Exotic Domestic: 1975 Chevrolet Cosworth Vega

Here is a chance to own a small but affordable piece of Chevrolet history. The Cosworth Vega was only produced for two years, with total production below 5000 units. A pretty nice unit is up for auction here on eBay. Located in Santa Fe, New Mexico, it has an opening bid of $4500, but surprisingly there are no bids with 4 days left at

This is a clean example of a controversial compact from the ’70s. The initial release date of the Cosworth was delayed due to compliance with emission regulations and sales never lived up to GM expectations. As a result, production only lasted two years. However, with an eye to collectability when new, many Cosworth Vegas survived compared to regular production Vegas. From the factory these cars were equipped with electronic fuel injection, a service nightmare for technicians at the time. Although standard now, the concept of electronic fuel management through the use of feedback sensors was not easily understood back then. To be fair, diagnostic tools were not available and self-testing of systems was not incorporated in the design.

The extra complexity of fuel injection resulted in many units being retrofitted with carbs. That is the case here, even though the car has only accumulated 33,000 miles in 40 years. The engine is claimed to work well and be reliable, the clean engine compartment reinforces the claim. The only issue is the bottom of the oil pan. It looks like a long time coolant leak rusting the pan on an otherwise rust free car.

The car is definitely rust free and has been in the dry southwest its entire life. The shape of the body is super, with the original paint being in good shape with only some minor blemishes. With the exception of the fuel injection, all components of the Cosworth package are retained.

There is minor cracking of the dash, but clear interior shots are not provided. The passenger’s seat is shown but not the drivers. Although the car may have seen some sun, from what is provided we can assume the upholstery is presentable and usable.

Although some may disagree, the Vega package looks to be attractively designed to late ’60s proportions of a long nose and short tail. It seems to wear its larger bumpers in a more stylish manner than most cars of the era. It is too bad the original fuel injection system was not retained and stored for historical purposes.  There may be better choices for investment purposes, and modern technology may have surpassed the Cosworth design, but for economical fun, it could be hard to beat. It is always best to start off with the most rust free example you can find, and here is one. What do Barn Finds readers think?

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Comments

  1. Rock On

    For $4,500 I would stuff a small block Chevy with aluminum heads, intake and water pump in it. Then drive it like you stole it. Pack the Cosworth four banger away for historical purposes.

    Like 7
    • slickb

      Or maybe, drop it in a lake
      LOL :) :)

      Like 6
  2. Paul Staskowski

    I owned several Vegas back in the late 70’s, early 80’s. I actually really liked them and always wanted a Cosworth. This is a nice vehicle, but it will take the right buyer. Lots of fun for cheap!

    Like 4
  3. Dutch 1960

    Between this site and Bring a Trailer, I think every Cosworth Vega ever built has been cycled through about 3 or 4 times by now. People really saved these things and scrapped the garden variety Vegas. The way it is going, decontenting the Cosworth parts from the car in favor of an SBC might make it more valuable!

    The CVs still do look good after all these years.

    Like 4
    • Paul

      One sold last month at Barret Jackson for over $23,000 mint low mile car and another went for over $8000 for an average driver so they are coming up in value finally. Mine is an average lower mile (43k) original paint car and I enjoy driving and showing it. Picked up 4 trophies last year with it. Mine is also a rare Orange 1976 Cosworth 1 of 100 so it stands out more than a black car.

      Like 8
      • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

        I always thought they only came in black. Don’t think I’ve ever seen one in any other color.

      • Jeff

        I had one that was green! Wish that I still had it!

  4. scottymac

    “…sales never lived up to GM expectations.” When you charge twice (or more) as much as a Vega GT, maybe that’s not so surprising. Fellow near me had a CV for sale, wanted to buy that for car shows along with my Corvair and the wife’s Fiero to create a GM Hall of Shame. Corvair, oil leaks; Vega, rust; Fiero, catching fire. Say what you will about Pintos, at least you had to run into them to get them to explode. Fieros spontaneously ignited driving down the road!

    Like 3
    • Paul

      By 1975 the rust issue on the Vega was no worse than the average American built car. My 1976 Cosworth has 43k miles and virtually no rust except the battery tray. The doors close like a new car and it runs and handles great. Wish we could post photos here to show you.

