have 16%, a better-than-average percentage, of cars with no trouble at all. The design and the concept are sound, just as Chevrolet intended and as the buyers hoped."
Road & Track in a June 1973 Vega GT road test said, "The 1973 Vega is still the stylish, somewhat sporting economy car it was when new, but improved. A look at the adjacent Vega owner survey and previous R&T Vega tests will show that the Vega needed improvements. The concept is sound, as we say there, but the details and one major component (the engine) are troublesome." "The engine is doubly improved, as it has the reduced emissions required by law and better performance regardless of official power ratings." "...reduced acceration comes despite new gearing and better economy partly because of it. Progress in both areas on one car is rare." "The Vega shifter is ranked as a worst feature by Vega owners and it has been improved for '73." "The gearshift has been reworked to match the new transmission.. It's less balky and more precise than the original units." "Vega engine noise and roughness got another bad mark from the owners... The engine does thrash at high rpm in the lower gears but not as much as before, and at road speeds the Vega is now quieter than most 4-cyl sedans." "The owners have listed handling as the best feature and so have we since the car was new. The optional radial tires have improved upon a good thing, then as the '73 Vega had improved road feel and the tires didn't nibble over lines and cracks in the pavement. With these tires the Vega does better on the skidpad than every other car in our test summary except the Jaguar XJ6, very select company indeed. It also outdoes the '73 Corvette on its radials in this particular test..." R&T concluded, "After what we've said about earlier Vegas, it's a pleasure to report the current Vega is attractive, respectably quick, and frugal-and it's the best highway car in class. Well done Chevrolet.."
Motor Trend in June 1973 on the "1974 Chevrolet Cosworth Vega Twin-Cam"—Chevy's exciting 16-valve Twin-Cam Cosworth-Vega is the hottest enthusiast car from a U.S. automaker since the Z-28 and the Shelby-Mustang. Better yet, the Feds will love it because of its clean exhaust breath.—"Up top is the special head, cast of aluminum instead of the Vega's iron. It was designed along pure racing lines by England's Keith Duckworth of Cosworth Engineering Ltd., creator and builder of the V-8 engines that have powered all the World Championship Grand Prix drivers since 1968." "Chevy may be casting an envious glance at the new small transmission just introduced by Borg-Warner that's available in a five-speed version. That with this engine would really be something." "One thing it won't be is cheap. For the complete option package on the Vega fastback coupe the price tag could not be less than $3700...It could add up to America's answer to the BMW 2002 tii, if it's built with better than usual Vega quality control. About the only thing wrong with the Vega is its unpleasant engine, and Keith Duckworth has taken care of that, and then some. We can't wait to get our hands on one."
Car and Driver in August 1973 "Chevrolet Sports Dept. 1974 Cosworth Vega" said: "Cosworth Vega-16 Valve. More than an engine. A taut muscled GT coupe to devastate the smugness of BMW 2002tii's and 5-speed Alfa Romeo Alfetta GTs, A limited run of 4000 machines, each one built away from the tumult of the assembly line to precision tolerances, as a show of technical force by Chevrolet. All of them will be collectors items. That is because Chevrolet has done the right thing. The engineers haven't tried to get by using marginal econo-sedan parts as a basis for a capable GT car. Instead they've culled all the best Vega components—the body and much of the chassis—and started almost from the beginning with the powertrain." "Chevrolet was not likely to design up a completely new engine just to make a few Vegas go fast. But it did. In fact, it had started even before the Vega was announced publicly." "It was not until Easter of 1971 that Chevrolet Engineering put together a proposal—a gussied-up Vega fastback with a Cosworth engine—to show John DeLorean. The car was to be an image builder, a little something to show the world that Chevrolet Engineering could knock BMW off with its left hand if it wanted to. DeLorean liked it. So the project started off on its unsteady path toward eventual limited production. In the final version, the engine is basically a Cosworth design—although it is made entirely in the U.S." "The bore/stroke ratio is now almost exactly the same as that of the BMW 2002. In addition to the obvious high-rpm benefits of the shortened stroke, it also brings about a dramatic reduction in engine vibration, something the Vega has needed every bit as much as more horsepower." "Even though the Vega GT is an exceptionally capable small car, they've chosen to stiffen the springs and shocks and redistribute the roll couple more to the front. The interior will be much the same as a Vega GT except for an 8000 rpm tach and an engine-turned aluminum instrument panel." "If you don't know about it, it's public face won't tell you. The Cosworth Vega is meant for driving, not showing off." "The Cosworth Vega will please its owner by virtue of its efficiency and sophistication. And it will be a private affair, rather like a mistress on the side. Not something you flaunt." "The Cosworth Vega is closer to an uncompromised GT car than anything Detroit has ever built."
