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430 Horsepower 1971 Chevrolet Vega Sleeper!

The phrase “V8 Vega” has been around nearly as since Chevy began building these import-fighters in model year 1971, and the temptation to drop a big motor in a little car is strong with the bowtie faithul. This 1971 Chevrolet Vega in Sun Lakes, Arizona packs a burly member of Chevy’s LS family, the LS3. The listing here on craigslist describes the car’s current street/strip setup, much of which can be returned nearer to stock if drag-racing is not your bag. Thanks to reader rex m for spotting this potent sub-compact. This classic packs a ton of performance into a unique package for the asking price of $12,000.

Considering half of the LS is under the dashboard in a fourth-generation Camaro, there’s not much to complain about in terms of fitment of the 6.2L (376 cid) LS3 crate motor here. A “beefed-up” TH350 three-speed automatic takes the power and 425 ft-lb of torque and sends it rearward to a narrowed Ford 9″ rear end housing 3.73 cogs. Test runs with the throttle linkage limited by a block under the gas pedal yielded a mid 13-second quarter mile at 96 MPH. That was before the durable 9-inch came to the party, which should comfortably handle full power. The seller reckons weight around 2500 pounds and a mathematical estimate of low 11 second passes over 120mph, which (I believe) requires more than the car’s current (removable) roll bar.

First impressions:  A. Does someone live in the car? “Where are you staying? I’ve got a room at The Vega.” and B. No one puts a shifter like that in a Vega unless it’s got serious power. Car thieves from the ’80s and ’90s will certainly get a chuckle out of “The Club” anti-theft device. Purists, take heart! The original driver’s seat comes with the sale.

This overlay of a full-width-bumpered 1971 Chevrolet Camaro shows the family resemblance. From the front, anyway, the Vega is much like a mini-Camaro! Personally I’d have repurposed a wrecked Camaro LS and six-speed for a low-budget daily driver, but the mighty LS3 certainly packs a wallop for the “Go big or go home” crowd. You’ve easily got $7000 in parts here, bolted to what might be a $3000 car. Throw in $2000 for the labor, a serious bargain, and it would be hard to beat the bang-for-the-buck factor of this green machine. What would you change on this modern take on the V8 Vega?


  1. Steve R

    You are right, it’s a decent value for the money based on what’s been done to the car and the parts used. It would be a lot of fun driven “as is” or used as a solid starting point for a “project“.

    You are also right, the roll bar won’t pass tech. It’s fine, to a certain point, but is inadequate once a car goes fast enough to require a roll bar, 11.49. At that point you need a minimum of a 5pt bar. The plastic drivers seat is unsafe, though legal, I’d remove it the first opportunity I had.

    Steve R

    Like 14
  2. Kuzspike

    There is potential here, just not for a price of 12 large.
    There is a lot of work to do to clean this one up, but when its done the Vega Wagons make for a nice looking ride.

    Like 7
  3. Tony Primo

    Personally I would probably look at this wagon and use the money saved for a V-8 swap.

    Like 8
    • downforce

      that’s a really nice find, but i’d lean toward keeping it in (mostly) original condition, ditch the whitewalls & possibly remove those ugly and heavy bumpers

  4. Daniel Farrell

    I stopped a Vega with a big V8 many years ago and was admiring the handiwork of the person who built the car. When I looked under the rear end I saw that the big rear axle was held in place by the stock shackles and mounts which were being ripped out of the rear sheet metal sub frame by the power of the V8 engine.

    Like 5
    • ACZ


  5. jerry z

    I’m sure this car can be had for under $10K if soneone shows up with the cash. This is something in my wheelhouse but since my house is not sold yet, just have to wait……impatiently!

    Like 2
  6. piston poney

    i scrolled down and i hated it as soon as i saw the engine. like the car but hate the engine.

    Like 3
    • Lynn Member

      Yes give me a 350 with a Holley and a fuel pump on the block and one coil rather than 8 and a engine that needs a golf tee and a timing light and a distributor wrench and a straight blade screwdriver to tune!!!!!!!

      Like 8
  7. JBD

    V8 Vega done right! You probably can’t build this car for anywhere near the asking price. Most of the guys building these cars do it because they can. I dare anyone to try to build one for anywhere near the Asking Price.

    Like 3
  8. cmarv

    I think it is an awesome deal . Wish it was closer to me . It’s what everyone that was a gear head aspired to in 78 when I was a junior in high school ,only then it was with a 327/365 or a DZ302 . A senior and his Dad got the kit and did a hatchback and it whooped 340 Dusters 69 Z28’s and assorted big block A-body GM cars including my 69 442 . It was QUICK .

    Like 4

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