Look back at the Chevrolet Vega, the subcompact car Chevy produced from 1970 to 1977

Chevy Vega, the subcompact car from Chevrolet produced from 1970 to 1977

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The 1970 Chevrolet Vega: Chevy unveils a compact car

By Ben Schneider – Fort Lauderdale News (Florida) August 6, 1970

On Oct. 3, 1968, James M. Roche, chairman of the board of General Motors, announced the company would introduce a compact car in the summer of 1970. In April, the wraps were partially taken off XP-887, the code name for Chevrolet’s new car. It was the Vega 2300, named after one of the brightest stars visible from earth.

Today, in Detroit, GM revealed additional details of its small car aimed at competing with the foreign imports which have put a serious dent in the U.S. market. There will be four Vega 2300 models and they will go on sale Sept. 10. These include a two-door sedan; a two-door hatchback couple; a sporty two-door “Kammback” wagon, all four-passenger vehicles, and a single-passenger panel express truck.

Broward Chevy dealers said they have not actually seen the Vega, but have seen the cars on film. However, another movie is expected to be shown to dealers tomorrow at a Hollywood theater. One Ft. Lauderdale dealer said that contrary to custom, no models will be on display in conjunction with the film showing.

John Z. DeLorean, Chevrolet general manager, said the Vega will have a wheelbase of 97 inches; overall length under 170 inches and a sedan weight of 2,190 pounds. It will be almost eight inches lower and more than four inches wider than the best selling foreign car.

The new lightweight, four-cylinder engine will feature an improved emission control. Though no indication of price was revealed by the Chevy official, it is believed it will be in the same range, and possibly under the price of the Ford Maverick and the Volkswagen.

“The Vega 2300 is unlike any other Chevrolet ever built,” DeLorean added. “It meets the growing desire for an American-built car which, besides being small in size, is fun to drive, safe, comfortable, economical to own and operate, easy to maintain and long-lasting in both construction and styling.”

Chevy is also including a special 112 page “do-it-your-self service manual” with each car. It explains, with photographs and simple language text, how an owner can perform 49 service items, of-ten with ordinary hand tools.

For example, a grille is shown held in place by five screws. It can be removed and replaced in less than 10 minutes. A bumper can be taken off by removing only six bolts. A fender, held in place by only 14 attachment bolts, can be replaced in less than 45 minutes. The latter includes removing and re-installing the headlamp and side marker lamp assemblies.

Chevy's new little Vega - Sep 18, 1970 Chevrolet Vega from Sep 18, 1970

About the ’71 Vega

We don’t think there’s another little car in the world that can offer as much as the Vega. We know that sounds like we’re pretty confident. We are. Here’s why.

Little, but big. First off, our little car is a lot bigger than its size would indicate. True, it rides on a tight 97-inch wheelbase. And true, it’s designed for only four passengers. Nonetheless, Vega feels much bigger. In fact, it has as much room per passenger as many big cars.

There are other big things about our little Vega, too. Like its amazingly peppy performance. Vega has enough reserve power to conquer steep hills and merge easily onto freeways. Yet it hums along with a degree of quietness that is all too unusual in little cars.

1971 Vega - Chevrolet cars

One more thing that makes Vega feel big: it’s a very secure little car. That’s due to a whole bunch of things-10″ front disc brakes, wide stance, low center of gravity, steel side-guard beams in the doors, and lots of GM safety features.

What we’re trying to say is this: Vega is just as much car as any big car, only it’s smaller. Little, but little. Lest you become overwhelmed by its big-ness, however, you should rest assured that Vega takes full advantage of its littleness as well. The 97-inch wheelbase helps it turn around in just 33 feet, curb to curb.

The unique engine is stingy enough to let you go by gas stations where you were once a steady customer. In fact, in our highway tests, Vega’s been getting in the neighborhood of 25 mpg with the standard engine and transmission. And that’s a pretty nice neighborhood.

And the handling. This just might be Vega’s biggest virtue. It rides smoothly and steadily down a turnpike, or darts neatly in and out of traffic. Vega has a tight 22.5:1 overall steering ratio. And because of its low, wide stance, it’s unusually stable in crosswinds. What it is is fun. Plain old fun.

1971 What they're saying about Chevy Vega cars

14OCID-OHC4 & other mysteries. Basically, the Vega engine is a 140-cubic-inch overhead cam with an aluminum block. It comes in two versions: base with 90 horsepower (80 SAE net), and a bigger version with 110 horsepower (93 SAE net) and 2-barrel carburetion. Both run efficiently on no-lead, low-lead or regular gas. And with lower exhaust pollutants.

