Solid Survivor: 1974 Chevrolet Vega Kammback Wagon

The Chevrolet Vega has had its share of detractors over the years, but the simple fact is that any car that can survive in original and unmolested condition for 45-years can’t be a bad car. Barn Finder Pat L has referred this 1974 Vega Kammback Wagon to us to look at, so thank you so much for that Pat. It is a good looking car that certainly appears to be in very nice condition. It is located in Greenville, South Carolina, and is listed for sale here on Craigslist. The owner is asking $6,000 for the tidy little wagon.

The paint on the Vega isn’t original, with the car undergoing a repaint in its original Bright Orange some years ago. At that point, the wood-grain decals were also replaced, resulting in a really tidy looking car. The wheels that are fitted to the car are Cosworth items, but the originals are also included in the sale. The underside of the car looks really solid, and the only visible rust is a dime-sized spot in the tailgate, along with a small spot under the battery. The roof rack isn’t original and is starting to show some corrosion through the chrome. I would probably address this fairly quickly because it could detract from what is otherwise a really clean looking car.

The owner describes the original Beige interior trim inside the Vega as being like new, and this seems to be a pretty fair description. There are no signs of tears, rips, or stains anywhere, while the dash appears to be spotlessly clean. The dash pad and carpet also present nicely, while the headliner is also in as-new condition. It appears that the original radio is still in the dash, while the Vega also features a rear defogger and air conditioning that blows nice and cold. The owner says that everything inside the car works as it should and that nothing will need attention.

One of the oft-criticized aspects of the Vega was the engine, especially in early examples. They were prone to some real problems, but this car is still fitted with its original 140ci 4-cylinder engine and original automatic transmission. The owner states that he believes that the engine might have been re-sleeved at some point in the past, but he can see little point in dismantling a perfectly healthy engine to verify this. However, he does say that the car runs and drives really well, with no vices or problems. He also claims that the Vega has only traveled an original 34,000 miles, so hopefully, he does hold some evidence to verify this.

There are plenty of examples of vehicles within the world of classic cars that have been complete disasters. There are cars that will shriek, creak, crumble, and dissolve before your very eyes. If one of those much-maligned cars can survive in decent condition for decades, then maybe, just maybe, that car is an exceptionally good example of that model. This Vega would appear to be just such a vehicle, and it looks like it still has plenty of life left in it. What do you think?


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  1. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TN Member

    Always great to see a throwaway car survive.

    Buy this car, get your friend to buy a similar vintage Pinto Squire, find some plaid pants and other 70’s attire, head on out to Cars and Coffee, park side by side, and be the talk of the show.

    Like 26
    • local_sheriff

      Totally agree! I can’t figure myself picking this one up, however it doesn’t really get more 70s than this…!

      Like 5
      • JP

        Well… where I come from the ’70s were way more defined by Datsuns and Toyotas than Pintos or Vegas. Even at the time people were dissin’ these cars’ quality, and they were rarely seen… The above-mentioned brands were so much better in every way.

        Like 1
  2. rpol35

    Fantastic condition for one of these; never see them anymore, much less in this condition, and there is a good reason for that.

    Take it from a former Chevrolet mechanic, circa ’72-’74, these things can be a real nightmare. This one has survived the test of time, granted, but Caveat Emptor!

    Like 3
    • Fireman DK

      As a former owner of both a 1975 Sedan with a 74 non-sleeved engine and a 1977 GT hatchback with a Borg Warner 5 speed I could not agree with you more . That said , they sure looked a lot better than a Pinto , if they had only put a reliable engine that did not self destruct at 79,000 miles . I was not easy on that 1975 as it was my first car and it got a Weber carb and Manifold , had to swap it out every time I had to smog it here in California. Good times in that car and certainly learned a lot working on it .

      Like 2
  3. LARRY

    Definitely leave the cosworth wheels..nice car

    Like 6
  4. misterlou Member

    I’m going to change my user name to ElectroClear Rear deFog. BF has single-handedly made me reconsider the Vega the way BaT made me consider the BMW E28.