      Like 4
      • Gray Wolf

        Worked in a Chevy dealership during the Vega run. For you to be able to sell Cosworth, you had to purchase special tools thru Kent-Moore at a crazy price! I believe you had to have at least one technician trained to perform repairs. Our dealer decided it wasn’t worth the time and money for a limited edition vehicle. Good choice, not only did this engine have a performance issue, most of the Vega’s suffered deck shrinkage and blown headgaskets. They offered a fix to replace the engine block. Needless to say we had over 18 cars on our lot waiting for back ordered parts. Some people traded them in for hardly anything and moved on. Ended up with a fleet of inop vehicles!

        Like 2
    • Jim Caron

      Hahahaha! I like your sense of humor lol !

  5. Paul

    Gray Wolf, you have a few things wrong but are correct on the Kent Moore tools. I worked a mile from Kent Moore and they were a customer of mine. The Cosworth did not suffer the head gasket problems of the reg Vega due to the fact it has an aluminum head not a cast iron as on the Vega 140 ci. The different expansion rate of cast vs aluminum caused problems. The Cosworth will rev to 7000 in a heartbeat and was one of the fastest cars in production in 75-56. Never heard of deck shrinkage on a Cosworth and before emissions detuning it was running around 200 hp, way higher output per cube than almost any engine. Also the very first use of electronic fuel injection was a learning curve for technicians.

    Like 6
    • Gray Wolf

      Paul, you are probably correct on the Cosworth because we never sold any as I stated. They made their horsepower at the higher rpm which did work for the streets. Yes they could rev at higher rpm, but not very useful on the street. Got to drive one and not impressed! You could drive a regular Corvair and then drive a factory turbo Corvair and there was a big difference! That’s just comparing driving experiances.

      Like 1
      • Paul

        I have owned 11 Vega’s and Monza’s. Of them 2 were new Vega GT’s and 3 were Cosworth’s. The Cosworth works on the street developing power from 2500-7500 rpm. I drive mine in traffic all the time with no problems. Where it is lacking is on the highway if you only have a 4 spd. With a 3.73 gear it winds 3800 @ 70 mph. That’s why they brought out the 5 spd option in 76. The car was the best handling in it’s class beating all contenders domestic and import in 1976. With it’s oversized sway bars f&r, heavier springs and torque bar rear suspension it was cutting edge for 1975-76. First domestic dual overhead cam 4 cyl, first electronic fuel injection and first factory stainless tubular header.

        Like 4
  6. Gray Wolf

    I believe if GM had more time to develop the Vega, it would be a rocket ship! Handling was never the issue, it was superb! GM thought they were going to get about 50hp more than they got and came close to the cost of a Corvette. The bad news was the horsepower was the same as a ’71 Vega with the optional carb! Texas had a large Cosworth show and put them on a Dyno and got 99hp. Don’t get me wrong, I think the Cosworth and GT Vega were a great looking car, I just wish they had more time to refine it and address the rust issue.

    Like 2
    • Paul

      Having owned 2 new Vega GTs a 72 hatch 4 spd and a 73 Kamback 4 spd plus 3 Cosworths I can tell you that the 20 hp over the GT’s 2 bbl engine is 22% more and where the GT’s engine fell flat at anything over 4800 rpm the Cosworth is still pulling at 7000 rpm. The GT was 90hp vs the Cosworth ‘s 110hp. So 99 at the wheels is more like 115 at the crank. Before being detuned by the feds smog restraints it was pulling upwards of 180 hp. The 76 Camaro 305 V8 (2.5X the Cosworth in cubic inches) only made 140 hp. Even the 350 was only rated at 165 hp. BTW the rust issue was resolved by 1975 and no worse than the average US built car in that time period. Mine is almost rust free with 43K miles on it

      Like 1
      • Gray Wolf

        After 1970 the performance of most cars fell on there face, what a shame! Plastic pieces caused many rattles and squeaks, the sun played havoc on it as well. I owed a ‘Spirit Of 76″ version, owner gave up on it. It was in great shape, just a low oil pressure fuel cut-off switch was the problem. Had too many cars, but I couldn’t keep it. Sold it to a collector who was going to put it away. Still have some extra ’76” emblems and Vega factory repair manuals.

        Like 2
  7. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    Auction ended with 0 bids.