Road & Track in August 1973, "Cosworth Vega For The Road" said, "With the Cosworth Vega, Chevrolet breaks new ground in American production engine design. It is the first twincam design and the first 4-valve (per cylinder) design since the classic days, and the first to incorporate electronic fuel injection." The new Cosworth Vega engine retains such technological breakthroughs as the the all-aluminum diecast cylinder block, silicon bore surfaces and iron-plated aluminum pistons. But here the similarity ends. The Vega twincam is an all-aluminum structure from the block right up to the camshaft cover. Total weight is 305 ready to run. This is 40 lb less than the base Vega engine." "The chamber floor is formed by a deep-dish aluminum piston giving 8.5:1 compression ratio, up a half-point from the standard engine. For extra strength and durability pistons are forged, not cast as in the current Vega." "Little cost was spared in designing and producing the Cosworth Vega to be as "bullet-proof" as possible. For instance, connecting rods are magnafluxed to detect cracks and then shot-peened to reduce surface stress, processes previously reserved for high-output engines like the Z/28. The crankshaft is forged (the standard one is cast) and the surface is hardened by a Tuftriding heat treatment for fatigue resistance. The crank is unique in another respect; a shortened throw compared to the current Vega engine, which reduces the stroke from 3.62 in. to 3.16 in. and the displacement from 140 cu in. (2.3 liters) to 122 cu in. (2 liters). Engines currently being tested are putting out about 130 bhp net at the 7000-rpm redline, an increase of of 45 bhp over the high-output engine with 2-barrel carburetor. Torque is is an impressive 125 lb-ft and the curve is unusually flat from 2000 to 7000 rpm. Development work is still being conducted to further improve mid-range torque without sacrificing top-end power so these numbers aren't final." "The Vega's already good handling has been improved further..roll-couple distribution has been revised to reduce understeer." "Engines will be built by hand using production specialists in a special off-line room at Chevrolet's Tonawanda engine plant. Time will be no object—each engine and each car will be built right regardless of how long it takes, so say the Chevrolet people."
Road & Track in October 1973 "Annual Model Change, 1974" said, "Thus we have the Vega, which has evolved into a fully competitive economy car that can be fun to drive..." "Chevrolet has given the Vega a set of 5-mph front and rear bumpers appropriate to its light, economical nature: aluminum bumpers on metal springs. These add 68 lb weight and 3.2 in. length to the Vega—but a conventional steel system also considered would have added 150 lb. Front and rear ends of the car have been redesigned to harmonize with the more massive bumpers; at the front a slope-down treatment with mult-slot grill visually minimizes the bumper projection." A prototype Cosworth Vega was on hand for driving impressions." Our test drive was around a serpentine but flat course with sweeping and tight turns appropriate for speeds of 30 to 60 mph. In a smooth-pavement workout like this the Cosworth Vega is delightful. The suspension roll resistance has been redistributed toward the front to give more understeer than the standard Vega handling package—anti roll bar diameters are 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 works—the Cosworth Vega corners flat and fast and its simple work to corner in just the attitude one wants it to."
Hot Rod in December 1973 Roddin' Random said, "On May 17, 1973, the one-millionth Vega trundled down the ways and out the door of Chevy's Lordstown plant. Chevrolet was so smitten with the car, they've built 6143 "Millionth Vegas." The series is basically a styled-up Vega GT with some nice interior touches.. It comes with bright orange paint, white stripping, a "Millionth Vega" decal in the door handle, and power steering. They'll probably sell a million of 'em."
Road & Track in December 1973 "Road Tester's Year" said, "As for the Vega, kudos to Chevrolet for finally making this car what it should have been in the first place by hard work in refining the details. It's now quieter, quicker, and more economical than the first year (1971) Vega was—and as you must realize by now that is quite an accomplishment. The price is still attractive too, and note that our test car (with optional wide wheels and tires) had cornering power solidly into the sportscar class."1974
Car and Driver in January 1974 said of the Cosworth Vega, "The Cosworth Twin-cam Vega is Chevrolet's latest Image Car, temporarily upstaging even the Corvette. Chevy, late into the small-car market with the Vega, has something to prove. And they're doing it with a race motor tuned for the street and harnessed to an American sub-compact." "Very subtle indeed are the differences between the Cosworth Vega cylinder head and that of the Cosworth Ford-DFV three-liter V8 used in Formula One." "Pintos and Opels drop behind in an instant. Mazdas, V6 Capris and 240Zs are a little tougher, but fair game. And if you're willing to stir the shifter, BMW 2002 tiis and Alfa GTVs are yours for the conquering. In fact, the only 4-passenger coupes faster than a Cosworth Vega have a Detroit V8 under the hood," "A natural part of the appeal is exclusivity. Chevrolet engineers have sold management on 5000 cars...there will be less than one for each of Chevrolet's 6000 dealers."
Road Test in a July 1974 Test report on a '74 Vega LX Notchback said, "...It's very apparent from driving the 1974 model that a lot of invisible changes have been made—all for the better, we are happy to report." "Vega engineers have tamed the low-speed characteristics of the engine. It's wonderfully torquey and flexible at drive-away speeds, and you can shift early into fourth and chug around town all day if you like..in normal driving low and mid-range torque is what counts and this engine has plenty of it." "The Vega ride is not like that of a Caprice, but neither is it a choppy "little-car" ride thanks to the big car rear suspension (coil springs and control arms), ample suspension travel and reasonably good damping..." "The standard manual steering is on the heavy side and is too slow to permit fancy maneuvering..." "Braking performance is right in there too, which is credited to the brakes themselves and the big (radial) tires." "In summary, the 1974 Vega is a vastly improved car over the original and even over last year's model. All of the important gripes have been taken care of and it can now face up to its competition, domestic and imported, on a feature for feature basis."
