Little Survivor: 1976 Vega Kammback


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Fancy name, Chevrolet Vega Kammback Estate, but does the car appeal to you? The price is currently under $4K, but the reserve hasn’t been met here on ebay. Good thing the listing has four days to go. If you’re keen on this one, go have a look in Phoenix, AZ, which at least has the virtue of being sunny and nice at this time of the year, and thus a nice place for a mini-vacation even if you don’t buy the car. But as far as cars go, you’ll find a dry and thus rust-free chassic when you have your peek at this two-door wagon.

The Vega sold from 1970-77 (1971-77 model years) in various body styles. You could get a two-door hatch, a notchback, a wagon, and a sedan delivery, which is what we have here. Each model came with an anemic 140-CID (2.3 liter) four-cylinder engine. Coming in the shadow of the muscle car era, there was nothing desirable about this as a collectable vehicle, but now with the shine of time added on, apparently, that has changed. This model has the factory five-speed, just under 100,000 original miles, and the added benefit of a cassette player and air conditioning. There’s no word as to whether the latter functions, so let’s assume it does. You might still be on the hook to convert it to current standards.

Note that for the particular jalopy we have here, things apparently fell apart in 1987, at which time this car was parked. Now, three decades later, the value of these cars, and others, has caught up, and this owner is ready to part with it, should the right money show itself.

The photos show what might be an original paint job, though experts need to weigh in on whether the paint is original when the data plate is completely body color. They body looks original, and the faux wood body panels speak of a time when such adornments were—for some reason—not read as ridiculous. Certainly if they’re original, you’d want to retain them. This one also benefits from original paperwork. There would have been a day  when the only  cars like this worth preserving were ones that your actual grandmother left to you. These days, someone else’s granny can be the source of such artifacts. If you’re feeling the call of this yellow and fake-wood mini-wagon, then grab on. Just realize that it was parked in the 1980s for a reason, and sorting that out will be your first responsibility, and expense.

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  1. Rex Kahrs Rex KahrsMember

    Maybe it was parked in the 80s because it’s a crappy car. There! Sorted!

    Like 11
  2. HoA Howard A ( since 2014)Member

    Well, put me with the 7 people that liked Vegas, no not that VEGAS, never been, the car. Okay, the motor will go down in history, but the actual car was exactly what America needed at the time, and not go the import route. Pinto too, Gremlin,,not so much. The ’76 Vega was actually quite an improved car, with a claimed 300 improvements. The 5 speed, and the “Dura-Built” motor, with hydraulic lifters, improved cooling, HEI ignition, better valve seals, a major cause of failure, even an “add coolant” light, the epitome of the “idiot light”. Didn’t matter, once an American has a bad experience, not much will change their minds, and GM knew it, hence the Monza the next year.
    I like it, especially the wagon, and ditch the motor and a slew of “modern” motors could work. The Pinto was pretty bland, the Gremlin, well, no brainer there, but the Vega was a nicely styled car, and they were all thrown away like coffee grounds, it’s amazing to see one like this at all. Cool find.

    Like 22
    • HoA Howard A ( since 2014)Member

      Wait, Monza was ’75, but still destined and always known, as the Vega replacement. Not quite sure what the Chevette was.

      Like 4
      • 370zpp 370zppMember

        Many of us are still not quite sure what the Chevette was.

        Like 10
      • stembridge

        Development of the Monza actually started in 1971, well before Vega’s early issues were common knowledge – it was intended to be an additional H-body ‘premium’ offering slotted above the Vega. Both V8 and rotary engine powerplants were considered for Vega (early production Vegas had dual exhaust reliefs in the transmission crossmember), but only Delorean’s Cosworth collaboration made the cut, and being two years late to market and twice the price of a Vega GT made it irrelevant, especially after Cosworth bowed out of the racing engine program due to durability issues.

        And you’re absolutely correct that Vega was fairly well sorted by 1976, it was certainly as reliable and durable as many other domestic (and import) offerings. But the reputational damage was already done by that point…

        Like 4
      • Steve

        I know what the Chevette was but I can’t say it in mixed company.

        Like 1
      • Bob

        A joke. As in, “hey man. Bought a Vette this weekend”.

        Like 0
  3. angliagt angliagtMember

    It was a gutless wonder.

    Like 4
  4. Rex Kahrs Rex KahrsMember

    I’ll once again tell my Vega Kammback story, which explains my disdain for the car, aside from the fact that it’s crap.

    In 1976 I was 18 years old, and our neighbor had a beautiful 1958 Olds he’d bought new. In ’76, the old bachelor’s Olds was also 18 years old, and it was time for a new car. Mind you, this guy was a meticulous bachelor and a chemist by profession, so the car was perfect.

    He knew I was looking for my first car, and he asked me one day if I’d be interested in the Olds. I would have traded my Mother for that car, (and that holds to this day) , but I digress. We agreed on a price of $300, and now I just had to convince my folks to loan me 300 to buy the car, which they were willing to do.