    Like 1
    • Paul

      The 1975 cars 2061 were all black cars but part way thru the 1976 run of 1447 cars GM authorized 8 additional colors so some colors were on as few as 25 Cosworth. Orange was on a little less than 100 cars. Mine is still original paint but has lots of small touch ups so someday it may be restored with new paint. There is no rust except where the battery tray is due to un sealed batteries of the time splashing out acid.

      Like 1
  8. Allen Member

    A friend of mine bought a CV in the late ’80s. I drove it and it was scary fast. Really a ball to drive. I also remember driving a new Vega in about ’71. My conclusion was that at last Americans had manufactured a car that really felt European. I really enjoyed it. Then I saw two-year old Vegas with rust holes – of course that was in Rochester NY – rather the buckle of the rust belt. But the early Vegas failed so alarmingly, I wonder if that alone doomed the Cosworths to sales failures before they got out the gate.

    ‘ Loved Scottymac’s uproariously funny post, but I don’t think I would mention Pinto in the same breath with Vega. I recall renting a Pinto once in about 1973. It steered like a truck. The whole thing felt like it was designed by a committee – one that never met.

    Like 1
    • Paul

      The rust issue on the 71-73 Vega was due to a bad idea of submerging the whole car in acid to clean off the oil residue before heading to paint. There were pockets in the upper front fenders that never got rinsed so acid was eating the fender away sitting on the dealers lot. A redesign and new rust proofing treatments in 1974 and again in 76 was a huge fix. I bought my 1st Cosworth used in 1977 and had a friend with a Mustang II King Cobra with a 302 v8. My Cosworth was faster and handled better than his Mustang II. For a 70s car it handles great and is fun to drive, if I want fast then I jump into my Z28 LOL. I get more thumbs up and awards with the Cosworth than the Z28 because it’s so unique.

    • Paul

      I love taking mine to car shows everyone has a story lol Seems like the judges like original survivors as I won 4 trophies last year :o)

  9. Scott

    I had four Vegas and never had a single problem with any of them. I must say that they were all special ordered with the HD cooling system. the radiators in them was about three times bigger than the stock “postage stamp size”. The Cosworth I had was number 0064. I put a little over 100K on it as my daily driver and I loved it. There was nobody home under 3800 rpm but from there to red line (and often a bit beyond) the little thing flew!

    Like 1
    • Paul

      You bet they fly and I wasn’t a stranger to no low end power because when I owned #210 I also owned a 67 Z28 with the little 302 that would wind way past 7000. I have also owned #2466 and now own #3087 a 1 of 100 Orange Cosworth all original including paint with only 43k miles on it.

  10. Scott

    I know what you mean about the Z28. I special ordered an RPO Z28 early 67. When it was delivered it didn’t have any Z28 emblems on it. Everywhere the later ones had Z28 it had 302 emblems. No stripes either, it was silver with a black interior, very understated. I ordered it with 4:11 gears in it and after driving it for awhile I was glad I did. The ones I drove with 3:73 seemed sluggish by comparison. A little tough on gas but it was 67 so who cared. Sold it to go back to school. Wish I still had it but in retrospect I guess the degree did more for me than the car would have…

    • Paul

      The 67 Z28’s all had no id tags except for the Camaro badge on the fenders. In 68 they got 302 and the Z28 badges. Yours must have been a stripe delete order as the stripes were part of the RPO Z28 package. Mine was restored and is on the registry list. They are coming down in value having hit highs of #150K now down to around $100k. Wish I had kept mine longer than 9 years but we started a family and it was one too many cars to have :o( here’s a pix of it circa 1997

  11. Scott

    I did order it without stripes as I didn’t want anything on it that would make it stand out. It damn near looked like a taxi it was so plain. At the time I lived in the Atlanta area and the police were just a bit unfriendly. I had headers on it running through stock pipes and mufflers and still would get stopped for noise violations occasionally. I ordered it through my brother who at that time was the plant superintendent at the Lakewood assembly plant in Atlanta. He was personal friends with the super in Norwood plant in Cincinnati as he had worked under him for a few years before being promoted to the Atlanta position. Between them both they were able to get my car fast tracked. I love the photo of your car, it’s a real beauty. I had a few of my friends that had the butternut yellow 68s and they really stood out, especially with the stripes, Not exactly what I wanted to do.

    Like 1
    • Paul

      The cops did give me a hard time so much so I ended up painting it blue in 1977 to throw them off my scent. By then it was loud and wicked but was my summer toy not a DD.

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