Road & Track's 1974 "Fuel saver" driving impressions said of the '74 Vega, "Although attractive in design outside and in, the Vega still doesn't quite have the assembly standards to match the better imports; it's built to a price and can be dressed up by various optional equipment without becoming really refined. As a performer, the Vega does extremely well. With the 75-horsepower engine and the 3-speed manual transmission, the unadorned car is basic transportation that can beat many imports on a cost-per-mile basis. With the 85-horsepower engine, 4-speed manual, the handling package and radial tires, it is a lively car with excellent roadholding and braking. Its engine is also strong enough to handle an automatic transmission and air conditioning without an unacceptable performance loss."
Road Test said in October, 1974: "When you've got a winner, why change? That was no doubt the question across the table at the '75 design conference for the Vega and one which brought out the obvious answer. So the hatchback, notchback coupe and wagons are physically unchanged for 1975, but there are some important changes that can't be seen...but can be appreciated! The engine has received a lot of work to increase engine life and performance. The addition of hardened exhaust valve seats and overheating protection are two steps, but generally the life of the engine components has been significantly extended."
Cars magazine in February 1975 said of the Cosworth Vega, "Cosworth Vega option package will be expensive but well worth it to the buff." "...it should be capable of sub-nine-second 0-60 times and 17-second quarters right off the showroom floor, using the standard 7000-rpm redline. That may not sound too impressive by today's supercar standards but remember that it also stops and corners like a sports car and gets 20-25 miles per gallon all day long.
Car and Driver's Patrick Bedard reported in a 1975 editorial that on October 12, 1974 he piloted their '73 Vega GT #0 in Car and Driver's SS/Sedan Challenge III and had just edged out an Opel to win the race. Bedard said, "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 I could see the car in the impound area, a metallic bronze coupe with a big yellow zero on its battle-scared flank. I had driven it there after the victory lap, the tech inspectors pushing 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."
"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 (detonation point) 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."
Chevy Action in a 1975 Vega GT Hatchback road test said, "What really surprised us about the GT was the high level of quality control which was evident. The carpets and upholstery came off really great and everything fit. There were no rattles or no ill-fitting panels." "When you talk about overall performance, there's not too much you can say...you have to allow between 12.2 and 12.8 seconds to get to 60 mph from a dead stop and and over 19 seconds to tour the quarter-mile." "Handling-wise the Vega GT has it all over its competitors. It corners flat, has excellent directional stability and its front and rear sway bars really keep the act together. Braking requires some effort but stopping power is good. All controls are well grouped which helps make sporty-car type driving possible." "We still don't care for the engine and can't wait until we get a Cosworth to play with." "Overall the GT really did impress us. From a standpoint of economy, quality features, handling and braking, the Vega is a winner."
Motor Trend in a 1975 Vega GT Kammback wagon road test said, "Our '75 Vega wagon demonstrated improvements in creature comforts and noise isolation. It is distinctly a better car than its predecessors, but the real question is, is it good enough?" "The most obvious source of annoyance is its rough and noisy four-cylinder engine...for some reason, General Motors has been able to make only small improvements in isolating the Vega engine." "The wagon body is good looking and with the fold-down rear seat it provides a good degree of utility in a small-sized car." "Vegas have always had good handling characteristics and our test car didn't let us down in this department. The brakes are also excellent with 60 mph stopping distances of less than 110 feet."
The Vega was included in Motor Trend's 10 Best Selling (American Made) Cars test in 1975. "The Vega has been vacillating on the sales charts from just out of the top 10 to just into the top 10. We have to conclude that Monza sales have hurt the Vega and will continue to do so." "Vega's strong points are fuel economy and very good handling of the body roll variety, as apposed to the sliding rear end variety. The shortcomings are lack of power and excessive engine noise. Much of this will be solved by the long-promised Cosworth engine, but then the low price will be jeopardized."
Car and Driver in October 1975 "How to Hatch an Engine" on the '75 Cosworth Vega said: "Cal Wade's patience is shot, but his race-bred engine is in production. Just don't expect such a thing to ever happen again." "The Cosworth Vega 16-valve four cylinder is the most sophisticated engine Detroit ever made." "The outstanding feature of the Cosworth Vega is its excellent balance..Roll-stiffness distribution is ideal, with little understeer entering a turn, and just the right amount of drift from the tail as you put your foot down to exit." "Braking is sure, and the high efforts involved with 1976's semmi-metallic pads and larger brakes give you the feel you need to out-deep all comers." "Through the woods or down a mountain, the Cosworth is a feisty aggressor willing, if not altogether able to take on the world's best GT cars."
Motor Trend in the February 1976 International Report-"The 60,000-mile Vega" reported, "Chevrolet conducted a 60,000 miles in 60 days Durability Run of the 1976 Vega and its Dura-Built 140 engine. Chevrolet chose a 349-mile Southwestern desert route in order to show the severely criticized engine and cooling system had been improved in the 1976 model. In more than 180,000 miles of total driving, the cars used only 24 ounces of coolant, an amount attributed to normal evaporation under severe desert conditions. Furthermore, fuel economy for the three test Vegas averaged 28.9 mpg over the duration of the run, while oil was used at the rate of only one quart every 3400 miles. All three 1976 Vegas completed the total 180,000 miles with only one "reliability" incident — a broken timing belt was recorded."