    A week later the old guy pulls up in a brand-spanking new Vega Kammback, the same color as this pile of junk. So I mosey over there and ask “Where’s the Oldsmobile?”. He tells me that he traded it in on the Vega, because he was concerned that if anything went wrong with the Olds, it might have affected the neighborly relations with my folks. I protested that it wouldn’t have been a problem, but of course the car was gone. I was crestfallen to say the least. I wanted that Olds so badly.

    Even at 18 I could appreciate the Olds, and realized what an enormous step down that Vega was.

    Like 18
    • HoA Howard A ( since 2014)Member

      I never tire of that story, and resonates how a lot of people felt, and some still do( cough). The Vega was a classic “Americans caught with their pants down” moment, of which there have been many in our history. Small crap boxes were unknown to us, unchartered territory, and I’m sure the Europeans had a good laugh in their pubs, “foolish Americans, totally unprepared for the future”,,and they were right. I’m not my old man completely, and I never cared for big cars and was glad to see them go. We can all look back in hindsight( the best sight) and think of what they should have done differently, I read, the Vega motor went back to 1966 for development, and I think they simply had too much into it to cancel.
      Again, I have to respectfully disagree, they weren’t crap, just different, and that’s always a tough sell to Americans.

      Like 6
      • nlpnt

        It was GM hubris. They could’ve spent a couple million putting an aluminum crossflow head on the iron-block Chevy II four-cylinder and called it good, but somehow ended up with the most expensive and compromised solution in a package that still didn’t work as well as a Datsun 510.

        Like 4
      • JustPassinThru

        GM Hubris, exactly. There was a lot of that in those years…the Vega was the first obvious such, but it was followed up by such classics, as THC 200s in Impalas and Caprices; later, FWD X bodies that were made of such substandard steel that they rusted through even in California and Oregon. To say nothing of the brake issues, and more general problems.

        The Vega should have been a winner. The original 1971 style was right on – a throwback to earlier design language, with headlights in fender pods instead of in the grille. Perfect proportions, and those who drove it, pronounced it the best of that genre.

        That didn’t last. Corporate GM forced that ill-designed engine, done outside the Chevrolet design conduit, onto Chevrolet and into the Vega. The engine itself was obviously designed by a committe of amateurs: The aluminum block, which at that time was a technology with teething issues…and then mounted to an iron head? Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot, over!

        A scaled-down Chevy II engine should have done it…and done it better than the later Pontiac Iron Duke, which was not the same; which was heavier and weaker than the old Chevy II mill. Making the II engine out of aluminum, or with an aluminum head…yes, and a bigger radiator…and a little thicker or higher-grade body steel…it could have become a legend, like the Chevy II/Nova itself did.

        They have no one to blame but themselves.

        This one? I like the wagon look. I no like the bumper-car era. Hard pass…GLWTA.

        Like 4
    • Yblocker

      Traded a 58 Oldsmobile for a Vega? Apparently that chemist spent too many years exposed to chemicals.

      Like 7
    • Frank

      I had a Pontiac Astre wagon, two window stickers, it had every option available I believe. Nice little car that I bought off the old lady original owner. I put 60,000 on it when it died. Put a back haft in it, four link and a Hilborn injected 427.

      Like 2
    • DON

      And sad to say, that Olds probably went straight to the junkyard . Nobody in the md 70s wanted a huge v8 car, let alone an old one . My father traded in his dead mint 75 Montego MX 2 door in 1979 on a new Slant 6 Aspen ,as the Merc was a gas hog with the 351M . The Merc sat in the back of the dealership lot for 2 years before it, and other big cars were picked up by a local junkyard

      Like 2
      • Yblocker

        Not everybody gave in, my dad bought a new Monterey in 73, great car, life was good on the farm.

        Like 4
    • Lothar... of the Hill People

      Rex, that sucks! Sorry the neighbor didn’t follow through with your verbal agreement. He probably did a little more damage to the “neighborly relationship” by not honoring his agreement then he ever could have by selling it to you. People like that should be tarred and feathered.

      My ex-girlfriend was leasing cars for years and years at a time (I told her it was “fleecing” but that didn’t stop her… she listened to nothing I said, thus the “ex” in the ex-girlfriend). She didn’t use the cars much either so she always turned them in well below the allowable / planned mileage. When it came time to get a new lease going, I asked if she’d give me just one chance to buy the last car, for cash, based on what the dealer was going to allow her to purchase it for. I said I’d pay enough so she wouldn’t lose one penny. She could’ve said no and I’d have accepted that but she agreed to let me know before she signs and give me a shot.

      She drove into the driveway with her brand new, leased vehicle 2 weeks later, told me she didn’t want to mess w/ a private sale and never told me a dollar amount.

      I don’t know why I’m going on about this but it is a reminder that we didn’t belong together I guess. Never trust the pretty ones. :)

      PS- I like the picture… Groucho was a genius!

