Small Chevy Battle: Diesel Chevette Vs. Vega GT

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Around these parts, the Chevy Chevette is no stranger to intense discussion about its virtues as a project car. While the MPGs may be reason enough to own one, the gasoline-equipped ‘Vettes can’t hold a candle to its rare diesel sibling. This recently-extracted Chevette here on eBay has clearly been tangled up in the Kentucky brush for some time, and its Isuzu-sourced mill is considered quite desirable in some circles. But if you can’t bring yourself to owning one, we’ve included another small Chevy below for your consideration. 

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The diesel engine found in the Chevette was actually one of the more reliable options from the time period, which wasn’t exactly an award-winning era for domestically-build diesels. Capable of hitting 55 miles per gallon on the highway (and 40 around town), I wouldn’t be surprised if the seller of this Chevette picked this car up for someone who just wants to use the engine in another project. That being said, the four-door body of this Chevette doesn’t look too shabby and I’m digging the factory roof rack on top.


Now, if your small Chevy fix needs to be a bit more sporting in nature, may we direct your attention to this supposedly 30,000 mile 1972 Chevy Vega GT here on eBay. The GT package added sportier suspension, special trim and GT wheels, along with some cosmetic changes within the cockpit (like the horn pad). While not any faster than your normal Vega, it did at least look a bit spiffier than the base model, and it may have even worn some loud decals at the bottom of the doors announcing it was a GT. This one already has some engine work done but it will need to assembled and re-installed.

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This Vega GT is in New York and has copious amounts of surface rust; no word if it goes deeper than that (but I’m guessing it does). The interior doesn’t look too shabby, so you might get away with just a cleaning once the engine is rebuilt and any major rust perforations are dealt with. Surprisingly, I find myself drawn to the little Chevette, automatic and all. If you accept the fact you’re going to go everywhere slowly, it could be a charming commuter car with Japanese reliability under the hood. Which would you choose?

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  1. grant

    Ugly, slow boring cars. Pass.

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  2. Blindmarc

    Any vega is a V8 transplant . Just like most imports are. If it doesn’t have a V8, it’s slower than crap and not worth a post on this side of “the pond”.

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  3. roger

    I like the Vega.
    The deisel chevette I would not want.
    Diesel cars and trucks are not for me.
    They can say clean diesel,but there is no such thing.
    Diesels smoke and stink.
    They are great in boats where you can let her rip and not worry about smoke,but not in a car where I wear my dress clothes.

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    • Mike H. Mike H.

      They’re great in trains, too.

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  4. Mr. TKD

    I owned a Vega at one point, and my sister owned a Chevette so I’m familiar with both of these cars and not adverse to them. Having said that, I think I’d be inclined to let the Vega pass as it appears to be just about too far gone. As for the Chevette, that diesel is intriguing.

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  5. angliagt

    A Vega with rust?

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    Both junkyard finds out of the worst era for Chevy. Why would anyone want these?

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  7. Rando

    A car that gets more mpg than top speed is NOT an enthusiast car. The Vega could be but it will be too far gone to save. I had a 73 Vega in 85? and it was already rotted thru and repaired. So this one? No hope.

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  8. John K

    Back in college in the early 80’s I owned a Chevette Diesel, but only for a year. I would take any Vega, in any condition, any day of the week versus a Chevette Diesel.

    I think I’ve posted the story before about that little POS when a state trooper pulling me over for going 50 in a 40 – – and that he refused to give me a ticket when he realized what I was driving (“You’ve got enough problems!” he laughed, as he got back in his car).

    I use to have to drive it into Boston for work and I would leave it running in the combat zone (an actual area of Boston in the 70’s/80’s for those who think I’m making it up) with the keys in plain sight. Damn thing was there every time I came back…

    I have no illusions about the Vega. My sister had one. It was terrible. But next to a diesel Chevette it’s not even close.

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  9. geomechs geomechsMember

    It’s hard to say which way to go. The Vega is nicer looking while the Chevette is boxy at best. The diesel was built by Isuzu and it did reasonably well but it lacked a lot of the reliability of the VW counterpart. Some of that could be blamed on that glow plug system where it heated the plugs quickly then tapered off instead of either running slow reliable systems like the VW or on/off like the larger GM offerings. When the glow plugs failed it was ‘Glow Plug In A Can,’ good old ether starting fluid. With over 20/1 compression that stuff was deadly—ruined a lot of motors.

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  10. mtshootist1

    I had a friend who used to say that he prayed to God for a Corvette, and God gave him a Chevette..

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  11. 68custom

    The chevette is a perfect example of rare does not equal valuable. The vega only good for a v8 swap, and rust negates even that possibility!

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    • RichS

      68custom – most definitely. I own a Ford Fairmont Durango and depending on who you talk to there were between 100 and 350 of them made. If rare = valuable it should be a gold mine, but alas.

      A really clean one will bring $5K on a good day. A concours restoration might bring $15K if you found a buyer suffering from a recent head injury. Mine is neither, but it’s goofy – I like it so there.

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  12. RichS

    The Chevette was a horrid, horrid car. The thing that bothered me most about them was the steering column having a noticeable angle towards center (if you measured from the steering wheel to the dash the driver side was considerably closer than the passenger side)

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  13. 68custom

    That Fairmont Durango is neat never seen one before. You could buy a Ranchero the same year, right?.

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    • RichS

      The last year for the Ranchero was 1979. The Durango came about as a possible replacement. Ford sent complete Fairmonts (most were 1981, although a few 1982 models have been found) to National Coach Works in SoCal who then converted them and then they were sold through Ford dealers.

      When adding the conversion cost to the Fairmont sticker, they were a couple thousand dollars more expensive than the ElCamino so they sold pretty poorly. Couple that with some Tuckerish shenanigans at National Coach (supposedly National was staging pictures with completed Durangos so as to appear the production line was busier than it actually was) made this a pretty short term venture.

      As a kid, I remember sitting in one of these in the Ford dealership showroom while my parents signed all the paperwork for our new Fairmont wagon.

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  14. Chuck

    A 1972 Silver/Black Vega GT was my first brand new car. Engine lasted a little over 30,000 miles. Can’t be rebuilt, we tried. Wound up replacing motor with a used one from a junkyard. Was lucky to get it. Junkyard guy told me they were usually gone before they were cold.

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  15. Jeff

    My mom had a orange Vega one of the 100,000 models I still dream of having one.

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  16. SnuffySmiff

    Back in 1998 I was a ‘parts chaser’ for a short time for a garage near the central GA-AL line and would frequently drive to Atlanta via I-20 for engine kits and other various parts. One day while returning from town in the shop’s S-10 I was cruising along about 75 mph or so in the left lane. After topping a hill I was looking in the rear view mirror (checking for troopers) and noticed a vehicle just coming over the crest about a half mile back. It was hauling a** and belching one gawd-awful huge cloud of black smoke. And it didn’t take it very long to catch up. I moved into the right lane to give him room and yep, you guessed it-it was indeed a diesel Chevette. He had to have been running 100 mph! I tried to keep him in sight for a bit but he was traveling with a purpose and disappeared soon after.
    I would love to know just what was done underneath the hood-but I still get a big grin every time I think about it.

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  17. Bruce

    Again back in the 80s I had a chevyette .I bought it used because of the gas crunch. I had to travel 54 miles each way to work every day.{that’s 108 miles a day}The car was small but did the job for about 3 years .Then I sold it for something that had A.C. never had a problem with it. Bruce.

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