Road & Track in a March 1976 Cosworth Vega road test said, "The reduction in displacement adds an important degree of smoothness, a result of the shorter stroke." "For all its exotic features the Cosworth Vega engine is not a high-performance unit. It develops 110 bhp and while this is 36 percent more than the standard 1-barrel Vega it still represents only 55 bhp per liter - modest indeed compared to engines of equal sophistication;" "The Cosworth Vega's handling is very good. All the drivers agreed that it is a far better handling car than those Vega derivatives that have been fitted out with V6 or V8 engines." "The 5-speed gearbox is nicely suited to the engine as insofar as ratios are concerned, however the shift pattern and operation leave something to be desired;" "There is no optional power assist for the brakes, so the pedal effort for a 0.5g stop is a rather high 45 lb. But otherwise we found little fault with the brakes." "We can't resist saying that with the Cosworth Vega engine, the Vega now runs the way it should have run all the time-easy, smooth, good response, good handling: a nice balance between performance and economy. Sweet as it is however, the Cosworth Vega is still way down the excitement ladder from what it would be with another 30 or 40 bhp. Then it would really be something."
Car and Driver in a September 1976 Short Take on the Cosworth Vega said, "The Cosworth is no more..a noble experiment that failed..the execution was a severe disappointment. Time and weight killed the Cosworth. The low priority of a project contrary to the corporate grain dragged the motor through a five-year gestation period while the Vega for which it was destined grew fat and heavy.. one regulation after another took its toll on the car's power to weight ratio."
Car and Driver in the July 1980 "History of 0-60" included the 1974 pre-production Cosworth Vega in its top 25 list with the quickest time of 1974, at 7.7 seconds. C&D said, "A little four-cylinder Vega set the pace in 1974 with help from across the pond in the form of a Cosworth sixteen-valve cylinder head."
Car and Driver in the January 1986 "Ten Best" isuue, the '76 Cosworth Vega made the "Ten Best Collectibles" list (l976-'86). C&D said, One of those noble efforts that giant automakers mount from time to time to break themselves out of the stultifying technological mainstream, this factory hot rod—like most—was a neat idea that didn't work out." "What the the Vega did have was good basic handling and what the British-designed aluminum head offered was a crossflow design, twin overhead cams, and four valves per cylinder. You can get all that stuff in Toyotas now but until the Cosworth Vega was launched in the Spring of 1975, you pretty much had to buy a Ford for Indy or F1 to call it your own. We're talking about historical significance here." "The Cosworth Vega was a keen car to drive when it came out and not many came out, so its original owners recognized what they had."
Musclecar Review in January 1990 "Chevrolet's Cosworth Vega-a bright star in search of a market" said, "In concept and potential, the Cosworth Vega was a sophisticated, snappy little stinger of a sports car with the dramatic elegance of a well healed millionaire. Had the car made it through development undiluted, this story would have had a happier ending, but sadly, after suffering the compromises of General Motor's 40th floor corner-cutting and committee-think, the Cosworth Vega, in much the same fashion as Ford's SVO Mustang ten years later, emerged as the answer to the question no one was asking — a regrettable legacy for a promising car that deserved better."
Car and Driver in its 35th anniversary retrospective issue in 1990 mentioned the Vega three times. Detroit Fights Back - Ford Pinto and Vega 2300: "...they are the best, most import-beating subcompacts that American Technology knows how to build. If VW and the other small intruders survive this attack, they'll be assumed invincible." Cosworth Vega Preview: "A sixteen-valve head on a Vega aluminum block seems like a neat idea to us, so we rev up our prose. The car when it finally arrives, cannot keep up with our feverish preview." Showroom-Stock Challenge III: "We win again, this time in a Vega GT, proof that truth is stranger than fiction."
Motor Trend in its 50th anniversary issue in September 1999 said, "The Vega seemed well placed to set the standard for subcompacts in the 70s, but it was troubled by one of the most vulnerable Achilles heels in modern automotive history; an alloy four-cylinder engine block that self destructed all too easily, and all too often. Once the word got out the damage was done, even though the engine had been revamped."
