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Cheap Cosworth: 1976 Chevrolet Vega + Parts Car

The Vega will not go down in the history books as Chevrolet’s finest hour. It was a car hurried into production that ended up having a lot of problems. But one car from the Vega’s eight-year run has surfaced as a bright spot and a collectible: the Cosworth Vega. Chevy had worked out much of the car’s issues by 1975 and the Cosworth had a different twist on the car’s original powerplant. This Cosworth Vega is from its second and last year of production and is offered with a nearly identical non-Cosworth parts car. You can find both of them out in the woods near Long Island, New York, and they’re available here on craigslist for $2,000 as matched book ends. Thanks to Pat L. for more of his sleuth work.

Chevrolet’s Cosworth Vega was a variation of its stock sub-compact and was only made for two years, 1975 and 1976. It was a limited-production, higher performance vehicle that saw 3,508 copies made. While Chevy developed the car’s all-aluminum, inline-four 122 cubic inch engine, British company Cosworth Engineering designed the DOHC cylinder head. The Cosworth Vegas cost almost double that of a base Vega and not much below that of a new Corvette.

Let’s talk about the motor for a minute because that’s where the sweet spot is. The Cosworth Vega Twin-Cam engine had a die-cast aluminum alloy cylinder block with an aluminum alloy, 16-valve cylinder head with double overhead camshafts. Each camshaft had five bearings and was turned by individual cam gears on the front end. The camshafts, water pump and fan were driven by a sturdy neoprene rubber belt. The cylinder head had sintered iron valve seats and cast-iron valve seats. Race-bred forged aluminum pistons with a heat-treated, forged steel crankshaft and connecting rods were also used. It put out 110 horsepower.

The car on the trailer in the photos should be the Cosworth, with the one sitting on the ground being the parts car. The seller says his car is # 2865 of all the Cosworth Vega’s made. We’re told the car is rusty and all there with just under 43,000 miles since new. The body on the parts car looks better, so the buyer will find himself transferring parts from one to the other. Apparently, the seller has been in possession of the car since 1987, so we assume he lost interest in restoring this car himself a long time ago. Both cars carry the same paint color, Firethorn Metallic, with a Buckskin interior, which was new to the Cosworth Vega for ’76.

Neither car runs and haven’t for many years. The seller suggests not attempting to turn the Cosworth engine over before taking it apart first as you might damage it. There are no crate motors sitting in warehouses waiting to be bought. The buyer will get a plethora of spare parts in the deal, including a 5-speed transmission setup, pulse tubes, air cleaner bellows, gaskets, manuals, and the original Cosworth Vega aluminum wheels.

If I were wanting to resurrect a Cosworth Vega, this could be a good way to get started. Some of the price guides suggest that $18-20,000 is the going rate for a really nice Cosworth. If you can get these two cars home, make one good car out of two, make it look sharp again, and do all that for less than $18,000, you might have some equity when you’re done. The picture above is what this Cosworth Vega may have looked like in better days. Photo credit goes to Vegavairbob/Robert Spinello.


  1. Avatar photo DayDreamBeliever

    The “parts car” may be of some benefit, but there are more than a few differences.
    And when the “special” car is in so much worse a condition than the one used as a parts bin….. Fugeddaboudit

    Like 6
  2. Avatar photo Dave

    I have always thought that all Cosworth vegas were black. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them in a different color

    Like 2
  3. Avatar photo Mitchell Gildea Member

    Want some car with that rust?

    Like 4
  4. Avatar photo William Shields

    I had to read it twice to realize the one on the trailer was the good one!😵

    Like 5
  5. Avatar photo Arthur

    I think one of the hot rod builders — famous or otherwise — should buy these cars. They seem to have a better grasp on how to solve the Vega’s problems than the engineers at GM behind the Vega. One example is the Jegs Vega built by Woody’s Hot Rodz in Indiana.

    Like 1
  6. Avatar photo Phlathead Phil 🚗🇺🇸

    If I buy the rust do I get the car for free?

    …Asking for a friend.

    Like 4
  7. Avatar photo CCFisher

    I’d rather have the GMC motorhome.

    Like 3
    • Avatar photo Raymond Neal

      I agree Wonder if it could be fitted wit the Cosworth Chances that the engine is either crap or it does not exist

      Like 0
  8. Avatar photo Vince H

    This will not end up being cheap when it is restored.

    Like 2
  9. Avatar photo Mitch Grimes

    There is more money to be put into it than what you could get out of it. They was not worth a whole lot brand new. I kinda look at todays Chevrolet Cruze as the same way.

    Like 1
  10. Avatar photo Jim

    Is this really a Cosworth? Who can tell? So little of the car is left!

    I’d rather have a base model in good condition than this thing.

    Like 0
  11. Avatar photo Frozenbird

    These are pretty special cars and will probably continue to climb in value as a collectible car. The problem is they made just enough of them for a good one always to be for sale somewhere which makes restoring one hardly worth it.

    Like 2
  12. Avatar photo John

    I’m a fan of Cosworth, but even in the 70s, 110 HP out of 2 liters is weak. I know, it was smog days. And the Vega was built by disgruntled hippies in Lordstown Ohio, which put out terrible cars. Most Vega engines grenaded with low miles and were replaced under warranty.
    Just a lousy, lousy car. Lipstick on a pig, IMO.

    Like 0
    • Avatar photo Dave

      The disgruntled hippies had nothing to do with the car except build it as told. Put the blame where it should be, lousy management

      Like 0
  13. Avatar photo bone

    The parts car’s body is probably worth $500.00 to a guy building/restoring a 70’s era Modified stock car, but thats about it. Unless that Cosworth has rare optional parts in it , its scrap. I know Vegas are notorious rusters , but I dont think i’ve ever seen one where the hood skin and tail panel were rotted away !

    Like 1
  14. Avatar photo Raymond Neal

    Maybe you could er create a cheap funny car out of the parts from both vehicles There is a good old boy by the name of Jonathan W that h is a tow truck driver He creates a cars from bits of junk Maybe he would be interested in helping whoever buys the 2 cars to make 1 out of both of them He has a yard full of cars that he tows home

    Like 0
  15. Avatar photo Mike Brown

    Several years ago, a friend of mine picked up a COMPLETELY rust free but non running Vega wagon out of the garage of an estate sale. He also happened to have a complete, running Cosworth but it was so rotten that it wasn’t worth fixing. The Cosworth drivetrain soon found its way into the wagon. My friend actually knows how to keep the Cosworth engine properly tuned and it’s a blast going to shows with his wagon! Is his car worth a boat load of money? No. But it’s value is in the fun that it provides him.

    Like 3
  16. Avatar photo ChuckM

    A running 76 Consworth sold for less than 12K not too long ago. It was used in light road rally’s.

    Like 0
  17. Avatar photo Charles Masterson

    The 76 model was properly rust proofed and the engine was a winner with iron sleeves.

    Like 0

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