2k Mile Survivor: 1976 Chevrolet Vega

Chevrolet got into the sub-compact car market in 1971, after more than two years of research and design work under John DeLorean’s watch. The car debuted with a lot of fanfare and some innovations, like an all-aluminum diecast engine block and vertical rather than horizontal railcar shipping. But some flaws in the design and execution emerged not long after the car hit the market. Still, Chevy managed to sell more than two million of them in seven years, including this 1976 notchback that the seller proclaims has just 2,000 miles on the odometer. Located in Wenatchee, Washington, this rare survivor is available here on eBay where the highest bid so far is $4,700.

The Vega was aimed directly at the VW Beetle and Japanese imports whose sales progress in the latter half of the 1960s caused Detroit executives to take note. At about the same time, Ford introduced the Pinto and AMC the Gremlin (a shortened Hornet) to also do battle. Although the Vega sold well in its first few years, thanks in part to the OPEC oil embargo in 1973, buyers soon found issues with the car’s quality. The aluminum engine was known to overheat and leak oil, the bodies would start to rust prematurely. By 1972 almost every Vega built up until that point had been recalled for one reason or another.

A lot of these issues were presumably addressed by the time the seller’s car came off the assembly line. It’s one of 27,618 notchbacks (aka 2-door sedans) built in 1976 out of 160,524 total cars. The Vega’s replacement, the Chevette, came out that same year and the Vega was gone after 1977. This car is a survivor and has somehow managed to stay in a garage for most of the past 45 years. We’re told the reported mileage of 2,078 is the real deal, not 102,078.  For reasons unknown, the original owner must have thought this car would be a collectible one day. Has that day now arrived?

The Chevy looks as though it was just removed from a time capsule. The only flaw with the body, paint, or interior is a rust spot on the inside of the passenger door. The seller thinks that water must have been trapped with a blocked drain, but rust hasn’t made it to the door skin, but it’s getting close. That should be taken care of as soon as possible. You could put the car in another time capsule for 45 more years or simply drive the car, which comes with a 2.3-liter I-4 engine and a 4-speed manual transmission. Could this be the nicest Vega left?

Comments

  1. 8banger 8banger Member

    For reasons unknown, the original owner must have thought this car would be a collectible one day. Has that day now arrived?

    No.

    Like 34
    • Stan Part

      Nah. Owner drove it 2000 miles and said screw it, I’m never driving this piece or crap again.

      Like 54
    • Melton Mooney

      Lots of hate for the poor little Veega, but I bet it brings twice it’s original sale price.

      Like 24
  2. Cadmanls Member

    Maybe was sitting in a dealership for another recall. Na and still not collectable.

    Like 10
  3. Joe Haska

    It is perfect, fun to drive , great mileage and best of all not collectible. Buy it drive it, wear it out and have lots of memories of your brand new Vega, that you drove a 100,000 miles.

    Like 12
    • John

      No way in heck a stock Vega of any year will go 100,000 miles

      Like 4
  4. Claudio

    That s not surface rust
    This thing needs a new door !
    The bidders don’t seem to care so let the bidding continue

    Like 8
  5. PaulG

    Let’s rat-hole the least desirable body style on a un-desirable car.
    Said no one ever…
    Put it in a museum.

    Like 11
    • CJinSD

      I think the first model year notchbacks looked great…before they rusted into pieces.

      Like 4
  6. Will Fox

    They weren’t worth their MSPR when new. I remember new Vegas in `71 Literally starting to rust on the showroom floor. Cars that sat in inventory for any length of time would leave rust puddles after being washed. My dad said they sounded like a coffee pot when idling. He was right.

    Like 3
  7. rustylink

    it’s kinda like having the nicest dumpster in existence.

    Like 20
  8. ClassicCarFan

    it wasn’t an all-aluminum engine… it was an aluminum block topped with a cast-iron cylinder head, which was one ( just one of many ) of the design flaws when the head and block expanded at different rates when hot…

    Not on of GM’s finest models for sure…

    Like 8
  9. 370zpp 370zpp Member

    “Yes, I would like to buy that nice Vega Notchback.”

    Now whoever in their right mind ever said that?

    Like 6
    • ChallengerChick ChallengerChick Member

      Certainly not in her right mind, but my mother (the same one who sold our ’70 Dodge Challenger for $1,500!), who had one that would stall if it even PASSED a puddle, much less drove through it. Ugh, I hated that car!

