Barn Find Twin Cam: 1975 Chevy Cosworth Vega

The Chevy Cosworth Vega now has new relevance for yours truly, as it shares a key ingredient with the junkyard-find Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16 Cosworth I’ve been writing about: the presence of a Cosworth-designed cylinder head, engineered for higher/better performance. This seller has two examples for sale, one of which was discovered in a barn as you see here on craigslist

Thanks to Barn Finds reader Roger for the find. The two cars both sound like worthy contenders for restoration, but one is presented as being more of a project than the other. The first one is said to be a genuine 34,000 mile example with a matching engine, transmission, and limited-slip rear end. Paintwork looks decent, but it’d be great to see more of it along with photos of the car in the garage.

The interior is in surprisingly good condition for a car that has supposedly been parked for as long as it has. The Cosworth that isn’t pictured does come with dealer-installed A/C. The seller is asking $3K for the bigger of the two projects, and the reasonably complete car up top is listed for $7,500. Cosworth has a way of making ordinary cars special, and the Vega has been attainable for far too long. Do you think values will spike soon?

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Comments

  1. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    Whale….back in the day these were something….still think I’d like to see one at the next car get together….don’t see them now. Actually had a buddie buy one new in the orange delivery

    Like 2
    • Paul

      I have a 1976 Cosworth Vega one of less than 100 painted orange from the factory. Great little car and the values are going up Hagerty has them listed now. They made less than 1500 in 1976 and only 3508 total. All the 1975 cars were black and only a handful of the last 6 months production were color cars.

      Like 17
  2. Jimmy

    Never had a Vega and never worked on one so I don’t know how hard it would be to make one good one out of the two. Maybe after a personal inspection just take the one for $7,500. Less to transport.

    Like 2
  3. Santa Fe Steve

    Interesting little cars with a high revving engine. I have not seen one of these in years, maybe a couple of decades. I wonder if the specialty engine parts made by Cosworth are still available? Both cars worth the effort to restore. I hope they find a home!

    Like 5
  4. George Morrison

    I worked on a few of the Cosworth Vegas back in the 70’s, they had electronic fuel injection and I have to say they ran and held up far better than the ordinary Vegas…. odd they were black with the gold trim and the gold painted honeycomb wheels just like in the photos….. could be the same cars

    Like 3
    • Paul

      The Cosworth Vega was the first US built car with electronic fuel injection and the first dual overhead cam 4 cyl. Factory redline is 6500 but they pull hard past that. I have owned 3 of the 3508 that were built and still have a low mile survivor in factory orange one of less than 100 painted that color.

      Like 10
      • Paul G

        That’s kinda sad as there were European cars with electronic fuel injection many years earlier (Like my 71 Volvo)

  5. erikj

    Always thought these where cool. But the old word for them was VEGAMATIC. I had a few reg. ones through the years and liked them a bit, just unless they where a good v-8 transformation ,just a Vega. Fun car to play with.

    My best memory was a buddy had a 75 ish black v-8 Vega. The whole car was done to look like a z-28 Camaro. All the graphics, everything seemed correct like a Camaro. So neat, and it was a v-8/stick. If I had the time I would build one just like it. Oh, it was scary fast also t!!!!!!!!!

    Like 7
    • Paul

      There is no comparison of a regular Vega and a Cosworth Vega. The whole drive train and suspension are different. It was the fastest and best handling car in it’s class and beat out it’s import competition. The 1st US car to have electronic fuel injection and 1st US car with a dual overhead cam 4 cyl. The fact that you could buy a regular Vega for $3000 and a Cosworth base price was $6000 was a big factor in why they only sold 3508 in 2 years. I have owned 11 Vega’s over the years some with V6 and some with V8 swaps and the V8 are only good for drag racing as they handle terrible in the corners due to being so nose heavy.

      Like 7
  6. erikj

    Heck,The steering wheel even had the z-28 horn cap.style steel wheels, side body graphics that said z-28. It was really nice. Anyone else seen a Vega done that way?

    Like 1
    • James Member

      Saw a Reggie Jackson owned Vega at a car show back in the 70’s that sounds similar. Had a custom black paint job with dark pink flames; looked phenomenal!

      Like 3
  7. Rock On

    That would have been the ‘71-‘73 Vega with the bigger front grille opening erikj. It looked like a mini ‘70-‘73 Camaro from the front.