      Like 2
    • Rick R

      that Olds lead sled was a heck of a ride back in it’s day and still would be today!!!

      Like 1
    • Chris Cornetto

      Ugh! A 58 Olds, is there anything cooler, a 59 Cadillac. I lived in a apartment complex when I was a youngster. I delivered newspapers and an older single guy had a tattered white 59 Caddy convertible. The car was faded cracked lacquer white. The top was shrunk up with a brown rear window, rust here and there. I wanted that car so bad. That car always ran, no matter what the weather. One day I see a 75 impala red white and blue addition. He traded the 59 in on that car and they gave him 50 bucks for the Caddy. He laughed when I told him I wasn’t kidding that I wanted that car. Vegas rusted faster than that Caddy could drink a gallon of gas.

      Like 0
  5. Maggy

    Buddy of mine had a 75 Astre.We used to call it the Ashtray. Pile of junk.

    Like 4
  6. Evan

    I mean… if you have some sort of resto-mod in mind, this appears to be a cheap and clean place to start. And if it was me, I’d go for the driveline from a Saturn Sky.

    Like 3
  7. Yblocker

    Some things, like a fine wine, get better with age. Vega’s don’t.

    Like 5
  8. Bill Pressler

    The ’76 Vega is what the ’71 should’ve been. People forget that the mags all raved about the Vega compared to anything else in its size and price class. Really. The fact that this car looks this good at 100K miles should tell anybody that.

    The ’76 had by-far the longest engine warranty in the industry, and the body was much-improved.

    I’d enjoy this car, just to stick my tongue out at all the very-predictable (yawn) naysayers.

    Like 8
    • Psychofish2

      Motor Trend’s Car of the Year. Car & Drivers “Best” lists several years in a row.

      Like 3
      • Yblocker

        Yeah, pretty sad, but consider the source.

        Like 4
      • Bill Pressler

        Also owners polls, believe it or not.

        Like 1
  9. CBS

    I remember these very well, Because the people who lived down the street on the culdesac were chevy people . When they changed the oil in there cars they did it on the street and let the oil go down into the storm drain. Even as a 7 or 8 year old I knew that was not right.

    Like 0
  10. K.Pritchard

    Perfect candidate for a 4.3 V6 or even a turbo 4cyl out of a Chevy Cruze !!!

    Like 0
  11. Don Homuth

    Are there any photos of the interior iknstrumentation?

    Like 0
  12. Cdice

    I bought a 73 Vega GT Kammback new. Orange with black interior 4 spd. and white letter fiberglass-belted tires. I really liked the looks of the 2-door wagon. I was in college and
    including it’s roof rack it could carry all of my friends and stuff going back and forth to school…including my JBL 100s. No air and only an AM radio but that was really the norm back then in the Midwest. Local FM album rock station gave out free FM converters so put one in the car. Owned for 3 years, never had a problem.

    Like 5
  13. Steve

    I was getting married in ’75 and was going to sell my ’68 Corvette roadster (don’t ask) to buy a ’75 Vega Kammback. My brother, being mechanically inclined, talked me out of it and told me to buy a Pinto wagon if I insisted on purchasing a little compact. Good advice…but I still like the design of the Vega better!

    Like 0
    • Yblocker

      That was good advice, the Pinto was much better than a Vega. But then, anything was better than a Vega.

      Like 0
  14. RalphP

    Judging by the ’87 Luke AFB sticker on the front bumper, was probably stored while owner was overseas on assignment and left there.

    Like 0
  15. Claudio

    The malaise era produced a lot of garbage but its been a while now and we have many parts and knowledge to make these better
    A new engine , trans combo and this little thing becomes cool
    Take a malaise camaro , replace the engine with a efi and change that transmission to an overdrive and all is fine and dandy If you like the body style then go for it , the aftermarket and internet has made these non issues unless you want to whine …

    Like 0
  16. TA

    The story on eBay claims it was driven to Barrett Jackson and this is a “must have” for any Chevy guy. lol My guess is the seller didn’t get any bites on this turd sandwich here so lets search for dupes on eBay.

    Like 1
  17. Rick R

    If it wasn’t a two door hard top with a v 8 just wasn’t my kind of ride!

    Like 0
  18. Brad chipman

    I had two vega’s. Both were V8 cars. One had 400 sbc and the other 454. I know I’m in the minority but loved both cars.

    Like 0
    • Rick R

      I seen a few back in the day with v 8 power just took a lot to make them right. When they went with v 8 power than a trany a full rear axle and pretty much all the suspension.

      Like 0
      • Brad chipman

        Yes I had full boxed frames,12 bolt rear narrowed and half tubs in one and Dana 60 full tubbed in the other. A lot of work

        Like 0
  19. PRA4SNW

    No sale at a high bid of $4,494.
    Seller needs a head scan to see if there is any brain matter in there.

    Like 1

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