Ready To Restore: 1975 Chevrolet Vega Cosworth

By the mid-1970s, American car makers were really beginning to hurt. A combination of tightening emission regulation saw the muscle car segment begin to shrink as performance figures dwindled, much to buyer dismay. Further compounding this pain was the Arab oil crisis. Fuel shortages were common, and price rises were an inevitability. It was against this backdrop that some creative thinking was required if companies were going to retain their customers who were still seeking performance in a smaller and more economical package. One of the cars to emerge from this set of circumstances was the Chevrolet Vega Cosworth. It combined light vehicle weight with reasonable performance and fuel economy. This 1975 Vega is a tired looking example, but it does appear to still be a solid one. Located in Winchester, Kentucky, you will find it listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding has currently reached $2,051 in a No Reserve auction.

It isn’t unusual to see these Cosworths beginning to look tired today, and we’ve seen our share of them here at Barn Finds. While there is primer on the passenger side fender and door, the owner does provide a photo of the inside of the door, and it does seem to be free of accident damage or rust repairs. It looks like someone may have commenced the restoration project, and have then thrown it in the “too hard” basket. It looks like there might be a small area of rust beginning to appear in the lower fender on the driver’s side, and possibly around the rear wheel opening on the same side, but the rest of the car looks to be quite clean. Maybe this won’t be a particularly difficult restoration project.

This is the only photo of the interior that we get, and the first thing that grabbed my attention was the shifter knob. That needs to head straight to the trash can. The owner says that the interior will need to be replaced, but the dash, pad, and wheel all look like they are in pretty good and original. Unfortunately, the gold finish on the engine-turned dash has worn away over the years, but there are companies that can restore this. Thankfully, the numbered Cosworth badge on the dash is still present, as these are a pretty important item if the car is to retain value.

Under the hood is the fantastic little 1,999cc 4-cylinder engine, with the Cosworth twin-cam cylinder head. This was what the Cosworth Vega was all about, which was to extract the maximum performance and economy from a smaller capacity engine. This engine was assisted in this area by the fitting of stainless steel exhaust headers as standard on all vehicles. Chevrolet was able to extract 110hp from the engine, which was sent to the rear wheels via a 4-speed manual transmission. While those horsepower figures might not seem that impressive by today’s standards, it still stood up well in 1975. Mind you, that extra performance came at a cost, with the sale price of a Cosworth Vega being nearly double that of a standard Vega, and only around $900 below the price of a Corvette. The good news with this Vega is that the car runs and drives quite nicely, and distinctive and unique items such as the tubular headers are still present. The bad news is that the original fuel-injection has made way for a pair of Webber carburetors. If originality (and compliance with emissions laws) is what you are seeking, then a replacement system would need to be found.

With an original intention of building 5,000 cars, the Cosworth Vega had a real shot at being a sales success, as it really was the right car at the right time. Unfortunately for Chevrolet, the oil crisis eased, and this, combined with the high purchase price for the car, sounded the death knell for the Cosworth Vega. With only 3,508 cars produced during the 1975/76 model years, these should be a really collectible car. They haven’t taken off in the market, but any car that came from the factory with an engine hand-built in a clean room certainly deserves to become a classic.

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Comments

  1. Bakyrdhero

    Hey we found the missing steering wheel from the 79 Camaro RS last week…

    Like 12
  2. GTiDave

    That’s a bit rough. Good luck finding the fuel injection.

    Like 1
    • Paul

      Runs better with the webers so leave them on.

      Like 1
  3. Ghostnote

    Looks like Bubba parked this in the lower 40 for a decade or two. Rough, but looks solid and largely complete, so it wouldn’t be crazy expensive to spiff up. The “Webber” carbs are an upgrade, IMHO. If the price stays low, someone may get a good buy.

    Like 3
  4. Sandy Claws

    This, or for just a little more, a new Vette. Hmmm, what should I do?

    Like 5
    • MIKE KIEFFER

      You are only going to get a vette from the crap years for that price

      Like 4
  5. cunnanm

    My cousin had one in college in the late 80’s. I thought it would be worth a lot of money and asked her to tell my uncle that I would like it when they sold it. I’m glad that never happened!

    • Paul

      A super clean blue one sold for over $25,000 at BJ Phoenix in January plus a average condition one sold for $8500 same auction

  6. Tirefriar

    This is actually a perfect canvas to do a resto mod on. Even though 42 dcoe8 carbs may be a bit too much street driving, there is plenty of good news about the Webers we see here. First, these are Italian made, not Spanish. Second, 42 dcoe8 came stock on old Maserati engines and therefore are highly sought after by the tifosi. Matched set can be traded for a nearly immaculate set of 40 dcoe. I would also look into matching the cam.

    Swapping in a 5 speed from a ’76 would be another area of “improvement”.

    I am not a Vega Cosworth expert so if anyone else can recommend some upgrades, please jump in.

    In case you want to argue returning it to stock, just go get a clean one for around $8k. Thats a lot less than what it would take to bring this one to similar condition, hence my thoughts on free range of mods. BTW, 1975 is the last smog exempt year in Commiefornia, another reason to take a close look at this one.

    Like 3
    • Paul

      Getting hard to find a clean one for under $10k, I know I wouldn’t take less than that for mine.

      Like 1
  7. 86_Vette_Convertible

    One of the guys in the car club has one he bought at one of the big car auctions a few years ago. I have not seen it in person (pictures only) but it looked pretty good to me. He definitely paid a lot more than this one is listed for but you get what you pay for.

    Like 2
  8. Steve

    I would love to see a Vega with a 6th gen 2.0T and a manual. This is not that car though. I would get it running right and drive it as is.

    • Paul

      NorCal built one like that and it plain screams, somewhere around 280 hp off a new 2.0 turbo with 6 speed :o)

  9. Bob

    I’d have spent the extra 900 bucks for the ‘Vette. I recall the writeup on these in R&T or MT…one of those. It said that, other than the engine, it was just a “Vega by Chevrolet.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

    • Paul

      The engine, all be it the 1st dual overhead cam 4 cylinder, 1st all aluminum, 1st Electronic Fuel injection and 1st standard stainless tube header was a lot better than the stock engine. In fact the HP/LB ratio beat the Vette and Mustangs. The suspension was very different than the Vega with a torque arm – panhard bar, larger ring gear, HD shocks, larger sway bars F&R and bigger brakes. Full gauge pack standard and 4 spd with 5 spd option. Having owned new Vega GT’s and now 3 diff Cosworth’s there is no comparison. Near neutral handling and 6500 rpm red line with standard 3.73 gear makes it a nimble fun little car the Vega GT only dreamed of being.

  10. Billy1

    This is 1 car I will say DON’T “LS swap this”

    Like 3

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