    Like 7
  8. Tony Primo
  9. Howard A Member

    Great motor, but hello,,,it’s still a Vega. Not Americas finest hour. So, what’s this Cos-worth? Not much to me.

    Like 4
    • Paul

      A #1 concours car is worth over $25k and many #2 cars have been selling for $15k + so that’s what they are worth. A good clean #3 driver is a $8000 car now since there are so few left (aprox 700)

      Like 2
  10. AMCFAN

    I see the owners and enthusiasts are very optimistic about values rising. If I were in the same boat I would be too.

    Hagerty is NOT a good indicator. A trip to ebay completed auctions is more useful. The truth is I would rather take my chances on the stock market. If these were blue chip collectibles they would have taken off in value years ago. Some cars in the 1970’s look promising but never achieve that goal. There doesn’t seem to be a shortage of nice Cosworth Vega examples. People bought them and put them away for retirement like the Cadillac converts in the 70’s and Monte SS in the 80’s.

    The Cosworths that were driven ended up in typical Vega condition in very short order. I past on one 5 years ago for $800 non running, clean with all factory docs. Today I believe I would still have an $800. car and nothing more.

    The bottom line was it was another ruse and poor attempt to right all the wrongs with the sad Vega. Simply put if GM even only made a half assed attempt to fix the problems in 1972 instead of 1976-77 there may be more of a desire for a limited edition Vega.

    An example with opposite value and demand is the AMC Gremlin. A mint restored six cylinder example is in the $25,000 range. An unrestored Randall American Performance XR 401 Priceless. Clean V8 X package cars are the same. They sold for under $3000. new. They were raced and ruled at IMSA in the 1970’s. I’ll admit a new GT Vega in comparison was a better looking car then the Gremlin…..but would still take one over a Vega

    The facts are hard to dispute. A new Cosworth sold for $900 less then a Corvette. The poor souls who didn’t figure that out sad for them. The Corvette would gave been a better choice.

    The standard Vega made only 80 HP. The Cosworth made a whopping 110 HP. So that means a person could buy two Vegas for the price of ONE Cosworth and have enough to buy Quadrajet carbs and headers and make the same power!

    Sad truth is the collector market has not found the Cosworth Vega.

    Jeff On another note I would gladly take the MB 190 Cosworth off your hands. Need some updates please!

    Like 3
    • Paul

      Ha Ha you will not find a #1 75-76 Corvette selling for more than a #1 Cosworth and you are correct the Vega was a better looking and handling car than a Gremlin. Also 110 hp in a 2600 lb car was better than the Camaro and Mustang of the same time. Only suckers sell their cars on Ebay so those are not good indicators of value. Hagerty follows all auctions and sales to determine the proper values. BTW a 75 Gremlin X had 100 hp so what’s your point ??

      Like 1
      • AMCFAN

        Paul Sorry, I haven’t seen a #1 Cosworth. Between it and a Corvette I would take the Vette. I did own a new 77 once. Certainly not the worst car but everything the Vega was NOT.

        Looks between the two. Way more interest today in the Gremlin. Besides looks don’t get you down the road. Most all Gremlins made it over the 100,000 mile mark on the original motors still running fine. There are way more Gremlins on the road today then any Vega and AMC didn’t produce 2 million of them.

        A 1975 Gremlin X with the 258 Gross HP was 200. Whats your point? Check the Gremlins IMSA Racing history. Very successful. I see nothing about a Vega.They had trouble staying running in public.

        Handling comparison between a Gremlin and Vega. Maybe the Vega had an edge but only when it wasn’t in a shop or back at the dealer. Straight line performance different story. The Gremlin ruled that and AMC even used V8 engines so you wouldn’t have to. My 1973 Gremlin X with a 258 2V would smoke the rear tires. I got a ticket once doing it in front of an unmarked cop car.

        A Vega Cosworth is a motor option only with a few gimmic parts. The market is what it is. Sorry it isn’t what YOU think it Should be.

        Like 4
      • triumph1954

        Paul. Good to know Only suckers sell their cars on Ebay!

