989 Miles: 1975 Cosworth Vega

Brian BirknerBy Brian Birkner

I always find it fascinating that so many cars survived through time without accumulating any miles like this 989 mile Cosworth Vega. Someone owned it, drove it very rarely, and paid bills on said car even though it wasn’t being driven much. The seller of this Chevy claims that it has never been titled, and was originally owned by a man who owned a Chevrolet dealership. I am not sure how one would have driven a car nearly 1,000 miles without being titled, but maybe the mid-westerner’s had their ways back in the day? The original owner passed and left the car to his son, who then passed and the car was auctioned off to the current owner. If anything I would believe that the title to the car was “lost” in the auction as I have purchased a car from an estate where the title was not included with the car. Despite the title questions, this virtually new Cosworth Vega is bid up to $9,877.77 with a few days remaining in the auction. Check out this awesome survivor here on eBay out of Osseo, Minnesota.

The Cosworth twin cam 2.0 liter engine is what really separates the Cosworth Vega from the standard Vega variety. Before the gas crisis put a hurting on power and fuel consumption, this engine originally produced 170 horsepower, but by the time production came around the race derived engine only produced 110 horsepower. Although the power was dropped dramatically, the structure for power is still there. A stainless steel tubular header is fitted, and with a compression bump, cams, and some induction work the original 170 horsepower is achievable. Although the seller describes there being no rust other than on some under body parts that weren’t factory painted, there are a few areas in the engine compartment to take notice of. The brake master cylinder cover has some rust breaking through the cadmium plating. The timing belt cover looks to have some shipping paint, or some other finish issue. Also the stainless header has the appearance of covering much more than 989 miles, but all of these small issues could certainly be attributed to the manner in which this car was stored.

There is absolutely no denying that the interior is in mint condition. The carpet is nice and springy with no apparent wear or evidence of use. The seats appear without flaw, but there are a few wrinkles to be found making me wonder if that is how this car really left the factory. The dash, steering wheel and door panels are phenomenal really rounding out this mint condition interior.

From the outside this low mileage Vega looks grand with beautiful paint, and shiny trim accents. I do agree with the seller and think that the gold paint on the wheels appears to have faded, or oxidized, but otherwise the car appears to be virtually perfect. All of the decal and pin striping is in place, and even the fuel sticker on the passenger rear quarter is in place. It would seem the only real condition concerns with this car are the minor surface rust issues under the hood, as well as the under body/chassis surface rust issues. If you intended to put some miles on this Vega you would need to look at buying a set of tires as those factory originals may not get you too far after 43 years. All in all an excellent example, but what would do with it? Would you preserve this Vega as is, or would you put some miles on this low mileage classic?

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Comments

  1. Mark Hoffman

    If a dealer owned it. It’s quite possible to have never registered it, and drive it with a dealer tag

    • Tom Justice

      That is a real possibility. In some states that would be a big problem in others not so much. I would check your state DMV before you bid and see what must be done to register the car. It is a Vega and it is worth what someone will pay. Hagerty puts good at 9K and excellent at 15K so it seems the bidding is in line. It is one of 2061 produced in 1975 and the prices are rising so now may be your time.

    • Dovi65

      As far as I know, a “dealer” plate allows for use of a vehicle on public roads, within the state in which the plate is isued w/out having to be titled/registered. The vehicle is covered under the dealerships liability policy. To drive a vehicle across state lines, “requires” use of a “transporter” plate, but I’ve seen cars w/dealer plates from out of state

  2. OIL SLICK

    with dealer plates you don’t have to register a car to drive it, in Illinois anyways.

  3. Madmatt

    I can’t believe that these are worth that much.!
    Really cool cars though..
    A non Cosworth Vega,with 989 miles,
    could be considered high miles….
    They didn’t last long in northern Ca mountains…!

  4. Andre

    Seller has a hell of a personal collection based on the pics.

  5. TriPowerVette

    I owned one of these in the early ’80’s. It was cheap, $300, didn’t run (was thoroughly run into the ground), and I recognized its uniqueness. Having experience with an early Ford Cortina (an absolute ball to drive), I hoped that this would be even better.

    After bringing it home, I started the search for a Cosworth Vega expert, who could diagnose and breathe life into my prize, once again. Through my brother’s and my substantial contacts in the high performance car community throughout the greater Phoenix area, I was introduced to a fascinating gentleman named Tom Owens.

    It seemed that Tom had brought several of these back to life, and would be willing to look at mine. After an initial inspection, he said he would ‘cogitate on it’.

    Well, after several weeks went by, with no word, I went down to his shop, After an eternity, waiting for him to let me in, he finally opened the door, mumbling and grumbling, and said it could be done, but would cost more than the car was worth.

