Tuesday, February 9, 2010

1975 Cosworth Vega - "One Vega For The Price of Two"

You have to give GM credit for having the balls to create this car.

GM needed an image booster for the Vega. Something fast, something exciting. When something like this was needed in the past, GM would usually take one of their tried and true V8s, drop it in the nose and create a blindingly fast, but often crude, street rocket. The development costs would be minimal and the profits high.

With the Vega they went another, far more sophisticated, route. GM went to Cosworth engineering and had them design a high performance version of the Vega aluminum engine.

You can probably see the flaw in this plan already. The aluminum Vega engine, while new and modern, was not the most durable engine ever built. In 1971 Chevrolet said the Cosworth engine would put out 185 HP. However, after some spectacular and catastrophic failures during testing, that number had dropped to 110 by the time the car hit the showrooms. Not all of that was due to durability factors. The emissions systems needed to get the car its EPA certification robbed some of that horsepower, too.

By the time the Cosworth Vega finally made it to the street (a year later than first announced) it was hardly the world-beating sports coupe Chevy had hoped it would be. Chevy had planned on building 5000 of these cars. After 2 years they were only able to sell 3508 and pulled the plug on it. The price, $6000.00 - roughly twice the price of a standard Vega - didn't help matters any.

The irony here is that it wasn't all that bad of a car. 0 - 60 was in the 10 second range (Depending on who you quote - There were a few testers who supposedly got times of 8.5 seconds, which I doubt that was true, and a few that managed only 12 second times.) and the handling was more than adequate. The 1975 Cosworth Vega was the first to use the "torque arm rear suspension", which wasn't seen on the standard Vega until 1976.

Electronic fuel injection, stainless steel headers, cast aluminum wheels, 16 valves in hemispherical combustion chambers, dual overhead belt driven camshafts, and pistons sliding directly on die-cast aluminum cylinder bores, were not things often seen in the 1970s. It was high tech stuff back then. But, the Vega name and all the (well deserved) negative baggage that came with it, killed this car. It never had a chance.

A random thought... I wonder what would have happened if they waited a year and introduced this set up in a Monza. Essentially a rebodied Vega, a Cosworth Monza might have turned out to be the sales and image success Chevy was hoping for with the Cosworth Vega.

The car being offered on eBay is an absolutely stunning Cosworth Vega. This is one of the nicest 35 year old cars I have ever seen. Located in Lakeland, FL, click here to see the listing.

The Cosworth Vega Owners Association has a very good, comprehensive website dedicated to this car. You can find it here.

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