    Like 2
  5. Vegaman Dan

    This is a 74 Estate Kammback wagon with the wood paneling on the sides. The roof rack *is* OEM original as an option. It’s identifiable by the forward leaning rake of the supports. It was common on GT wagons as well.

    TH250C 3 speed auto transmission. Not great, not bad, and since the engine is fairly low powered, you’d not really have issues there. Not rated for anything bigger really.

    Air Conditioning! While common on the higher trim packages, it failed frequently and while working did a great impersonation of an engine brake. You really felt the car struggle once that compressor kicked in.

    I *REALLY* want a 74 Kammback wagon. But I want the GT or nothing. This is a nice car, and I’ve had them before. It’s a nice survivor and could be fun at a show, but give me a 74 Kammback GT any day.

    Like 7
  6. CCFisher

    To be precise, the engine in this car would not have been “re-sleeved,” it would have been “sleeved.” The Vega 2.3 had an aluminum block without cast-iron sleeves. It was one of the many troublesome aspects of early Vegas. The blocks were made with high silicon content, and an etching process was supposed to remove aluminum from the cylinder bores and leave a hard silicon bore surface. The process was flawed, and cylinder walls quickly scored resulting in oil consumption and compression issues.

    Like 2
    • Duaney

      the funny thing is that many cars today use this same process, but maybe the technology has improved.

  7. sourpwr Member

    … “any car that can survive 45 years in original and unmolested condition can’t be a bad car.” Even with that weak criteria – it’s a bad car. Very bad car.

    Like 1

      They had absolutely no structural integrity. I can remember driving one and having the driver’s door come open when going over rough railroad crossings. Plus, the engine sucked.

      Like 3
  8. Rex Kahrs Member

    My Vega Kammback story…..In 1975, I was 17 years old, looking to buy my first car. Our neighbor, a chemist, drove an immaculate black 1958 Oldsmobile 98 2-door, a tour-de-force of 50s chrome, and, it was made the same year I was born. I absolutely loved that car.

    He knew I liked the car, and asked if I was interested in buying it, for $300. I was over the moon at the prospect. I convinced my parents to front me the 300 bucks, so everything seemed good. A week later, he reneged on the deal, telling me that if anything should go wrong with the car, he didn’t want that to spoil relations with my folks. I was crestfallen. I wanted that car really bad.

    A few days later he drove his new ride home, a Vega Kammback, same color as this ugly POS. He had traded in his immaculate 58 Olds for an orange Vega Kammback. Now I won’t sleep well tonight just thinking about it.

    Like 14
    • Superdessucke

      Haha! Well at least he didn’t trade a 1970 Chevelle SS 396 for a 1976 Corvette or something. And you Know that happened.

      Like 5
    • Bakyrdhero

      “Same color as this ugly POS” that cracked me up!

      Like 2
    • Ken Widel

      We needed a cheap ride and I found a Vega wagon identical to this that had been sleeved but ran badly. I could see the wires sparking so it was easy fix. It even had a factory optioned tent that slipped over the lifted rear tail gate. I drove the wheels off and when it’s end drew near I stripped it of it’s aluminum bumpers, radio, seats and any other parts I could sell off and I drove it to the salvage yard sitting on a bucket. Got my money’s worth and the color nicely matched the rust that was eating the body.

      Like 5
  9. Car Nut Tacoma

    I used to know someone who had one yrs ago. I was way too young to drive at the time, but his was a two door liftback. He loved driving it. His had a 4 cyl. engine and an auto transmission.

    Like 1
  10. Mountainwoodie

    I tell you nothing can make you feel old as much as seeing a Vega with an “Antique” plate on it! Just amazing. :)

    Back in ’71 as a borderline young partyer my best friend had a green ’71 Vega wagon. He was about 6’4. We used to shoot down to New York state to umm……..visit friends in NY drinking establishments, as we could.

    The memory of shooting through the toll booths and pretending to throw quarters in the basket remains, as does that damn dark green Vega.

    Like 5
  11. John Call

    “Bad car”? I bought the GT version of this car in ’74 for right at $3,500, after my 2-year old SAAB 99 gave up the ghost (now THAT was a bad car, though the earlier ones had been quite satisfactory). I drove it for years and sold it in the early 80’s, in Germany, for more than I paid for it — a decision I’ve always regretted. It was a great little car and I never had a moment’s trouble with it. So, just one man’s experience.