Collectible Automobile in the April 2000 issue said, "The Chevy Vega has become a symbol of all the problems Detroit faced in the 70's. Ed Cole and the corporation initially had high hopes for the Vega, But then, little by little, everything that could go wrong, did. Had its big engineering and manufacturing plans succeeded, the last laugh might have belonged to Chevy. The greatest toll came in the damage it did to Chevrolet's and GM's reputation. The other effect the Vega had on GM was to help make the corporation conservative, and dull its will to lead." "The Vega engine was, without a doubt, the most extraordinary part of the car..." "For '76 GM started to get it right. The Vega was now a fairly decent car, but Chevrolet's release of the even less expensive Chevette in 1976 put the handwriting on the wall
Hemmings Classic Car in December 2011 "The Way it Should Have Been," senior editor Jim Donnelly said, "Completely coincidental to the planning for this Chevrolet anniversary issue, I got an envelope from my longtime pal Robin Hartford, a fellow road warrior from my racing life. Inside, however, was a copy of an English project from his high school in Sanford, Maine. Robin had already driven a Volkswagen and a Ford Pinto and decided to write a comparison road test involving all three popular subcompacts of the time as a very ambitious school term paper. He needed to find a 1970 Chevrolet Vega even though the local dealers were sold out. His brother directed him to a buddy who'd just bought a new yellow Vega coupe optioned with a Powerglide, a 2.53 rear gear, and barely showing break-in miles. A photo from that subjective, non-instrumented test is published here." "On paper--very much an equivocation--the Vega should have been one of the great triumphs in Chevrolet or GM history, ranked right alongside the Corvette or the small-block V-8 (whose design, like the Vega's, was overseen by the great Ed Cole). The 140-cu.in. OHC with its aluminum block and cast-iron cylinder head was radical at the time." "In real life, Vega engines failed so regularly (heat-related piston scuff) that through 1975, Chevrolet was either resleeving their cylinders or replacing them entirely. Too bad, because GM went out of its way to make the Vega look great externally." "Therefore, we have Robin, a teenager from Maine who would join the Navy two years later and patrol the Mediterranean at the height of the Cold War, completing a credible comparison test that the Vega mostly won. Forty-plus years after he wrote it, one sentence stands out: The Vega will always be a bright star in the heavens, but to some it will be a symbol of what Detroit can do, will do and must do if it wants to remain in the competitive automobile industry."
Motor Trend in November 2012 "Car of the Year 1949-Present - The Chronicle of Caliper Recipients" said, "Bob Bondurant may have said it best: "I've been away from American cars for about five years and it is pleasantly surprising to see how good they've gotten, especially these new little ones." In a conference room in Palm Springs, California, after a grueling 4-day ride and drive that saw then of Detroit's finest put through a 1,000 mile wringer, we -- the CARS (Conference of Automotive Research Specialists) -- Karl Ludvigsen, Roy Richter, Mike Jones and Bondurant) and the MT Staff -- cast our votes and made Vega 2300 Motor Trend's 1971 Car of the Year. The result wasn't altogether a surprise. Though the nominated cars comprised what we felt to be the ten best new automobiles in America, there was the bagging suspicion, that, in design, at least some of them were concepts whose time may have passed. In the final voting, it was close but sheer size held not the clout of former years."
Hemmings Classic Car in June 2013 "Cars of Future Past - Chevrolet Vega" Kurt Ernst said, "Designed to go head-to-head with the best compact cars in the world, the Chevrolet Vega seemed like it had the potential to modernize the American automotive industry. Though the car itself was hardly revolutionary (except, perhaps, for its unlined die-cast aluminum four-cylinder engine block), the process by which it was designed, the factory in which it was assembled and even the method by which it was transported from factory to depot could have changed nearly every facet of how cars went from concept to showroom floor. "As is often the case with ambitious products and ideas, the Chevrolet Vega somehow failed to deliver on its accumulated potential." "Though the Vega’s die-cast aluminum engine had undergone some 6 million miles of development testing, serious reliability issues surfaced soon after the car’s release. Chevrolet took until 1976 to resolve issues with the Vega’s 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine, and by then even a serious marketing effort to promote the new “Dura-Built 140″ engine proved to be too little, too late." "Problems with the Vega went beyond engine cooling and oil consumption issues, though they’d both ultimately contribute to the Vega’s legacy (as would the propensity of its Fisher body to rust through before the payment book was emptied). Mechanical and engineering issues aside, the modernization of the Lordstown Assembly Plant took a huge motivational toll on its UAW workers. Even before a 1972 strike would halt Vega production for nearly 30 days, rumors circulated that employees were deliberately performing substandard work, or worse, sabotaging cars." "Though some see the Vega as the car that began a long period of decline for General Motors, others choose to see it as a car that proved GM could think outside the proverbial box.
Vega vs competitors
As domestic automakers entered the subcompact class, The introduction of the Chevrolet Vega on September 10, 1970 followed the AMC Gremlin by six months and preceded the Ford Pinto by one day. Motor Trend in February, 1971 said conservative estimates had placed the cost of bringing the Vega (XP-887) from drawing board to production reality at a staggering $200 million compared to about $5 million for the AMC Gremlin. The Vega competed directly with its domestic rivals and Japanese imports from Toyota and Datsun as well as the successful, but aging VW Beetle.
Sports Car Graphic in September 1970 "Tri-testing the...Pinto, Vega & Gremlin" SCG said of the Vega, "Although it appears to be a Fiat with Chevrolet "product identification" modifications, its styling is actually scaled-down from the Chevrolet line so well that it doesn't look much smaller — it makes the passengers look bigger however." "The new die-cast aluminum Vega 2300 (engine) is a masterpiece of simplicity. There are many innovations made to reduce the number of pieces and improve repairability. One belt drives cam and water pump. The movable water pump is also the belt tensioner. The oil pump is on the crankshaft and is also the front engine cover. Valve lash adjustment is by a set screw in the tappet that dosen't even require a lock nut." So the Gremlin won the drags with more cubic inches and more horespower, but all three were in the neighborhood — it all depends on the options." "When it comes to handling, naturally the Vega with fat tires and ant-roll bars was on top, but such "speed equipment" is not even listed for the others. In maximum cornering force the Vega was right up there with muscular pony cars, and the Pinto maybe likewise with the same parts — but the Gremlin needs other help." "In the Vega the only major components that did not require completely new design and tooling were the transmission, and the air conditioning pump. From an engineering standpoint, it is as all-new as the Corvair was."