    He was a curmudgeon in every sense. His torn, dirty jeans, OLD beat up sneakers, and filthy old T-shirt, emblazoned with some sort of speed shop’s logo and text were not the least offputting. They were, in fact, a perfect match for his chaotic-appearing warehouse cum machine shop.

    As my eyes adjusted to the dark, the hair on the back of my neck stood up. Everywhere I looked there were stunning quantities of rare, unusual and hugely desirable cars and parts. He had shelves from floor to ceiling filled to overflowing with high performance and experimental cylinder heads. It was mostly Chevy stuff, but he had a 55 gallon drum filled to the top with disassembled 426 Hemi’s!

    Off in another corner was parked a genuine Yenko 427 Camaro, sitting next to a 195(7?) Thunderbird.

    In yet another area, he had several mid-’80’s Camaros, which formed the nucleus of his stillborn project to create an assembly line for building rear-engine Camaros with Toronado drivelines. One was more-or-less completed, the others were in various stages of the conversion.

    Out back, he had several 1961-’62 Corvette bodies and partially completed tubular steel chassis, which formed the core of yet another project: he wanted to establish a production line for tube-chassis, pro-touring-style Corvette conversions.

    To me, the crown jewel of the Tom Owens Story was not a car, nor was it an exotic part, nor a partially-gestated project. It was hanging on the wall in his office. There, innocuously framed, but centrally mounted for all to see was a Certificate of Membership in the Society of Automotive Engineers, and Letter of Appreciation from GM engineering.

    It seems that there was a time crunch for GM engineering to get the 454 engine up and online for production, but they were unable to overcome a vibration issue. Apparently, Tom had been the go-to guy who solved it for them. He had the letter of appreciation to prove it.

    In the ensuing years, I become more used to the vortex of information, experience, projects and pieces that evidenced a very interesting life, lived his own way, but I always retained a little of the awe of the early few times our life trajectories intersected.

    Tom passed a couple of years ago. Few people, except those closest to him, knew. But all car people were affected, even if only in a qualitative way.

    I sold the Cosworth for more than three times what I paid, as was my habit with all of the unique muscle that passed through my brother’s and my experience.

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    • Simon

      Always enjoy TriPowerVette’s comments and feedback,but this is your best,and one of the reasons I enjoy a site like this,so well written!
      it’s a shame that Cosworth had to detune the engine from its 170 hp spec as it is a real performance gem.

      1
      • TriPowerVette

        @Simon – Thank you. It is good to read that people enjoy this stuff. Presumed yours was one of my ‘thumbs up’. Returned the favor.

  6. CCFisher

    A few wrinkles in the upholstery would have been par for the course for a domestic car in 1975, as would mis-aligned trim inside and out and poor paint quality.

  7. cold340t

    Almost bought one of these back in the late 80’s. Fastest 4cyl. I ever rode in at the time. Big cam/650dbl pmpr/Headers/5spd/12 bolt rearend. I didn’t buy it because 1st, gear was bad, had to start in 2nd. Well, I have always regretted not buying it. Because the Guy took me on the freeway, and dropped it into 2nd gear at 70+mph. The tack hit 7grand plus. Pushed me back into seat like a BB Mopar. We were at 120mph in a blink. Then got off freeway. Never expected a 4cyl. to have that much go. Never underestimate how fast these little cars can be with the Motor built to the hilt! Still regret passing on it.
    Ended up buying a 69′ 383 SuperBee instead. Which got stolen when Mopar prices went crazy in early 90’s. Miss that 13 sec. car too. But, that little 4cyl. left a lasting impression on Me. Some day…….

    • Jim Kirkland

      I call BS.

      • Vegaman Dan

        We’re sorry, but BS is currently busy and not available at this time. Please leave a message at the sound of the burnout.

      • cold340t

        Times are different now. Speed is relative. That little motor ripped right past 7k rpm and yes it did push me back in the seat. Had I not lived at the the top of a hill I would & the paper work was more legit looking. I was buying it.

  8. BRAKTRCR

    Wow, beautiful car. I think it would be a great Sunday afternoon driver. I have always believed in driving cool stuff, not just looking at it.
    I’ve had a V8 Vega wagon, and a V8 Astre, if you know what that is
    As tempting as that might be, this car deserves to be left stock.

  9. Dolphin Dolphin Member

    Interesting experience that cold340t tells about the performance of that Cosworth Vega without 1st gear. Well, it did have a Cosworth-tuned engine, and Cosworth did very well in F1 back some time ago….

    Anyway, every time I see one of these I think of a girlfriend who had the Pontiac Astre version of the regular Chevy Vega—-the same car underneath.

    Lots of problems with fit and finish (unsolvable water leaks around the windshield into the interior, etc, etc), but after driving it the thing that sticks with me is the feel of the steering wheel transmitting the strongest steering wheel vibrations I’ve ever felt directly from that buzzy 4-cylinder engine into my hands at highway speeds.

