Due to its front engine-rear drive design, light weight and low cost, the Chevrolet Vega is often modified. A small-block Chevrolet V8 engine fits in the engine compartment; and a big-block V8 will fit with minor chassis modifications. The Vega was not offered with a factory V8 option, although the Vega-based Chevy Monza, Pontiac Sunbird and Oldsmobile Starfire were.
Motion Performance and Scuncio Chevrolet sold new, converted small and big block V8 Vegas. Heavy duty engine mounts and front springs were fitted to support the increased engine weight, a large radiator and modified driveshaft were required. For engines over 300 hp, or with a manual transmission, a narrowed 12-bolt differential was required, replacing the stock Vega unit.
In July 1972, Hot Rod tested a Chevrolet-built prototype Vega featuring an all-aluminum V8. The special 283 cu in (4.6 L) engines were used in a 1950s special lightweight Corvette program, installed in the Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle (CERV), an open-wheel rear engine prototype. They existed in limited quantity in '72, and were never offered on a production car or through a parts program. One of the last engines was bored out to 302 cu in (4.9 L) for the Vega application. With 11:1 compression pistons, a "097 Duntov" mechanical camshaft and cast-iron four-barrel intake manifold with a Quadrajet carburetor, the car recorded a stopwatch quarter-mile standing-start time of 13.97 seconds. The prototype had a stock Turbo Hydramatic, stock Vega rear end and street tires. The one of a kind Vega's exterior was electric blue with white GT wheels and side stripes (similar to Yenko Turbo Stinger), white pinstripped hood bulge, spoilers (front and rear), body colored (blue) bumpers, black grill, and side decals similar to the Spirit of America edition from '74. This car was considered for production by Chevy executives for 1974, according to Hot Rod. GM probably killed the idea because of pending projects including the Cosworth Vega and Wankel (rotary) engine.
Drag racer Bill "Grumpy" Jenkins in the 1972 season, won six of eight National Pro-Stock division events with his Pro Stock, 331 cu in (5.4 L)-powered 1972 Vega, Grumpy's Toy X. In its first event, the untested Vega made 9.6 second passes and won the 1972 Winter nationals. Jenkins' 1974 Vega, Grumpy's Toy XI, was the first full-bodied Pro Stock drag racer with a full tube chassis, as well as the first with MacPherson strut suspension and dry sump oiling. Jenkins' 1974 Vega sold for $550,000 in 2007.
Super Chevy selected Grumpy's Vega one of the 100 Most Significant Chevys Of All Time. SC said, Grumpy's Vega Bill Jenkins' "Grumpy's Toy IV" Vega was the first tube chassis vehicle to run the Pro Stock class. The first time the car ran was at the '72 Winternationals and after tweaking on the suspension a bit he was able to win the event. In '74 Jenkins built another Vega, "Grumpy's Toy XI," that featured several firsts like the use of a dry sump oiling system and a MacPherson strut front-suspension configuration.
V8 Vega Reviews
Hot Rod May 2011, "1972 Chevy Vega - Guiding Light" This Chevy Vega Gets Back To Basics said "In point of fact, the Chevy Vega was a major move forward in mass-produced transportation, its ill-conceived aluminum block inline-four-cylinder engine (with supertall cast-iron cylinder head!) and only-a-mother-could-love styling notwithstanding. When it was introduced as a 1971 model, it easily garnered Motor Trend's Car Of The Year award, as well as Car & Driver's Best Economy Sedan honors.And while we might not think of the Vega as particularly ground breaking in 2011, it is the combination of a live four-link rear axle, near ideal weight distribution, low center of gravity, low curb weight, and neutral steering that made it the subject of high praise back in its day. Road & Track even called the Vega "the best-handling car ever sold in America." That's pretty heady stuff in a da Jeff was lucky enough to obtain the mint Vega from an acquaintance, Ryan Gideon, for $1,500. "My original thought was to do something low-buck," Jeff says. "Throw something together from junk and do well against the big names at autocross events." Throughout the build process, Jeff has adhered to his original budget thesis, bringing his 2,650-pound hot rod to fruition for well under $5,000. Gone is the Vega's stock 140ci aluminum inline four-cylinder, and in its place resides a 5.3L LM4 Gen III from a '04 Buick Rainier SUV cribbed from the salvage yard for a mere $800. Jeff Schwartz bumped the stock power rating from 290 hp to 400 hp by swapping in a discarded LS7 camshaft and adding an LS1 Corvette intake manifold he got off Craigslist for $35.
Car Craft on the Hot Rod Network April 17, 2015 said, Do you think the little Camaros are cool? This one runs 10s. "We shouldn’t like these, right? But we do. We think the primary reason is the Camaro-ishness of the front end. The single headlights and factory hood shape say 1970 F-body and the round parking lights and peaked egg crate grille say 1969, or even 1955 shoebox if you pull the bumpers off." "Introduced in 1971, the Vega was hustled as a sub-compact promising less weight and better gas mileage. Market forces and oil embargoes pushed initial sales to about triple the number of 1971 Camaros, providing plenty of raw materials for clever car guys to create small-block swapped street-sweepers with sleeper aesthetics on the cheap.Through the 1970s and into the 1980s, the V8 Vega told the world that you were in the know, the man, in the club of fast street guys who say, “Who me? It’s a Vega.” Never mind the glass-rattling camshaft and 3-inch Flowmasters. “It has a four, dude.” For these reasons we want to show you Paul Lawson’s stepped-on 1972 Vega he bought in 1988, at the height of its honor, and just never got rid of the thing." Engine: This is an ultra-basic 0.030 over 350 with a 1970-vintage steel crank, 11.1:1 compression, GM “pink” rods, and Brodix Track 1 heads. The cam is a Crower roller, and the intake is a Team G with a Holley 850-cfm carb. Paul estimates 1,800 passes are on the engine. He has performed two ring-and-bearing jobs since 1996. Transmission: The Powerglide has a 1.82:1 First gear ratio, an A-1 converter that stalls to about 4,500 with a transbrake, and a Hurst Quarterstick.