V6 Surprise! 1975 Pontiac Astre Hatchback

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In the mid-1970s, U.S. automakers scrambled to build more fuel-efficient vehicles in the wake of spiking gasoline prices. Pontiac, for one, had no subcompact offering, so they rebadged a Chevrolet Vega and called it the Astre (“star”). It remained in production until 1977 when General Motors moved on to something else. This 1975 Astre GT isn’t your ordinary little grocery-getter – it has a 262 cubic inch V6 sandwiched under the hood! Located in Grand Park, Illinois, the restomod of sorts is available here on Craigslist for $6,500. Rocco B. continues to deliver great tips!

The Astre would not be the first time Pontiac borrowed from Chevy to fill a product void. They had done so just a few years earlier with the Ventura II, a Nova by another name. Though a few minor styling differences separated the Astre from the Vega, the Pontiac used the same trouble-prone inline-4 the Chevy did. The Astre started in Canada in 1973-74 and arrived in the U.S. in 1975-77. Sales were below those of the Vega, at less than 148,000 units vs. more than two million of the Chevy (though that car included four more production years).

This “Poncho” was on the receiving end of a 4.3-liter V6. It also has a 700R automatic transmission with overdrive. We don’t know when this transformation took place, but the seller says that no cuts in the firewall were needed to squeeze the bigger engine inside. But you have to wonder how hard it might be to get at some of the spark plugs!  To add even extra power, a 4-barrel Q-Jet carburetor sits atop a high-rise manifold that the hood may have been modified to close properly. Headers and a dual exhaust are also part of the mix.

The body and paint look good on this Pontiac, though we don’t know if any exterior cosmetic work has been done. The interior is acceptable though worn in terms of the upholstery on the driver’s bucket seat (after all, the odometer has flipped over). We’re told this hot rod runs and drives great and should be an eye-raiser for Saturday night cruises or Cars & Coffee. Perhaps this is the kind of Astre/Vega that GM should have built?

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  1. Pat LMember

    Check the Craigslist ad again Russ. That is a Chevrolet 4.3 litre V-6 engine. The Quadrajet 4 barrel carburetor is from the Pontiac 350 V-8.

    Like 7
    • Russ Dixon Russ DixonAuthor

      Good catch. The seller’s wording had me going down a different path. Have changed the wording. Thanks!

      Like 5
  2. Big C

    What? No Iron Duke? I’m out! Seriously though, this is a rare little Pontiac, and looks pretty good for $6,500.

    Like 12
  3. DON

    the replacement for the Vega/Astre was the Monza/Sunbird/Skyhawk/Starfire. the platform was basically the same as the Vega , and they came with 4 cyls ,a v6 and some actually had a v8 in them, so its no surprise to me that there’s now a v6 in this. They’re a pretty nice looking little car, as long as you can keep the tin worm at bay

    Like 13
  4. Bub

    “But you have to wonder how hard it might be to get at some of the spark plugs!” I think if you are a long armed enough to pass the potatoes, you should not have a problem.

    Like 10
    • Greenhorn

      Just pretend it’s a Ferrari and do and engine out service!

      Like 4
    • Rw

      OMG really

      Like 2
  5. JDC

    To bad they modified it. Pontiac Astres are as rare as he’s teeth, and it looks like it was pretty solid before being butchered.

    Like 3
    • SubGothius

      Could be it’s in such solid shape because the original high-silicon alloy block grenaded (as those Vega engines were infamously wont to do), and the car was left to sit for some time before someone decided to revive it with an engine swap.

      This might not even be the first swap it’s had, given the stated mileage, tho’ I’m not sure that may just refer to the ’88 Blazer swap donor. Not surprised it wasn’t necessary to cut the firewall for the swap, since the V6 would be one cylinder shorter nose-to-tail than the original I-4. Available width to accommodate the V-banks would be more of a concern generally, tho’ apparently not an issue here either.

      Like 2
    • duaney

      Looks like a clean installation, nothing cut.

      Like 2
  6. Rw

    Plugs should be no problem with proper sockets

    Like 5
  7. Aussie Dave Aussie DaveMember

    iDK, I like it has been upgraded in power, and a V6 is something different.
    Much better than the 4 pot it came with.

    Like 9
    • Car Nut Tacoma

      As long as it’s durable and components are well built, then I don’t care what engine powers the car.

