No Teenagers: 1973 Chevrolet Vega Kammback Wagon
We’ve featured a few Chevrolet Vega Kammback wagons on DT in the past few months or so — and, thankfully, only one of them came equipped with the original cast iron boat anchors posing as engines that came from the factory when new. The Yenko Stinger tribute was neat, and the Lightning Rod equipped version was also interesting, but expensive, so today’s next example is cheap, cheap, cheap. Just the way I like ’em. Find this 1973 Chevrolet Vega Kammback Wagon offered for $5500 in Ferndale, WA via craigslist. Tip from JB1025.
From the seller:
1973 73 chevy vega
cylinders: 8 cylinders
paint color: grey
title status: clean
Attention serious gearheads & hot rodders. No teenagers, looky-loos or low ballers please! Purchased 5/19/79 with a dead motor. This was Dads project car. It has lived in the garage 90% of the time since 79, last lisenced 2000. It has hand built 327 ported 461 casting heads, manley flow valves, Comp Cam’s extreme energy cam, very low miles on motor, built Turbo 350 trans, Monza ten bolt rear with posi and much more. This car is A LOT OF FUN to drive! Power to weight ratio is quite high. Very streetable. Sure got attention at car shows.
See a better way to burn some rubber? email@example.com
The problem with the Vega engine wasn’t that it was a cast iron boat anchor – it was that the engine was a cast aluminum boat anchor, with a coating instead of cylinder liners and head gasket sealing issues. Had they put something like the iron four cylinder Nova boat anchor in the Vega, it might have been more successful. Although it wouldn’t have solved the rust issues. Maybe they should have used aluminum for the body panels instead…
Yes, Porsche (Mahle actually made them) was quite successfull with high silicon aluminum but Porsche quality control and maintenance schedules diverge somewhat from Chevy’s. I was always hearing about Vegas that were delivered without the dipstick hole drilled in the block.
If that wasn’t bad enough, sticking a huge cast iron overhead cam head on the it didn’t help with different coefficients of expansion. Oh, and water cooling too.
The Vega had too many good ideas poorly developed, which seems like an ongoing theme at GM. If only some of the money they spend on designing special rail cars to ship them on and then designing them to survive being shipped vertically without all the fluids doing what fluids want to do in the presence of gravity were instead spent on durability and rust prevention the Vega would have been pretty nice.
They painted the Vegas by dipping them in a tank of primer. It seem that nobody thought to make vent holes in the body to let the air escape, so large hidden areas never got painted.
All that aside, this looks like great fun and a bargain*.
*With the devil or whatever bargain must be made to prevent the usual consequences of big ass engine in a car it could twist in half.
Of course it’s not as suicidal as a big block Chevette…
GM also used water based paints @ this time in early mid 70’s not sure that made things any better.
The sister car Pontiac Astra got the Iron Duke that is suppose to be handed me down from the Nova 4 i never had rust problems with with 2 Vegas i owned the early ones 71-72 had some rust issues i owned a 74GT with a Buick V-6 & a 73 Wagon with a 283 and a Turbo 400.
Looks like a bargain to me.
What are the vents over the rear wheel for?
They are there to remind you of the Corvair.
Likely passive vents for proper inside airflow.
It’s not what I’m seeing that bothers me and that is the rear subframe. I’d assume this engine is good for close to 300hp, enough to quickly uncouple the rear crossmember from its mounting points in a rather savage way. Vega was a light car in the rear so for it to hook up properly one would need as wide patch of rubber on the ground as possible. This was accomplished by tubbing rear wheel housings. Here all I see is wider than stock tires inside flared quarter panels. If you are not a fabricator figure another $5-$7 k for properly grafted rear subframe, narrowed rear end (9” Ford axle was and still is weapon of choice), improved brakes, etc. if this Vega is rust & bonds free and devoid of any electrical/mechanical gremlins it’s not a bad deal for a do it yourselfer. Those that will farm work out are better off paying several thousand more and getting a properly modified one, and possibly with a presentable cosmetics
Fascinating. I would like to understand “uncouple the rear crossmember from its mounting points” better. Vince and CFlo are the engineers around here, not me 😉
I believe you’re saying the light rear end doesn’t create enough downforce to provide sufficient traction, so the tires need to be wider. The proper way to increase the tire width would be to allow more space on the inside, which would have to include structural alterations to the axle and rear suspension… or maybe it’s the other way around… it needs structural alterations to handle the power, so you may as well make more room on the inside while you’re in there. Is it a factor that torsional forces increase with the length of the axle and other components, or are these parts easily made stout enough? Whereas the “cheap and cheerful” approach might just slap bigger tires on there and add a flare to cover their edges?
You’ll instantly understand “uncouple the rear crossmember from its mounting points” when you feel it happen.