    I liked the girlfriend but could not abide that steering wheel buzz. I’m guessing that Cosworth Engineering being Cosworth Engineering, the Cosworth version of the engine ran smoother than the regular version.

  10. Brian S

    I had a neighbor across the street growing up that had one exactly like this under a bunch of crap in his garage for years. He pulled it out one day in about 1988 and washed it, and I noticed that the plastic was still on the seats and window sticker still on the side glass… it was gone the next day and a new Mustang GT replaced it. The Mustang never got driven either.

  11. Will Owen

    As I recall, the worst problem with the Cosworth engine was that while oil supply to the head was more than adequate, its route back to the sump was not. At normal around-town speeds or even highway cruising there were apparently no real problems; it was under racing conditions that the head would be all but bursting with oil while the bottom end was running dry. I think the factory fix was external return lines … just remembering stuff read in R&T or whatever back in the day. What I do NOT recall was R&T rescinding its enthusiasm for the Vega’s “brilliant” notion of sprayed-on silicon liners for the bare aluminum cylinders. But that’s engineers for you … fall hopelessly in love with ingenuity whether it really works or not!

    1
  12. LAWRENCE

    They are around…they just don’t demand the money for a restoration….like most anything else….if it’s nice – it will bring some money.

  13. John C Cargill

    Drive the poop out of it.

  14. Adrian R Guerrero

    Looking at the clutch pedal, the wear tells me it’s got more than the 989 miles.

  15. scott halperin

    Pebble Beach Concours d’elegance …….survivor class!!

  16. Vegaman_Dan

    A rebuildable Cosworth in my area, body only, hashed, is worth $5K. A rebuildable engine core, same deal, $5K. A running car is $12-15K for a beater. This example in its condition would easily be a $20-25K car in my area.

    I so wish I could afford such things. This has the 1974 trim bumpers and tail lights carried into 1975 for the taillights. I really disliked the 76/77 designs.

    • TriPowerVette

      @Vegaman_Dan – ” I really disliked the 76/77 designs.” – We ALL did. It was the beginning of the Automotive Dark Ages Malaise.

      1
  17. Becky

    I have one of these, and I paid a lot more than that for mine. It is in show condition, and gets lots of stares at car shows. That glassed over look when people remember the “first car they ever drove” look. Of course that would be a regular Vega. The Cosworth is a very special car and, I am told, the price new was comparable to a Corvette. If there was room here, that car would be mine!!!

    1
  18. 340challconvert

    The Cosworth Vega’s are cool and unique.
    My brother bought the identical car in 1975.
    It was very high tech for it’s time with it’s special high performance engine, a 5 speed, special wheels and great instrumentation.
    It should sell at 20K plus to the right buyer.

  19. Hard Drive

    Looks like a lot of brake and clutch pedal wear for 989 miles

  20. Cary Dice

    Not sprayed-on. The block was aluminum with a high silicon content. They etched the cylinders so only the silicon actually made contact with the pistons/rings. Pretty trick for the time.

  21. Norman Wrensch

    Most of the people I know that rebuilt those put cast iron sleeves in them. They ran good then

  22. robert spinello

    I bought a 76 Cosworth with 1,500 miles on it in 2012, I drive it to shows cause I’m not looking to sell it anyway.

  23. Robert

    The unfortunate thing is this car is cursed with the “Vega” moniker. GM’s answer to the Pinto. Full disclosure: I don’t know about the Cosworth version. But I am assuming it’s a standard Vega dressed up with some mechanical upgrades.The standard Vega was well known as the car that almost destroyed GM, with a poor design and very low quality of workmanship.When sitting, you could almost hear it rust …

    • Art

      They are more than dressed up different head 4 valves per cylinder a cam carrier with twin cams electronic fuel injection factory stainless steel header

  24. don

    They were JUNK! PERIOD!

  25. Joe Haska

    Are you kidding me “The brake and clutch pads show more than 989 miles”. Some comments are just too much, how the F— could you tell and determine that! I would really like you to look at cars I am interested in, your insight and inspection of details and conclusions are beyond anything, I have ever encountered. You must be the most intelligent automotive expert on the planet ,your recognition of the facts and your conclusions are second to none, Period! Question? Why didn’t the seller of this car think to change the pedal pads? He must really be stupid its a dead give away, and such an easy fix considering the condition of the car, hell he fooled me.

  26. Art

    The biggest problem I see is if it has never been registered or titled it still will be on the MSO manufacturer statement of origin and if that is missing that’s a big problem as you’ll never be able too register or title it. I own one that was on the MSO it was passed to dealer to dealer and accumulated almost 5000 miles before I bought it when I went to title and register it they did a VIN search and sure enough never been titled.
    I have another one I titled only while I restored it misplaced the title went to register it and BY purged the title only from their system and couldn’t provide a title was going to have to go through some stupid process to title it and it wasn’t going to be a normal title….I found my title and registered it

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