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Car Lust Classic: Chevy Vega Cosworth

Originally posted by Chris Hafner on Nov. 21, 2007. Please comment on the original post.

In the 1970s, Chevrolet and famed racing engine manufacturer Cosworth put together a limited-production vehicle that answered a question no one had thought to ask: What would happen if you dropped the most technologically advanced passenger car engine in the world into a Chevy Vega?

The Cosworth Vega, finished in natty black with trick gold pinstripes, was Chevy's compact economy Pinto-fighter, only with a hugely expensive and complicated engine under the hood. Consider it the 1970s equivalent of dropping a Formula 1 V-8 into a Kia Rio.
The Cosworth four-cylinder was an exotic beast that does not look out of place even compared to today's high-tech engines. With dual overhead cams and four valves per cylinder, it was at least one decade--perhaps two--ahead of the competition. In fact, it was so ahead of its time that expense and reliability issues, combined with the Vega's legendary tendency to rust, doomed the project almost immediately.
As odd as the idea of a Cosworth Vega seems today, with our collective impression of the Vega as an awful car hardening into certainty, it makes a fair amount of sense. The concept of a powerful engine in a small, light car is nothing new; and the Vega is nothing if not small and light. For the time, it was among the most agile cars its class, with an eagerness to change direction quite rare at the time. Then, the look--ridicule me if you must, but the Vega was actually a pretty little car, with trim lines and quite European details.

Those few Cosworth Vegas that have not followed the path of their standard Vega brethren in dissolving into their component parts after a few years are much-loved and even bring decent prices from their fanatic followers.

I am one of those followers--you see, my family has a long, not-so-proud history with Vegas. As I mentioned in the Chevrolet Chevelle SS454 Car Lust, my father had a long, sordid affair involving a wrecked Buick, a spare V-8, and a donor Vega, all of which took up proud positions in front of our single-wide trailer when I was a baby. My mother was so proud.

But, to her horror, it's rubbed off on me, to the point that the idea of a hot rod Vega sounds just right.
Originally posted by Chris Hafner on Nov. 21, 2007. Please comment on the original post.

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Pictured above: This is a forlorn Chevy Vega photographed by reader Gary Sinar. (Share yours)

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