Motor Trend in a January 1971 Vega-Pinto-Beetle comparison said, When driving the Vega, even the unglamorous sedan, you get the feeling your really in a Camaro or a Nova." "The Vega itself is a very quiet car. The only major noise source is the engine and transmission, and, depending on your bent, that smooth humming may be music to your ears." "The engine in the Vega is the strongest of the three: 140 cubic inches and 90 horsepower...its drag strip performance will blow the doors off both the Pinto and the VW." "The Vega approach to handling is at opposite poles to the Pinto's. The steering is slower and closer to neutral in cornering, with the car capable of sticking to the turn under higher "g" forces." "The Vega, while enjoyable to drive, is a more serious car. It's faster, more comfortable, quieter and better riding than either the Pinto or VW while still delivering respectable fuel economy. It carries a higher base price, but includes a lot more standard equipment than the others, some of which is part of the basic structure and isn't even available optionally on the lower-priced cars.
Car and Driver in January 1971 awarded top pick to the Vega above the Ford Pinto, AMC Gremlin, VW Beetle, Toyota Corolla and Chrysler Simca. C&D said: "The Vega was the most expensive car in the test by almost $300 but the Vega's virtues are nicely in proportion to its price and it was the unanimous favorite." "The Vega pulls down the number one position because of its particular suitability to American driving conditions. It is one of two cars in the test (the other being the Gremlin) capable of relatively strainfree cruising at 70 mph or above." "In general the Vega is quick and nimble without the sports car harshness most American car drivers find objectionable." "The Vega's tall 2.53:1 axle ratio allowed a low 3,000 rpm at 80 mph." "It was the fastest of the cars tested, taking 12.2 seconds to reach 60 mph." "The Vega is an excellent combination of performance and economy." "It's a car for all occasions."
Road & Track in a 1971 5 Economy Sedans comparison put the Chevrolet Vega, Datsun 510, Ford Pinto, Toyota Corona & VW Super Beetle through their paces. R&T said of the Vega sedan, "Chevrolet's Vega is the heaviest, longest, lowest and most stylish of the group and has the largest engine at 2287 cc. It's slow-turning engine is not the most powerful however, being rated at 90 bhp." "...the Vega is notable for its good handling: it's as near neutral as as sedan can be and still be safe for the average driver..." "All five drivers thought it was the best looking of the group, a subjective triumph; on other things like interior trim-finish-appearance, body structure and gearbox it was considered worst of the group. But in matters of roadability–handling and braking–Vega rated best." "Though its performance is quite satisfactory, the Vega requires too much effort and creates too much fuss in achieving it." The Vega is Able and Roadable but relatively Crude."
Consumer Reports in January 1971 "The Little Cars," compared the Ford Pinto, Chevrolet Vega, AMC Gremlin, VW Super Beetle, Toyota Corona and Datsun PL510 declaring three winners—Datsun, Vega and Toyota. CR said, "The Chevrolet Vega (and the Toyota Corona) follow close behind the Datsun in our ratings order. However the Vega has an entirely different personality. While the Datsun buzzed and boomed at parkway speeds, the Vega gobbled up the highway with less fuss. However in city driving—the Datsun's forte—the Vega seemed listless and flat." "Of all the cars in this test group, the Vega alone has side barriers built into the doors for crash protection." "The Vega's soft suspension isolated occupants from small bumps and road imperfections. But on rough roads the car leaped and bounced unpleasantly." "In our emergency handling tests at the track, the Vega generally held the road well. In hard right-hand turns, the engine stumbled momentarily. However the steering response felt quick and predictable. We judged the Vega's emergency handling good." "The Vega and the Toyota were the quietest among a generally noisy group of cars. They also shared a comparatively smooth ride. The Vega performed well despite its economy gearing, and it handled reasonably well. It's brakes stopped the Vega straight and short every time." "The Ford Pinto and VW Super Beetle, in CU's judgement, are about equal in overall quality, but below the Vega and the Toyota."
Car and Driver in a November 1971 comparison with the Ford Pinto said, One Vega and one Pinto have survived 15,000 miles at the hands of the Car and Driver staff...And the test stretched over nine months...with no major mechanical failures—an indication of the soundness of their basic engineering." "The Vega was a hatchback coupe with crisp, uptown styling that makes it one of the most visually appealing small cars on the market." "Normally, the Vega averaged between 22 and 23 mpg the way most of the staff members drive." "...when accelerating up through the gears, the Vega's clattering engine and fruity sounding exhaust are genuinely unpleasant." "The Vega hits its stride on the open highway. It has good directional stability and the front bucket seats are comfortable for most drivers." "..if, in your travels, you spend more time on the open road and you agree with GM's sense of sheetmetal fashion, the Vega is a better choice."