As you’ve probably noticed, the Vega engine is pretty big for such a little car. That’s why it has such good acceleration. And that’s also why it turns slower at cruising speeds — which means it won’t suffer the wear and tear of high rpm. Nor is it as noisy as an engine that’s turning faster. Yet, because of a breakthrough in aluminum-engine technology, our little giant is able to sip gas, not guzzle it. All in all, it’s a whale of a little engine.

If you like the 1971 Vega, you’ll like the 1975 Vega. There’s something else we think you should know right away: now that Vega is out, it’s going to stay out. We don’t plan to change it for at least four years. We think you’ll like it, just the way it is. Naturally, there is the possibility that we’ll find ways to improve Vega from a functional standpoint. If we do, we will.

1971 Chevy Vega price

We’ll make you a promise, though: no change for the sake of change. So when you look at the 1971 Vega, you’ll be getting a preview of Vegas to come. 6300 places to get the service you won’t need much of. We’ve designed the Vega to have as few service problems as possible. In fact, we think it’ll prove far superior to most cars on the road in this respect. For lots of reasons.

One of them is our highly automated assembly line, which assures that each and every Vega will be built with an unequaled uniformity of quality. Another is Vega’s engine. It’s designed to be as durable as an anvil. A third reason: pre-testing. We’ve tested Vega for over 6,000,000 total driving miles. 6,000,000. That’s equivalent to going around the world 240 times.
1971 Chevy Vega - Lot of little car

See 17 different vintage Chevrolet station wagons from the '70s, including Chevelle, Caprice, Vega & others

1972 Chevy Vega Panel Express Truck

Vintage Chevy Vega Panel Express Truck 1972

The ’73 Vega car – See what it’s like to drive a winner

73 Vega car - Winner

The 1975 Chevy Vega cars: Economy Plus

Vega Estate Wagon – Vega Hatchback GT Coupe – Vega Notchback Coupe

1975 Vega cars - Chevrolet


’76 Vega. One tough car explained.

  1. New rust fighting.
  2. 5-year, 60,000-mile engine guarantee.
  3. Improved cooling system.
  4. Torque arm rear suspension.
  5. Refined brake system.

1. This year, Vega fights rust with a patented Zincro-metal* coating system. Zincro-metal applies a zinc coating to inner body surfaces only. Unlike galvanizing, it gives rust-fighting protection to inner body surfaces, yet allows the smooth application of high-quality primers and paints to exterior surfaces.

2. Vega’s refined Dura-Built engine has hydraulic valve lifters. They eliminate valve adjustments and contribute to quiet performance. Vega’s Dura-Built engine also has a 5-year or 60,000-mile guarantee. This 5-year, 60,000-mile engine guarantee is an added value feature included in the 1976 Vega. The Chevrolet guarantee covers 60,000 miles or 5 years, whichever occurs first. The guarantee is for 1976 Vegas equipped with 4-cylinder, 140-cubic-inch Dura-Built engines.

3. Vega’s improved cool-ing system includes additional sealers, water pump shields and other refinements. A special instrument panel warning light monitors the system’s coolant quantity.

4. Vega’s new torque arm rear suspension controls braking and driving forces. Coils and shocks devote full time to cushioning your ride.

5. Vega’s front disc brakes now have a new organo-metallic pad material that’s long-lasting and fade resistant. Vega’s rear brakes have larger braking surfaces. Experience Vega’s tough-ness firsthand. Ask your Chevy dealer for a test-drive.

Vega. Built to take it. Chevrolet.

Chevy Vega One tough car explained (1976)

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Comments on this story

One Response

  1. My dad bought a 1972 Chevy Vega GT for $2600, which a few years later became my first car for two years of college. I loved it for being my first, but overall not a great car. It did corner very well, with its raised white-letter tires (cornering was better when we replaced them with radials). It was slower than my friend’s Toyota Corona but faster than other’s Ford Pinto. All of those were faster than the eventual “Chevette” which came later. As for the Vega, great seats, dash and wheel. Noisy but stable on the highway. Did I mention slow? The engine failed at 25K miles, but GM made good on their warranty and rebuilt it. A bit faster after that! I managed to sell it to of all people, a Vega fan for $1100. Didn’t buy another Chevy until I could afford a Corvette, which solved the “slow” issue! :)

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