      Like 1
  10. Dan H

    Back then people were trying to “Buy American” and look how they were rewarded.

    GM screwed buyers and ultimately screwed themselves out of a huge slice of the market.

    Like 14
    • bone

      The only thing that rusted as fast as a Vega back then was any of the Asian imports – Maybe GM was trying to copy them ?

      People weren’t “trying to “buy American” in 1976 ; the Gas crisis was 3 years old , and people were scrambling to find anything economical -plenty of imports were selling like hotcakes ; VW already had a huge market by the mid 60s

      Like 1
    • bone

      The only thing that rusted as bad as a Vega was any of the Asian and Italian imports at the time – maybe GM was trying to copy them ?

      People weren’t “trying to buy American” either. By 1976, the gas crisis was three years old, and people were trying to buy anything economical , regardless of the brand . VW already had a huge cut of that pie . The big difference was the Bug was more rugged than most imports , which is why you still see beetles around , but how many 70s Corollas or Fiats do you see ?

      Like 2
    • AnthonyD

      Actually people all through the ’70s were not trying to buy American….even though the Big 3 was trying to get them to. They failed miserably. The public was turning to small, low priced imports. They were looking for quality, and the Japanese manufacturers were obliging. Even Dodge and AMC were putting their name on these imports…to try and fool the WWII vets.

      Like 1
  11. Raymond

    Looks awful minty fresh…like a piece of doublemint gum on a bright spring mornin, yes sirree, shes a minty one all right…

    Like 3
  12. nlpnt

    Being a ’76 with a “Dura-Built” motor it’s the one they finally got right just before pulling the plug. Biggest engine problem as a classic would be finding any unique service parts.

    Like 4
    • Jeff DeWitt

      So classic GM then. Come out with a new, innovative car that has serious problems. Spend the next few years using the customers as testers, get the problems worked out and cancel the car.

      Like 12
      • Buddy

        Happened all the time. Still does!

        Like 3
  13. Buddy Ruff

    Very similar to the ’74 I had. No engine problems, but body rust started within the first few months. And, to add insult to injury, all 4 Firestones on the ground suffered cord separation in the first 12k miles. It cost less than $3000, but I was only making two dollars an hour back then.

    Like 7
  14. Harvey Member

    My sister got one from my uncle cheap He only used it for work and said it only would go 45 mph.No problem as he only drove across town.After checking it over I aligned the timing belt and it buried the needle at 85mph Not a great car,but it did the job:-)

    Like 5
  15. Keith Porter

    What’s funny, is that they really didn’t rust faster than any Mopar.
    I had a few. And never had any sheet metal problems. Engine “different story” but I changed an engine by hand. “No hoist ” the head was as heavy as the short block.

    Like 6
    • bone

      ooooh , another dig at Mopar ! And speaking as a coastal New Englander I can tell you two things
      1 . They did rust out faster than any Mopar (except the Colt)
      2. Everything rusts away here , Mopars Fords and GMs- some cars worse than others but none are exceptionally less prone than another brand

      Like 2
      • AnthonyD

        Dodge Colt was a DINO (Dodge in name only)…it was a Mitsubishi.

        Like 1
      • bone

        yes ,that’s why I said except Colt. Imports really rusted fast back then !

  16. Jimmy Novak

    Thanks for all the Vega history above, but the point is if you pull into a car show with it, you’ll be the point of attraction across the area, and the object of jealousy from those who park next to you, something like the guy with his 1957 Chevrolet next to the wrecked 1951 Muntz Jet last Summer.

    Like 7
  17. Bob McK Member

    2K miles, always garaged, only driven on special occasions… How did the door get rusted out like that? Was it only driven in the rain and were the door weeps clogged up?

    Like 1
    • Troy

      The Vega rusted sitting on the dealership lots they were known for that

      Like 2
  18. David

    A rust hole that big on the door and 2000 miles? (Pic 9) Nah dont think so.

    Like 1
  19. Stephen

    Russ – there is no such thing as the nicest Vega left.

  20. Matt in Flint

    11.4% interest rate, ouch!

    Like 2
  21. Troy

    That is Not a Washington plate so where is it really from I can’t blow the picture up to see it on my Kindle.