Car and Driver in a December 1971 6-Car Comparison Test of 1972 Super Coupes rated the Vega GT's styling over Pinto Runabout, Opel 1900 Rallye, Mazda RX-2, Capri 2000, and Toyota Celica, saying: "...If looks alone determined the best Super coupe, the Vega GT would win hands down without ever turning a wheel." "We've always thought of the Vega as a well engineered car, but many of its virtues are blocked by some equally impressive vises. For one thing its noisy—the noisiest car in the test—and most of it can be blamed on the long stroke Four which vibrates the hell out of the car." "Taken all together, the Vega is not as kind to its driver as it should be. Its ride quality is smooth enough on expressways but it gets very jouncy in the rough, and the cockpit environment suffers in comparison to its imported competitors." "It turns out the only advantage the Vega claims is handling. It was the quickest around the skidpad (0.75G) by a good margin and it is a very tolerant car at its limit. It is closest to neutral of all the Super Coupes..." "Because the Vega's exceptional handling can only make up for about half of its power deficiency, it finished fourth at Bridgehampton."1972
Motor Trend in a 1972 comparison test "Back Door To Economy" chose the Vega GT best car over the Ford Pinto Runabout and Gremlin X saying, "Vega takes a different approach to the suspension problem...Vega goes the coil route front and back. Front coils are assisted by a stabilizer bar, while the rears are mounted on a two-trailing arm, two-link system, also assisted by a stabilizer. This arrangement gives a much softer ride than the opposition, but it also permits a much greater amplitude of body roll during cornering and the Vega doesn't even have much wheel travel...the flat-running Pinto and Gremlin will maintain the attitude and then drift toward the outside of the turn, or even worse, skip across uneven road surfaces. Vega's rear end tends to come around at the limit, requiring less skill with careful power control to salvage a bad corner." "Vega's top of the line interior is more uptown than the other two because it shoots for a broader, more sophisticated market. The GT instrument panel has a full set of gauges, although a couple of them hide behind your hands. A very tastefully executed wood grain applique balances the picture." "Vega has a slight edge over Pinto both in response and horsepower (90 to 86) as well as noise." "The shifter mechanism has been improved for '72..." "The gear ratio is a bit closer than Pinto's eliminating the long step between first and second." "Vega's seats are the best of the lot. Not only do they provide good lateral retention, but the support is firm while the seat is not. Even extended trips do not induce excessive driver fatigue and that is one reason why it was the Car of the Year in 1971." "Which car is best? Vega. In spite of Gremlin's marked improvement in quality control, Chevy has had it all along."
Motor Trend July 1972 "Mini Wagon War compared the Ford Pinto Squire, Toyota Corona Mark II, Chevrolet Vega GT and Plymouth Cricket. MT said, "GM had cranked in a capacity for the wagon configuration when they designed the Vega.." "Vega, ours had the GT package, which is the way to go if your a driver who enjoys being behind the wheel, has a slightly softer suspension giving less roll control, but the ability to get around turns is only slightly less than that of the Pinto. In spite of the greater degree of suspension compliance, there is a trace of harshness in the Vega as well. This too is well within the range of acceptability and quite a bit below that exhibited by the GT coupe." "Vega wagon with the GT package has the best dash panel with full instrumentation,small diameter steering wheel. Firestone Wide Ovals provide excellent traction for GT suspension. Full length wheel hump deprives cargo compartment of some space." " Picking the winner was a tough task since each machine stands out in one specific area, but lags a bit in the others. Pinto slipped in front of the Toyota by virtue of superior handling, followed by the Vega and Cricket."1973
Super Stock & Drag Illustrated in July 1973 "Nine on the Lime" said, "As it turned out then, we had two American cars, two German-made ones, and five made in Japan, for a total of nine test vehicles divided into two "classes" if you will. The Mazda RX-2, the Mercury Capri 2600 V6, and the Toyota Celica ST represented the higher sticker contingent, all with prices averaging $3200, while the rest of the field consisted of a Subaru GL coupe, a VW Super Beetle, a Datsun 610 hardtop, a Dodge Colt GT, a Ford Pinto coupe, and a Chevy Vega station wagon. "The most out-of-line car in the test was the Vega. We went looking for a GT hatchback through normal channels, but it couldn't be had, so we ended up with a 4-speed non-GT station wagon." "Our green wagon was fairly well built with a distinctive Chevrolet feeling about it. Inside the car was fairly quiet and the air conditioner and radio were top dollar equipment. But there was far too much cardboard and plastic on the inside of the car, and the instrumentation was nil except for the erroneous panorama speedometer, fuel level gage and water temp gage. The 140-cubic-inch engine and the rest of the drivetrain were plenty bulletproof, and our biggest objection in this area was noise at high rpm in gears or in high speed cruising. On the drag strip, the big-engined Vega was only so-so, with a best performance of 18.13-74.80 mph. The bugaboo here was initial wheelspin, second gear wheel hop, and too much fore and aft body wobble immediately after the shift, which loaded and unloaded the tires. The GT suspension, and for that matter the entire GT package would give the car a lot of what it needed...it wouldn't go through the slalom without crushing a few pylons, and the car felt very heavy when trying to turn the wheel to go around a simple circle, though lateral acceleration was good." "High speed braking was another area the Vega needed help." "Vega's vaunted handling wasn't apparent in our test station wagon, probably because it was not equipped with the GT package."
