Sitting For Years: 1976 Chevrolet Vega

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Some cars beg to be nut-and-bolt restored, and some are vehicles that you just want to get everything working again and drive as they look, or maybe put a hotter drivetrain in them and keep them looking like, well, a junker. A lot of vehicles are somewhere between those ideas, such as this 1976 Chevrolet Vegas which is posted here on craigslist in Winchester, Tennessee. The seller is asking $2,250, here is the original listing, and thanks to Chuck F. for sending in this tip!

The Vega was made from 1970 for the 1971 model year, up until the end of the 1977 model year. Chevrolet reportedly made close to 300 improvements, or changes, for the 1976 Vegas, including adding more zinc rust protection in the doors and an “aluminum wax spray” inside the doors after painting to help with rust protection. Oddly enough, the doors on this Vega look rock solid: coincidence? This one is wearing factory full-wheel covers, a nice touch.

The company also gave the fenders more corrosion protection than ever before, and this particular “Antique White” Vega hatchback does look pretty good as far as the body goes. We don’t see the rear of this car, unfortunately, which is unusual. I was hoping to see inside that hatchback area and see it with the hatch open.

The seller says that this Vega has been sitting for several years, and you can see what often happens with vehicles that sit for a while, they sometimes become places to store things. All of the stuff in this car may be actually from this car, such as the stereo sitting on the passenger seat, but I even store things in my stored vehicles, so I know the temptation. While a Borg-Warner five-speed manual was new in 1976, this car has a four-speed manual, which was a hair faster to 60 mph than the five-speed was, but the three-speed automatic was two seconds slower. Not that many people are worried about 0-60 times in a Vega. The driver’s seat will need some help, which shouldn’t be a big issue for any decent upholstery shop, and the back seat should be able to be cleaned up. I’d take the seats out and put in new carpet, but that’s just me.

The appropriately-dusty-and-dirty engine is Chevrolet’s “Dura-Built”, or 2.3-liter SOHC inline-four, which had between 70 and 80 horsepower and around 110 lb-ft of torque when new. This engine has hydraulic valve lifters as you’d find in a V8, but it was somewhat unusual for an overhead-cam engine. The seller says that this car is all original, untouched, and isn’t currently running. Any thoughts on this cheap-in-2023 Vega?

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  1. Moparman MoparmanMember

    Posting deleted.

    Like 2
  2. CadmanlsMember

    Well used?

    Like 1
  3. HoA Howard A ( since 2014)Member

    Apparently, there was a shred of merit to the “Dura-Built” motor. This is the 2nd ’76 Vega that even exists with original motor, so it must have been better. Again and again, the only way these will sell today, is if they are clean and operable, as a tribute to one of the poorest American cars made, but I don’t think there are many Vega collectors based on what great cars they were. Maybe,,it’s how collectors of odd cars accumulate their collections. Collecting what nobody else wants. Let’s see, scrap today, be about $200 bucks for this car, $210 might get it.

    Like 7
    • Jim

      We had a 76 Vega GT 5spd. that was awesome! It was peppy and economically sound. It replaced a 72 Opel Rally that I was sad to see go, but soon realized the silver GT was a great car. 80K miles in only 2 years and sold because it was out of warranty at 60K which was unheard of in those days. The mini Camaro we called it!

      Like 0
      • George BishopricMember

        Owners of Vegas who were happy with their cars are almost always the fortunate 1975-1977 models with the Durabilt 140. This was actually a decent car.

        1974 models seem a bit better……..but those who had ’71 and ’72 cars, like me, are still in therapy.

        The 1971 Vega is proof that GM management was an administrative nightmare, incapable of bringing what could have been a revolutionary vehicle to market.

        Like 1
  4. "Edsel" Al leonardMember

    One of the worst vehicles Chevrolet put on the road…I was always doing warranty work on them and putting “recall 87965” stickers on the door jam for almost continuous warranty campaigns..the aluminum block overheats constantly..very inexpensive car then…but worth less…..

    Like 3
    • Scotty GilbertsonAuthor

      Edsel Al, the ’76 and ’77 engines were vastly improved over the older engines, were you talking about the later engines?

      Like 3
      • "Edsel" Al leonardMember

        I worked at a GM dealership in Sarasota, Florida in 1978-9..seemed we were always seeing warrantied Vega’s in the shop….

        Like 2
    • GeorgeMember

      Did you work at the Altman Chevrolet dealership on Bay Road at Osprey?

      I lived less than a mile from there.

      You probably got to see my ’71. It was “Lemon Green”

      Like 0
  5. Stephen Coe

    So this junk is more than what I bought my new one in 76, I actually bought a 74 Vega for $900 bought a new engine at local dealer for $238.95 added a updated oil pump, a big radiator. Drove this car 12 years 258,000 miles. Used Amsoil at start. Also had a Cosworth Twin Cam😎😎😎😎

    Like 7
  6. Tracy

    My first car in 1984 except mine was brown.

    Like 2
  7. Rainer Beran

    These are great candidates for a 327 , 350 conversion at this price.

    Like 5
    • John S Dressler

      If you’re going to restore and drive a Vega (this car’s on my bucket list) it’s the only way to go. Beef up the drive train behind that small block Chevy and you’ll have an amazingly hot little bow tie to drive.

      Like 1
  8. GeorgeMember

    The Durabilt 140 (140 cubic inches = 2300 cc, probably fooled a few people) was vastly improved. A new head with improved cooling, a new head gasket design.Stainless steel, as orginally specified by for job one, but deleted by the cost slashing bean counters that destroyed the car, and GM’s reputation, with it.

    It also got plastic fender linings, and real, actual rustproofing!

    The later cars were what GM could have produced and could have produced from day one.

    Like 6

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