    • Paul

      I see by your reply you know nothing about Cosworths, they didn’t run in IMSA but the Chevy Monza (a rebodied Vega) did and won lots of races. The Cosworth was built to run in the SCCA 2.0 liter class and did very well in it. I don’t know where you get you “gross hp” figures but the 1976 Gremlin X 304 V8 was only 120 hp from 5 liters compared to 110 HP from 2.0 liters in the Cosworth. The Cosworth is a all aluminum dual overhead cam 4 that started the engines we have in most cars today. It was way ahead of it’s time. Also the rear suspension is a 3 link with panhard bar that was totally new and not shared with the Vega. Optional 5 spd overdrive with much larger sway bars and heavier spring rates made it out handle all comers in Road and Track and Car and Drivers road tests. I know many owners that have over 100K miles on their engines because we don’t have the problem of a cast iron head sitting on an aluminum block like the regular Vega. BTW Cosworth of England was getting 270 HP out of these engines in testing in 1974. If AMC built such a great product why did they go out of business ?

      Like 1
      • Dutch 1960

        Golden Eagle Racing ran a Cosworth Vega in IMSA RS, piloted by Irv Pearce. After working on it for a while, they dumped it for a 6 cylinder Eagle Spirit and got a lot more competitive.

      • AMCFAN

        Paul, The answer to what happened to AMC is a whole other topic. But a short answer is AMC never left the market. They were purchased by another company. As a company they were never stronger at the time of selling. The head of Renault which owned 51% didn’t want to sell. Was killed as he left his house one morning. Chrysler/Bob Lutz wanted the Jeep brand and got it.

        The V8 option was NOT available in 1976 on a Gremlin. There were a few left over 1975’s that were built and titled as a 1976 I think 150 or less. The Gremlin 304 2V engines were rated @ 150 Net HP. Neither here nor there.

        I do know quite a bit more about Cosworths…..more then the average guy. My best friend bought one. He was once part of a die hard GM only family only drives Toyotas now. I got to spend a lot of time in his. One night he got smoked over and over by a then brand new Dodge Omni GLH non turbo. Was another friends moms car. That night he ended up breaking the shifter in the Vega.

        Cosworth made 5000 engines but could only sell 3508? GM obviously intended making more but dismantled the oversupply. A stock Vega 80 HP to the Cosworth 110? 30 HP That was $1200. per 10 HP and in the 1970’s. My kid can get that out of his stock Honda with a $25. cold air intake and a used header now. Times have changed.

        OK enough. You are passionate about your Vegas and no one be damned can say anything bad about them. That is OK. Only time will tell if you will strike gold…..my thought is it will never happen. Hopefully I am wrong. Rare doesn’t equate to value. My original post wasn’t to compare the Gremlin to the Vega car for car. Just in an odd spin of events the collector interest has changed.Gremlins are selling in the $25K range now. It is a fickle market especially now and that the Gremlin is on the upswing as is the Pacer with collectors now. Hopefully it does the same for you Paul. Good luck.

  11. G.W.Gilmore

    I had a 72 Notch back at one time and was going to switch it over to V-8 but didn’t buy the kit they offered back then. Thought I could find all the stuff myself around junk yards. I had done the interior in a buckskin color and was going to paint it a soft yellow color never got around to that thou before someone offered me a price I could pass up on. I wonder back in 1987 if I would have done that Notchback one if it would have been 1 of the very few that were done that way??

  12. ACZ

    “Rust free” ???? Is that even possible for a Vega?

    Like 4
    • Paul

      Yes it is by 1975 the Vega sheet metal was treated better than the first 3 years and if stored properly you can find quote a few rust free cars. Mine only has 43K miles on it and is still original paint. The door sills are perfect and no rust underneath. Cosworth owners tend to take better care of them than a standard Vega.

      Like 6
  13. Bodyman68

    Lol so funny to read ! Truth is the vega is more popular then any gremlin ,and the markets are not worth a loss . I have had more then a dozen of these cars the only difference is the engine and dash decal in cosworth cars . The regular vega engine was ok til it was overheated then it was nothing but problems . Do a v8 swap and you had a wicked street bruiser. Better yet a quick drag car ! I do miss those days !

    Like 1
    • Paul

      Awh come on you know better than to say the only difference is the engine and dash. The suspension is a 3 link with panhard bar and bigger sway bars and springs. With a lighter aluminum head the balance is almost 50/50 making it the best handling car in it’s class. 1st US car with electronic fuel injection and 1st US car with a dual overhead cam 4 cyl plus all aluminum engine that all cars now have. It was way ahead of it’s time in engineering. Plus when a stock Vega GT runs out of steam at 5200 rpm the Cosworth is still pulling hard at 7000 rpm. I have owned 3 Cosworth’s starting with a used one in 1977 and 8 more Vega’s and Monza’s including swapping in V6 and V8 engines. Fun little cars and easy to work on.