      Like 1
  8. CCFisher

    The 4.3 seems like an “I had it lying around” or “it was too cheap to pass up” choice. I have to believe that if someone were to buy an engine to swap into an Astre (or Vega), it would be a small-block Chevy V8, the easiest and most obvious choice. Whoever ditched the original Vega 2.3 can be forgiven; Chevrolet didn’t fix the Vega 2.3 until 1976.

    Like 2
    • Jack M.

      The 4.3 V-6 is 3/4 of a small block Chevy. How would it be any less easier to install than a sbc? Many of the components and accessories are interchangeable between the two. You might even get away with using the stock rear end if you avoid doing long smoky burnouts.

      Like 4
      • CCFisher

        Easiest as in easiest to source and easiest to upgrade. If you’re going to the trouble of swapping in 3/4 of a Chevy 350, why not go all the way? The rear end and u-joints were an issue with the weak V8 Monzas of the late 70s, so I doubt it’s any more likely to survive for long behind this V6.

        Like 0
  9. Yblocker

    A turd with a tuxedo is still a turd

    Like 5
    • Rickirick

      Lmao! Agreed Yblocker. Why in the heck would ya……nvmd. ☺

      Like 1
    • Duane

      Visit Facebook and check out all the Vega groups, H body groups, and even a Astre group. They all love their “turds” Vega wasn’t a bad platform for being an inexpensive type car.

      Like 1
  10. Kenneth Carney

    Oh for cryin’ out loud CC, isn’t that what the old car hobby was all about back then? We used what we had or
    could scrounge up to make some really nice rides. That V-6 should help
    with the weight distribution at least as a 350 V-8 would make this car really nose heavy and not allow all the
    ponies to get to the rear wheels. Nice
    find though.

    Like 9
  11. bobhess bobhessMember

    Nice car. My dad had a ’72 hatch back with the 350 in it and it was fun to drive. Didn’t notice the heavier front end but then never did much left/right stuff, just straight to the hardware store and back with materials to help him rebuild an old boat.

    Like 3
    • Jack M.

      Are you sure that wasn’t a Ventura?

      Like 3
      • bone

        No Ventura hatch in ’72 , so his dad probably had a 72 with a transplanted 350

        Like 0
      • bobhess bobhessMember

        It was the Ventura and the engine was factory.

        Like 0
  12. Old Man

    A real sleeper.
    “Do you want to race me with your Vega? AHAHA. Wait, it’s a PONTIAC? Even funnier.”
    Never assume.

    Like 2
  13. Lovin' Old Cars!

    Perhaps this is the kind of Astre/Vega that GM should have built?
    Hindsight is 20/20.

    Like 1
  14. Car Nut Tacoma

    Lovely looking car. It’s crazy that it took an oil crisis for car makers to downsize their cars. They had the means, they had the experience, they should’ve been able and willing to provide buyers something that’s small enough and lightweight enough to be fuel efficient, yet most people can fit comfortably in it while driving.

    Like 3
    • Car Nut Tacoma

      Think about it, Not everyone needs or wants a Cadillac Fleetwood, a Chevy Caprice, an Olds 98 or a Buick Electra 225 to be comfortable. I’m sure there are people who would’ve been just as comfortable driving a Mercedes-Benz 240D or a BMW, or a Toyota Crown or Cressida, and they’re quite a bit smaller than what American car makers were offering in the 1970s. I would’ve gladly bought any of them over what was available at the time.

      Like 1
  15. Car Nut Tacoma

    This would make an awesome restomod project. Whatever engine powers this bad boy, as long as it’s durable and can be serviced whenever needed, that’s all that matters to me. I’d pay up to $3000 for the car, and then upgrade everything that can be upgraded.

    Like 2
  16. ablediver

    I had a 74′ Astre as my “work beater”. It was the aluminum engine and it held up well while I had it. Of course, everything else broke on it. I think that V6 was a retrofit. The bolts on the torque converter were known to shear off even with the stock four cyl. engine,. Last GM car I ever owned.

    Like 2
  17. Oldscool

    I had a vega back in the day, it was gutless and over heated often, the 4.3L would be a very welcome upgrade ! If it wasn’t so far away . . .

    Like 1
  18. Dale

    By 1975, the rust issue was pretty well sorted out on the Vega and others based on that platform. My first car was a 4 spd. orange (and primer) Astre with the 2.3L engine.

    Like 0

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