    I used to buy these things from abandoned car auctions for under $20 bucks and sell off parts to other owners who were just trying to keep their rust bucket on the road and scrap the rest

    Like 2
  22. Lance Platt

    I would rate this Vega as a unique car show entry so it will get attention. Rushed into production before ironing out the bugs to compete with the Pinto and the imports, the Vegas got a terrible reputation for dependability. Many were sold but most wound up in junkyards; some received transplanted V-8 engines. As your article stated, advertising in 1976 pointed out big changes to the troublesome aluminum and a 60, 000 mile warranty was offered on the engine to entice buyers in its final few years. The car for sale looks good overall despite the rusty door. I drove a Vega once and it handled amazingly well compared to the big cars I had access to back in my day. I would love to have a Vega or Pinto as a conversation starter at a car cruise but will pass on the stick shift..too much work for a senior citizen!

    Like 10
  23. Lou Rugani

    Lance gets it.

    Like 6
  24. AnthonyD

    The inflation rated in the ’70s was through the roof! I don’t believe the miles, but if it’s real, then I’m guessing the owner put it away thinking in 45 years it would be worth $45k! Wrong!

    Like 1
  25. S

    The car that ruined GM’s reputation. What I never understood was, GM (Buick) had already designed a successful aluminum engine in the early 60s – the 215 V8. This engine had steel cylinder liners. Why did they not do that with this engine? Why produce this for 6 years and make no changes to the engine? This car did survive for a few years longer as the Monza and corporate siblings, but with the 2.5L Iron Duke engine. GM made 2 million of them, and yet NONE are around today. It has been decades since I’ve even seen one. Being so few of them are left, this one should be preserved. The interior looks nice on it.

    Like 2
    • Duaney Member

      Are you saying no Vega’s around or no Monza’s with the Iron Duke? Actually there’s lots of Monza’s around, maybe not in the rust belt. What’s more incredible is that Buick, starting with the 215 and V-6 and V-8’s had a bad oiling system and they left it that way for 25 years. Broken cranks, rods knocking, the worst GM design. The Vega engine actually would be better.

      Like 1
    • karl

      Didn’t they sell the dies for that engine to British Leyland by then ?

      • Duaney Member

        The dies for the 215 went to BL around mid 60’s, but all the other Buick engines V-6 and V-8 had the bad oiling system up into the 80’s. V-8’s were 300, 340, 350, 400, 430, and 455. So the Vega engine and Olds diesel were fixed within 1-2 years, but the bad Buick design went on for 20 years. And here they complain about the Vega being so bad.

    • Psychofish2

      They did. This 76 would have had the Dura-Built version of the 2.3 with substantial improvements. Which should have been done by 73 at the latest.

      Like 1
  26. Luckycat

    GM replaced the Vega with the Chevette. Both terrible cars. The big 3 didn’t produce many good subcompacts during this era.

    Like 3
    • Duaney Member

      Then why did Motor Trend say of the Chevette they tested, the most dependable perfect quality car they’d ever tested?

    • karl

      The Chevette didn’t replace the Vega; they were both around in 1976. The Monza replaced the Vega , although it wasn’t hard to see it was basically just a reskinned Vega

      Like 3
      • Kirk K

        Thank you for making me not the only one thinking the exact same.thing . Monza and Vegas are pretty much a continuation of the same car and sold side by side with the chevettes for a number of years

        Like 2
      • Psychofish2

        Exactly. The H Body Vega spawned the Monza. Then when the Vega disappeared the Monza line absorbed a couple of it’s body styles like the wagon.

        76 brought improved Dura Built 4.

        Like 1
  27. Haynes

    Engine swap,disk brakes,suspension,fat tires and a touch of nitrous…then go do donuts in some a-hole’s front yard….totally worth the 20 grand

  28. Mike

    Say what you will about this car, but it’s definitely a unicorn and I wouldn’t mind owning this. I’m partial though because I learned to drive on a 72 Vega hatchback with auto transmission. It was horribly slow, but still fun and pretty good looking. Mine was garage kept and I detailed the hell out of it, so never had any rust issues. It did suffer a bad overheat while mom was driving it and the subsequent warping and oil leak. Dad sold it to a secretary at work shortly after that. Never forgave him for that 😀 although he did replace it with a brand new 79 Malibu classic landau. Seemed like a Cadillac after the Vega!! Great memories.