      • Howard A Member

        Apparently, you the “Cosworth” guy, and that’s cool, but it’s difficult for others to see your passion. Of course they had their attributes over a stock Vega, but not many saw that, it was still a Vega, and for another $800 bucks, you could get a new Corvette.( and most did) It’s hard for others to see that when the Vega was, for most, the worst car they ever had. My ex’s ’77 V8 Monza was a terrible car to work on.

  14. Paul

    AMC fan there were 826 V8 Gremlins in 1976 so that would be a collectable car to find. I have yet to see a $25k Gremlin but I’m sure there is someone willing to pay that for a #1 car. I have seen quite a few #1 Cosworths sell for $18-25K in the past few years but the Average #2 car is around $10-15k they are going up in value after many years of flat value. The fact is that less than 700 are running their stock drive train as many have become V8 swaps making the original ones even more valuable. If I was to invest in a AMC it would be an AMX or Scrambler. My brother fully restored a 68 Scrambler about 5 years ago and they are cool 1/4 mile cars :o)

  15. Poncho

    Go figure AMCFAN would weigh in here. Don’t get me wrong, I come from a family that owned a Matador in the 70’s Thought the Rebel Amchine’s were different enough to be cool, and always liked the 1968-1970 AMX’s. But if you had 25k to spend on ANY car you want, would you choose a Gremlin or a Pacer (fishbowl)? Perhaps AMCFAN read this article from HR Magazine and believes it: https://www.hotrod.com/articles/hrdp-0804-amc-concept-cars/
    Yugo AMCFAN, Yugo.

    • AMCFAN

      Ponch, In my youth I had many Gremlins I would estimate in my lifetime around 40 or so. I once bought three Pacers for $90 and drove two home. Had to haul the best one. Bought a Hornet for $35 and also drove it. When a car was free you had to haul it.

      Remember the article in HR. Don’t read the rag as for many years it was a rehash on the muscle car years from 68-75 since. Why subscribe when I can go into my personal collection. Besides 50 ways to build your small block in every issue never applied to me as I thought outside the box. American Motors only had one common block and wasn’t rocket science to make 500-750 HP with one for the street back then. Now aluminum heads and blocks are made as well as EFI.

      You are right. If I had a spare $25,000 to spend on anything it wouldn’t be a Gremlin. Been there done that. I roll with the times now. I would buy a Japanese Domestic Market JDM Nissan Skyline R34 twin turbo AWD supercar. They are now legal to import and looking at one now. They are referred to as Godzilla and there is a reason. It’s where it’s at.

  16. Gérard Planche

    To Paul: cool data, but that wasn’t the first US DOHC 4: check http://winfield.50megs.com/Engines/Engines.htm
    A remote parent of mine (?), Etienne Planche, designed a DOHC for Louis Chevrolet, but it was a six.
    But perhaps you meant “commercialized” US DOHC 4?
    Keep the passion coming, guys…

    Like 1
    • Paul

      Yes sorry if I didn’t explain well as the Cosworth was the 1st US production electronic fuel injection and the 1st US dual overhead cam production 4 cyl. Plus I believe it to be the 1st US production engine with a stainless steel header standard. What other car had such a ad campaign like this LOL Click on the image to see the full ad. BTW if any car company should come back it would be Pontiac, I really miss them.

  17. Gérard Planche

    Hey, don’t need to say sorry man: there’s so much creativity going on it’s tough to get one’s arms around! What would we do without motivated engineers and crazy tinkers? Have a great day

    Like 1
  18. 433jeff

    Funny read, if i had 25 grand to spend on a car it wouldnt be an amc. No worries here about that

    I did own a vega wagon , rolled it Down a hill. Sometimes when i hear a saturn start i swear its the same starter

  19. Mike Lynch

    My neighbor had an orange Cosworth. It had the window sticker intact. That and all the rust holes verified it was a Vega.

    • Paul

      My Orange Cosworth is still wearing the original paint and 42K miles but so far no rust holes LOL It also runs fantastic doesn’t burn a drop of oil and revs to 6500 happily

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