  12. canadainmarkseh Member

    I had a high school teacher that bought one of these, it wasn’t even a year old and it smoked like crazy. When I got out of high school I apprenticed as a mechanic and the few of these that were still on the road were rust bucket smokers. This has to be the worst car to ever be produced by GM, even the chevette was better and thats not saying much. It’s to bad the build quality was so poor I always thought that the styling wasn’t that bad. What this car needs is a Toyota 22r engine and an sr5 transmission. You’d have a way better car and you might even be able to keep up with traffic. At least with the pinto the engines were much better and I believe ford put in a c4 transmission in them as well. The pinto got a bad rep. over the gas tank but over all was a good car and I say that while not really liking fords. I say good luck to the new owner and I’d caution him to keep it in a dry place and to not drive it. The only reason this has survived is it was used sparingly and the only reason the body is still good is that it was repainted. What car under 40k miles should need a repaint. This car is still and will always be a very large TURD.

  13. John Newell

    The reason this Vega survived is simply because it was rarely driven. What reliable engine needs to be reserved so early in its life?

    Those cars were the modern Edsels.

    Pretty scary to be in one when the wheels snapped off.

    Pretty damned gutless too.

    The only thing they had going for them was that they looked great.

    One of those cars that looks tons better motionless in your garage rather than broken down at the side of the road with a tow bill and a repair bill in your future.

    Like 2
  14. George Mattar

    John Newell is correct. If any POS isn’t driven, it cannot fall apart and burn oil. I worked at a busy Chevy dealership in 1976. We changed out plenty of these oil burners. For all the good John DeLorean dud in his career, this was his biggest disaster. This is why GM will never recover from once holding nearly 60 percent of the entire car market. We put out crap and Americans bought this junk.

    Like 1
    • Duaney

      You’re wrong as can be. The engine design was Ed Cole’s, the father of the small block V-8 and the Corvair. DeLorean had nothing to do with the engine.

      • r s

        In his book ‘On a Clear Day You Can See General Motors’, DeLorean told of how Chevrolet developed their own small car and a different engine but that division was forced to sell a car that had been designed by corporate engineers. He had nothing good to say about the engine but in ads of the time, he said ‘It’s destined to become a classic… it’s that good.’ Well it was a classic all right, a classic POS!

        Like 1
  15. Rex Kahrs Member

    I agree George, GM quality sure slipped after 1970.

    Recently I was looking for a new project, and wanted a GM, so I knew 1971 was my cutoff. I bought a ’63 Riviera, dormant 30 years, and it’s now up and running, and I love it. But, even this car has build quality issues and design flaws. Then, this summer, I “rescued” a ’67 Chrysler Newport Custom (another dormant car, but not quite 30 years), and I gotta say the build quality on the Chrysler is quite a bit better than the Riviera. Even as early as ’63, you could see GM was cutting corners.

    At 52-years-old, the Newport’s doors close perfectly with a satisfying “chunk”. The Riv’s doors sound like a washing machine being dropped from the garage roof!

    Like 3
    • Car Nut Tacoma

      It’s as if they stopped caring about quality control, and cared more about making money.

  16. Rex Kahrs Member

    Here’s the pair of boats. I like big boats and I cannot lie!

    Like 5
    • Mountainwoodie

      Rex: Those are both beautiful!

      I love the resale red on the Rysler……..the ’67 rear is sweet..and you cant beat a ’63 Riv for stylin,

      You got it going on !. Only problem for me out her in Cali is gas at 3.45 a gallon…………I’d be broker than I am!

      Like 2
      • Jack M.

        Man, if I could find gas in Toronto for $3.45 a gallon it would feel like Christmas everyday. We are at a major low now and it’s like $4.50 for a U.S. gallon, but it can fluctuate very quickly to $5.50 a gallon.

        Like 4
    • r s

      You need to do something about the exhaust tips on the Chrysler.
      Shorten them up, straighten them and put little dumps at the end instead of those trombones. My .02. Otherwise it’s great.

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