Success Story! 1975 Chevrolet Vega Kammback Survivor

UPDATE – We heard from John and this beautiful Vega has found a new home with a fellow Barn Finds reader! Congratulations to both parties. We hope the new owner enjoys this survivor. If you’ve bought or sold a car here on Barn Finds, we would love to hear about it!

FROM 11/30/2021 – The Vega was Chevy’s answer to the imported subcompacts that were popping up everywhere in the late 1960s. Launched in 1971, the Vega was named after the brightest star in the constellation Lyra. It would see the production of more than two million units until the Chevette came along to replace it. This 1975 Vega Kammback, aka station wagon, is a nice running car that has a bit of rust and one seat needing some attention. Located in Greenwood, Arkansas, this Chevy is available here on Barn Finds Classifieds for $6,995.

Chevrolet did not go into the Vega project lightly and quite a lot of research went into the car’s design. Special assembly lines were developed along with unique rail cars so the Vega’s could be shipped vertically rather than horizontally to maximize space. The car even won Motor Trend’s Car of the Year for its debut year. However, flaws in the execution of Vega production would emerge and earlier cars were known to rust prematurely, and the aluminum block engines would leak oil or water or both.

Production and sales started off briskly but tapered off even during the energy crisis of 1973-74 because of the publicity the cars had developed. Though 2,006,661 Vegas left the assembly line by 1977, in 1975 only 207,764 of them were built, with 56,133 being the popular Kammback like the seller’s car. The term Kammback refers to an auto body style where the roofline tapers downward toward the rear end before stopping abruptly. This was done to facilitate better aerodynamics. The Vega wagon was loosely a Kammback, but only because of its slight taper in the roofline.

At first glance, this 1975 Vega Kammback looks to be in exceptionally nice condition. The dark copper paint shines up well and there are no signs of body damage except for a rust spot that has developed around the bottom and the back glass. And a bubble or two here and there. Hopefully once those areas can be fixed that the paint will match up, so the rest of the wagon doesn’t have to be redone. The interior is nice as well, except that the driver’s bucket seat will need to be reupholstered and the carpeting in the hatch area replaced.

We’re told the Chevy runs well now that the seller, a dealer, has tuned it up, replaced the fuel pump and carburetor, and installed a new set of tires all around. Though the odometer reads about 25,000 miles, the seller indicates it’s more like 125,000 on a car that originated in Southern California. Vega’s used a 2,287-cc inline-4 engine with a die-cast aluminum alloy cylinder block, cast-iron cylinder head, and single overhead camshaft (SOHC). The problems the motor became infamous for in 1971-72 should have been ironed out by the time this Vega was built or it wouldn’t have been able to travel as far as it has in 46 years. You don’t see a lot of Vegas around now, especially Kammbacks, and this looks to be one of the nicer ones that would turn up.

Comments

  1. Cadmanls Member

    Don’t see a 7k Vega here, I must admit though this is my favorite body style. Body is decent and paint good but pretty much a plain Jane and a Vega!

    Like 14
  2. Fred W

    A lot of the remaining Vegas now have V-8’s or the Iron Duke 4 cylinder, this one with the original aluminum block is a unicorn. Of the two million, I’ll bet 1.9 million were scrapped within 10 years.

    Like 14
    • bikefixr

      Do you think it took that long?

  3. Rolls-Royce

    It looks a bit like a AMC Pacer.

    Like 1
    • bone

      well , it has four wheels and two headlights, but I think that’s about the only similarity I see

      Like 17
  4. Ben T Spanner

    Vegas were just nasty. I lived in central Ohio when they were new, That is not really the rust belt, but Vegas had holes within 2 winters. The Chevette was more durable, as were Pintos.
    My boss had no money; maybe because he had 3 kids and a new large house in a trendy neighborhood. He financed Christmas presents by purchasing a new Vega with zero down, and $750 cash back. It was so cheap that the passenger seat was bolted to the floor, with no adjustment. Of course the Chevette Scooter had door cards made of painted cardboard.

    Like 8
    • Psychofish2

      True, re: rust. I saw it happen during the same period when we were living in Iowa.

      Rust popping out on the front fender tops, at the bottom of them as well, places that used to take years to develop rust even in old Studebakers.

      Like 3
      • Bob Weinzierl

        We took a one year old ‘72 Vega to Arkansas (where it barely snows in the winter) traded it for $900 in ‘76 with rusted out quarters and bubbling on top of front fenders. Thankfully the aluminum engine still ran, but smoked.

        Like 2
    • Chuck Dickinson

      As a point of interest, those were not the only Chevys w/painted cardboard door panels. The 60 & 61 Biscayne Fleetmasters did as well. They “LOOKED” like the regular vinyl Biscayne panels, but they were simply stamped cardboard. The Fleetmaster’s MSRP was $32 less than a regular Biscayne. Hardly worth the effort for a $32 difference IMHO, of course $32 then would be a lot more in today’s money.

      Like 2
    • Mike D

      Had a roommate in college that had that Chevette Scooter with the cardboard door panels. They didn’t survive Boston winters. As soon as they god wet, they disintegrated.

      Like 1
    • Keith Rupp

      I had both and they were both pieces of junk. My 1971 Vega GT blew a head gasket and my 1976 Chevette’s engine was shot within 30,000 miles and shot again after a complete overhaul. I Iost several thousand dollars because of GM’s, poor quality control.

  5. Brent in Winnipeg

    LS all the things!

    Like 1
    • