Rust-Free Survivor: 1975 Chevrolet Vega Cosworth

The Cosworth was an attempt by Chevrolet to inject some excitement into their Vega range, and just how successful this was depended on who you talked to. Certainly, when you look at the horsepower and performance figures of the Cosworth in a 2020 context, they aren’t that special. However, in 1975, this was a car that received glowing reviews from the specialist motoring press. In addition, a previous owner has taken some steps to extract markedly improved performance from the little four in this particular vehicle. If that sounds intriguing to you, then you will find the Vega located in Moline, Illinois, and listed for sale here on eBay. With bidding currently sitting at $3,650, the reserve hasn’t been met.

“Any color as long as it’s black.” That was a line that was incorrectly attributed to Henry Ford when describing the color options for the Model T, but it proved to be true for the 1975 Cosworth Vega. In addition to Black paint, they wore gold striping and decals, all of which were quite reminiscent of the Lotus Formula 1 cars of the period. This one is said to be original, and while the body only sports a few fairly minor dings, the paint is definitely deteriorating to the point where a repaint is going to be on the cards. It also features some nice touches, including a factory rear spoiler, and the addition of some anodized gold exterior trim, which was a dealer fitment. One of the greatest weaknesses of the Vega was rust, and here at Barn Finds, we’ve seen more than one example that has dissolved like a soluble aspirin. Thankfully, someone chose to rustproof this car before it could leave the dealership and all of the original yellow “Rusty Jones” plugs remain in place. The owner identifies a single small rust bubble in the passenger side rear fender, but he claims that this has been present for a number of years and that it hasn’t deteriorated any further in all of that time. The floors themselves are free of rust issues and are said to be rock solid. In a Vega Cosworth, that is extremely good news, and the previous rustproofing should help it to remain that way.

It was what resided in the engine bay of the Vega that was supposed to make this car so special. Developed in collaboration with Cosworth, the Vega’s original alloy engine block found itself equipped with a twin-cam Cosworth cylinder head, electronic fuel injection, and stainless steel exhaust headers. All engines were handbuilt in a “clean room,” and as a result of all of this development and hard work, the 1,994cc 4-cylinder engine produced 110hp. However, the engine in this Vega has received some tweaks by the previous owner, and I suspect that its power output is probably well above that original figure. The original pistons have been replaced with new items that push compression up to 11.0-to-1. The camshafts have also received an upgrade, and while it isn’t clear just what impact this has had on the dyno, I suspect that you would feel the difference when you buried the right foot. Backing the Cosworth four is a 4-speed Saginaw manual transmission, while the rear end is a 3.73 limited-slip unit. The bad news is that the Vega doesn’t currently run, but this appears to be due to little more than a failed fuel pump. The owner has an upgraded replacement that will be included in the sale, along with the instructions on how to fit and configure this new pump.

The interior of the Vega is one area that is nicely preserved. From the black upholstery through to the gold machine-turned dash, it is all in very good condition. While it isn’t visible, the headliner is said to be in virtually faultless, while the dash cap appears to be free of cracks. There are a couple of issues that the owner identifies, but these don’t show in the photos. Apparently there is an issue with the armrests where they fit to the doors, with some pulling of the vinyl in this area. However, there is a possibility that this might be able to be stretched back into place. The previous owner also cut the rear trims to fit a set of aftermarket speakers. These remain in place, and the owner has made no attempt to remove the speakers or replace the trim because he says that they don’t look out of place. Whether that remains the case will be a decision for the next owner to make.

While it might not be completely original or perfect, this 1975 Vega Cosworth has one huge attribute in its favor, and that is the fact that it is free of significant rust. With only 2,061 examples being built in 1975, those inherent rust issues mean that these have become increasingly rare with each passing year. It will need a repaint at some point, but once this has been completed and the new fuel pump has been fitted, the potential horsepower boost that this particular car has received means that it holds the promise of some pretty entertaining motoring. Good original examples can now command prices of $15,000 or more, so depending on where the reserve has been set, this could be a great little car to own.

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Comments

  1. Jim

    The Vega was a very poorly made vehicle that rusted to beat the band. However, it truly was a very good looking car if one ignores the previous fact. I’d love to get one in as good a condition as this one.

    Like 5
  2. zythos

    It is a prepubescent Firebird. Never liked the tail lights on

    these. Still looks good though. Those seats look mint from

    that hazy photo.

    • Poppapork

      To me it looks like Opel Manta B (another 70ties GM coupe) with different headlights

  3. JOHN Member

    The seller mentions in the ad “GM Rusty Jones plugs” GM didn’t do this type of rustproofing, but dealers likely did. I doubt that this is a Rusty Jones application, but Ziebart, who is still in business. They used bright yellow plugs. My parents Ziebarted their 67 Buick and their 72 Cutlass, we lived in the Chicago suburbs where you could hear cars rusting! I have a 70 El Camino SS that was Ziebarted when new, the car was repainted when I got it, most of the plugs were MIA. I contacted Ziebart about replacements, but without a receipt, they would not supply replacement yellow plugs, but they did send me a bag of black generic plugs for free.

    Like 1
  4. KC John

    I prefer my Vega with a healthy small block but remember seeing one of these at the dealership as a kid. They seem to show up for sale pretty regular. I’m curious though. No one seems to discuss if they live up to the hype. How do they run and drive? What’s it like to run one through the gears? Anyone have real world experience with one?

    Like 1
    • JOHN Member

      V8 Vega’s were the rage in the 70’s, they were everywhere. A bit nose heavy, but for straight line acceleration they were great, with of course a narrowed 12 bolt or 9″. There were a lot of swaps with the Buick aluminum V6, better balanced car, and they didn’t tear things up too bad. There were the occasional big block cars on the street, but most were small blacks. Most Vega’s you see today are at the strip, still very competitive. Personally, I like the 71-73 body style more, especially the GT cars. They were nicely equipped with the styled steel heels, the A70x13 Polyglass tires, suspension enhancements, the single stripe a very good looking dash over the base models. Many had the center portion of the bumper cut out to mimic the 70-73 Camaro RS front end treatment, you could cut the bumper, and you could buy end caps to put over the cut portion to complete the look. I would not mind a Vega GT, hmmm, maybe with that aluminum LS2 I have kicking around under the hood??? Even a totally stock one wold make a cool cruise night car, you just don’t see them, although your washer, dryer, refrigerator and chain link fence may be old Vega’s!

      Like 1
      • Claudio

        Back in those days they only had the heavy small block BUT now the used LS engines are cheap and plentiful
        A salvage yard can supply pretty much everyneeded to hot rod on the cheap and get great performance compared to the iron duke or cosworth engines
        Modern stuff on the cheap would get a big smile for the builder
        Always like these but i am a topless man and do not wish to have anything but anymore…

  5. Bbob

    I had 3 Vegas great cars ,never have i ever seen a cosworth

    Like 1
    • Lynn Member

      Chevy used to advertise the Cosworth as one Vega got the price of two.

  6. fran

    Cool, but I did a quick glance and I thought it was a Trans-Am….LOL
    Mini-me! LOL

  7. ACZ

    He has the fuel pump but hasn’t installed it?? Who’s kidding who? The car doesn’t run. Count on it needing a complete engine if you can find one. No telling what happened with someone trying to hot rod it. Then there’s the ECM…..where do you get software for the supposed changes? What you have here is a Vega without an engine. Nothing more.

    Like 2
  8. Andrew Franks

    Bid currently at over $4000.00 which is too high. I don’t know what the Seller has in mind for reserve but whatever it is, I would pass. Also I think I’d have a problem getting past smog issues in my State. Having said that, they are interesting cars as collectibles, and since I’m on the Left Coast I can find one reasonably priced, put a Buick v-6 in it and enjoy. Actually that can be done with any Vega.

    Like 1
    • ken echols

      i dropped a Buick -6 in my 74 Vega GT, bolted right to the 4 speed bell housing, and motor mounts, what a great swap, was fun to drive too.

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