The Vega Wagon's 27.083 mpg fuel economy was rated number ten in Motor Trend's mid-summer cruise of "15 Cars To Own in a Gas Crisis" in 1973. MT said, "The '73 Vegas are damn good cars and with all of their other qualities, mileage is fine."1974
Car and Driver in a May 1974 comparison of Super Coupes: Mazda RX-2, Opel Manta Rallye, Toyota Celica GT, Capri 2800, Vega GT, and Mustang II Mach 1, C&D said of the Vega GT, "What we have here is a car that will cut and run with the best of them. It is a natural on a road course, sure footed and fleet, with a sense of balance that you rarely find in a sedan." "We particularly like the solid feel of the shifter." "The test car was also optioned out with variable ratio power steering which offers a very quick 3.0 turns lock to lock and quite an accurate feel." "The high braking effort stands in rather stark contrast to that of the other controls and plushy softness of the Vega's optional custom interior." "The carpets, the door panels and the seat coverings are high quality, particularly in light of the Vega's low overall price." "It takes far more than than low price and the Vega's multitude of other virtues to redeem the engine. The Cosworth Vega is the only possible solution, but unfortunately production of that model will be too limited to fill the demand for an honest-to-God American-made Super Coupe."
Car and Driver in a 1974 "On-the-Track Comparison Test of Twelve Showroom Stock Sedans" said of the Vega GT, "Handling is the Vega's strong suit. The car corners strongly with neither awkward roll angles nor the heavy understeer that keeps many more powerful Showroom Stock Sedans in back of the pack." "The Vega demands a sharp pilot, but it can be a winner."
The Vega LX Notchback's 30.0 mpg was rated number nine in Motor Trend's "50 Cars Worth Their Weight In Gold" in 1974. MT said, "...our Vega had a list price of $2700. making it a stiff competitor to the foreign economy cars, both in initial price, and in mileage and performance."
Road & Track in a June 1974 "Sports Cars vs Sports Sedans" comparison included the Triumph Spitfire vs the Chevrolet Vega. R&T said, "...we selected the Vega Notchback because of its superior handling and asked Chevrolet to supply the sportiest thing they could build for $3,100, a price chosen to match the expected 1974 Spitfire's." "...this was the Vega at is best with its optional handling package and wide radial tires, will just match the Spitfire with radials in steady-state cornering power." "...without them (radials), the Spitfire can't hold a candle to the Vega in handling." "The Vega came to $3055 at the factory and it would be difficult to imagine a better all-around sports sedan at that price in today's market." "That aluminum 4-cylinder Vega engine is still noisy—actually noisier than the Spitfire's!—but it sounds a lot better at high revs than early ones did." "Despite this year's heavier bumpers—our car weighed an alarming 2560 lb—the test car was the quickest Vega we have ever tested and it handily out-accelerates the Spitfire.The extra weight is getting to the Vega's brakes, though. They take fully 55 lb for a 1/2g stop—that's heavy—and now fade somewhat more than with last year's test Vega." "Nor is the Vega's ride very refined, but its handling on a smooth dry road definitely is. Getting out of the Spitfire and into the Vega...we knew we could go a lot faster with complete confidence. And naturally, in a lot more comfort." "And what's the conclusion here? If you want wind around your head, get the Spitfire; if you want the better machine, get the Vega."1975
Motor Trend in October 1975 driving impressions of the Capri II and the Chevrolet Cosworth Vega said, "The Cosworth Vega goes like the proverbial bat out of Carlsburg Caverns. The 0-60 time is in the region of 9 seconds, compared with 14.5 seconds for the regular Vega GT with an engine that is bigger than the Cosworth's. As quick as the lil' black Vega is in a straight line, it would be a big mistake to use one as a straight-line machine. The car's forte is a nice, winding road. The sort of place you don't see jacked-up Road Runners with drag slicks. This is where the Cosworth really shines. At moderate speeds, the car is as close to neutral handling as any American car I have ever driven." "The steering is heavy at low speeds, and there is no power assist to compensate for this..." "The choice between the two is simple: if you want air conditioning, power steering, sunroof, while performance is a secondary consideration, then the Capri is the car for you...(if) you just want a car that'll go then the Cosworth is the only choice. It's merely a matter of priorities."1976
Autoweek in a 1991 "old car issue" said, "Twenty years ago 'import fighters' Pinto and Vega put America on the subcompact battlefield—and wound up challenging each other." "Vega and Pinto sparked inevitable comparisons, and the press tended to be more impressed with the sportier Vega." "Collected and prized today primarily in its Cosworth dress and as V6 and V8 conversions, Vega still retains a group of loyal followers."
Motor Trend Classic in the Fall 2010 issue's "Loving Look Back" comparison — 1973 Vega GT, 1972 Pinto Runabout and 1971 Gremlin X, Frank Markus, Technical Director of Motor Trend said of the original 6k-miles 1973 Vega GT, "After a few gentle miles, I begin to understand how this car won its awards and comparison tests." He closes the article agreeing with MT's initial assessment of the Vega and how it fared compared to its domestic competition; he wrote, "Chevrolet spun the Vega as a more American, upscale car. And let's face it, the car looked hot. So can you blame us for falling hook, line, and sinker for the Vega and naming it 1971's Car of the Year?" "Well-maintained examples are great looking, nice-driving, economical classics—like Baltic Ave. with a Hotel, the best ones can be had for $10K or less." "Emotionally, Jim Brokaw summed it up in January 1972: Gremlin has power, but Pinto has the price, and a much quieter ride. Which car is best? Vega."
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