    Like 3
    • Ffej

      The unicorn of Vegas was the Cosworth Vega, ’75 to ’77. 2 liter DOHC with fuel injection…I sold mine with 40K miles on it, thank goodness! And they didn’t handle that well, spun mine a few times as the rear axle was not centered in the car (kid you not), it used the rear suspension of the Monzas. Replaced it with an Opel Ascona,(aka the 1900 in US) a really great handling car (won a few Autocrosses with it).

      Like 2
  29. John King

    In the winter of 1976 I was a Chevy salesman in Minnesota. One very cold January night (about 5 degrees) a customer came in and wanted to test drive a Vega. Our cars were in a storage lot about two blocks away and I knew that Vegas were not easy to start in the cold. So I grabbed 10 sets of keys hoping that one would start for the test drive. I tried 9 cars and none would start. Fortunately the last car that I tried started! I brought it up for the test drive, feeling fortunate that ONE had started! The customer never knew!

    Like 6
  30. JB

    The gas crunch hit by 1974 so I had sold my pickup and ordered what I thought was going to be a special car – a dark green with green interior Vega GT Kambach. I got the 4 speed and the roof top rack and finally took delivery. Not too long later I started reading about the problems that were developing and put a For Sale sign in it and sold it for a decent amount. Then, I bought what turned out to be a special car… a 1975 Rockford dark brown Firebird Esprit. Now that was a special car.

    Like 3
  31. Chuck Dickinson

    The sales invoice shown in the ebay listing shows this as having a 3-spd, not 4-spd trans. Not many of those except for price leaders which is what this probably was. A friend’s son bought a 74 notchback with a 3 spd, and with a ‘kid’ driving it, it didn’t last long, even tho’ cars don’t rust here. His was the only 3-spd I’d ever seen in one.

  32. Lynn Dockey Member

    I had a 76 Vega. Beat the h**l out it. Lasted 2 hrs.

    Like 1
  33. Psychofish2

    ‘The Vega’s replacement, the Chevette, came out that same year and the Vega was gone after 1977.’
    No, Russ, the Chevette wasn’t the Vega’s replacement. The Chevette was a mini, not a subcompact. Not even the same market.

    This 76 had the Dura Built 4 Chevy finished out the Vega’s run with.

    http://www.oldcarbrochures.com/static/NA/Chevrolet/1976_Chevrolet/1976_Chevrolet_Vega_at_Death_Valley/dirindex.html

    http://www.oldcarbrochures.com/static/NA/Chevrolet/1976_Chevrolet/1976_Chevrolet_Vega_Brochure/1976%20Chevrolet%20Vega-04%2005.html

    The Notchback has 3 inches more leg room in the back seat as well [33.2 vs 30.8 for the hatch and 31.8 for the wagon something rarely mentioned [but Motor Trend New Car Annuals and Old Car Brochures bear this out.

    Better rust protection too:
    http://www.oldcarbrochures.com/static/NA/Chevrolet/1976_Chevrolet/1976_Chevrolet_Vega_Brochure/1976%20Chevrolet%20Vega-02-03.html

    Here is a good link:
    https://www.gmheritagecenter.com/docs/gm-heritage-archive/vehicle-information-kits/Vega/1971-Vega.pdf

    This has to be a peak Vega year, it and 77… that’s if there are any peak years for a Vega.

    Like 1
    • AnthonyD

      Chevette WAS brought out as the replacement for the Vega. Chevette took over for Vega as the entry level, low priced offering in the Chevrolet lineup. Yes, the Chevette was nothing like the Vega…no argument there. But it was brought out as the replacement for the Vega never the less. And it remained the low priced model in the lineup for it’s entire run. The Monza was based off the Vega platform, but it was not it’s replacement.

      Like 1
  34. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Ended:Dec 08, 2021 , 9:00PM
    Winning bid:
    US $7,877.00
    [ 27 bids ]

    • AnthonyD

      Wow! He or she must have a sentimental reason for paying $7877 for this car.

      Like 1
  35. Stevieg Member

    I had a green hatchback like this, 1976 model year, in the early 1990’s. Beat to crap! Kept getting pulled over for equipment violations. Had so many equipment violations that Wisconsin took away my driver’s license for 5 years. They told me I was a habitual traffic offender. I was just a young kid trying to get to & from work lol. None the less, that engine ran great & wouldn’t die. GM really did fix it!

    Like 1

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