Cheap Twincam: 1976 Chevrolet Cosworth Vega

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It’s sort of hard to believe that with all of the prestige and over-engineering attached to the Cosworth Vega’s history file that these cars aren’t worth more today. Of course, you could also say they have proven their worth in terms of being a high-performance, limited production car that has survived at a surprisingly high rate for being built in such limited quantities. Regardless, their values have been stagnant for some time, and I doubt it will change any time soon. Find this Cosworth Vega that runs but needs a repaint here on craigslist for $3,000 in California.

Thanks to Barn Finds reader Pat L. for the find. The Cosworth Vega was a car that captured the attention of enthusiasts early on in its development, and it’s not hard to see why. Cosworth Engineering had already cemented a legendary reputation at that point for its prowess in designing high-revving and long-lasting components for the racing world, so enlisting their help in designing a DOHC head for the Vega injected some instant prestige into the project. This prompted some enthusiasts to pony up deposits before the Cossie was in dealerships. This example looks lower than stock – suspension mods, perhaps?

However, the Cosworth Vega was largely considered to be a sale failure. Changing emissions requirements and challenges in the overall engine design led to delays and re-work that ultimately diminished the lofty performance goals by a significant margin. The 120 b.h.p. on hand certainly provided respectable performance, but it was a far cry from the gamechanger it was initially envisioned as. Despite being built in limited quantities, Chevrolet still had to scrap or dismantle engines that were never used. The interior of this example is fair, but could stand to be detailed.

It’s a shame that the model never lived up the pedigree that its association with Cosworth offered, as on paper, it seemed like a home run. Of course, building any performance car at this point in time was a game of Russian roulette, as standards kept changing and consumer appetite for thirsty, powerful models was waning. Of course, this should have made the Cosworth Vega even more appealing, but then silly things like a limited color palette in its first year didn’t help curry favor with the car shopping public. A limited production model with a colorful history and decent performance for not much cash.

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  1. Weasel

    I have a serious question:

    Would it be wrong to put a 350 in one of these? I’d like to do it and make it totally stock looking. No headers. No chrome engine fluff.

    This one needs too much work for me.

    Like 2
    • CJinSD

      It seems like most of the surviving Vegas are Cosworth Vegas, so why not? The most expensive Vegas are the hens-teeth clean early ones with manual transmissions.

      The Cosworth Vega is doomed as a collector car. They predicted a future that really did arrive, making their ‘exotic’ specs positively ordinary compared to something like a Toyota Echo. They were obscenely over-priced and a huge percentage of them were saved from the crusher because all the owners held out hope that the missing value from their purchases would be found through appreciation, thus assuring that there would never be any appreciation. Every now and then a tornado or flood finds a collection of Cosworth Vegas, and all the other owners look at the twisted wrecks of cars that were showroom condition a day earlier and think, ‘maybe mine is finally worth something!’ But it is not. Passing emissions meant that the production Cosworth had 110 horsepower and cost as much as a Z28. Was there potential? Sure. If you mill the head, remove the emissions gear, replace the fuel injection with Webers and find racing cams, you can raise the output to that of a 1.8 liter Civic LX from 2007. You’ll also have a car that can no longer pass for original, capping its value. Might as well stick in an SBC or LS if that’s what floats your boat. I’d start with a perfect one though, because a paint job costs more than the best Cosworth Vega.

      Like 11
      • Weasel

        The paint job comment is exactly why I’d start with a cosworth but I wonder if the purists would balk.

        Like 2
      • LynnMember

        75-76 there was no Z/28

        Like 3
  2. Vegaman Dan

    Optional rear swing out rear quarter windows. That’s a rare option on the Vega. They also were very easy to pop open from the outside, reach in and unlock the door. I had to get into more than a few where sellers had locked the keys inside.

    Not sure about those seats. Have to see the back seat to see if they match.

    I really detest the grill and taillights on the 76-77 models. Give me the 74-75 versions any day.

    Like 4
  3. Steve BushMember

    Sadly the Cosworth Vega was another example of GM botching what could have been a very nice car. Hard to believe that they had a race engine that produced 270 hp, yet could only make 110 in street trim. And then it was grossly overpriced.

    Like 1
    • Paul Trickett

      You can thank that drop in horsepower to the Feds and the EPA. Even with low compression it will still pull hard past it’s factory red line of 6500

      Like 0
  4. gbvette62

    I ordered a Cosworth as soon as they were announced, in the fall of 73. I waited months, only to have GM postpone the Cosworth in late spring 1974. With no idea of if or when Cosworths would be built, I ended up buying a 74 400 4 speed Trans Am instead. My dealer got his first Cosworth around May 75 and offered it to me. I did test drive it, but I had just gotten a new job where they gave me a company car, and I already had 3 other cars (including the TA). I still have the paper work and order form for “my” Cosworth…..AM/FM Stereo Radio, Rear Defogger, Positraction, Tinted Glass, Floor Mats, Swing Out Rear Windows and Auxiliary Lighting. I think I had ordered every option available, and didn’t even know what it was going to cost, because the price hadn’t been set when the order was placed. I’ve looked at a couple Cosworth’s over the years, and still might just buy one someday.

    Like 3
  5. LynnMember

    Always wanted one, but then I drove one

    Like 5
  6. Bob

    Why is ever vega a cosworth on bf ,never ever seen one,owened 3 regular cars once you know how to make them run ,only the tin worm will stop them

    Like 0
  7. Comet

    I’d consider the outcome of your story a big win.

    Like 0
  8. Paul Trickett

    The ones that are in good original condition are collectable setting prices at auction up to $30,00. Good mid level drivers are worth $8,000 to $15,000. All you ever see here are the worn out project cars.

    Like 1
  9. frozenbird

    I just bought a bubble wrapped 100% original ’76 Cosworth in black and gold. I’ll enjoy it for the next coupe years and see where the prices go. But they are a lot of fun to drive and really handle well. A very few small reversible changes like changing the exhaust and drilling and pinning the timing gear can add a lot more HP to them which I may do. However it’s not really about how fast they go now but more about their rarity and uniqueness, They have some really cool features like galvanized fenders, 4:10 posi, 5spd, electronic fuel injection, all at a time when these things weren’t common place.

    Like 2

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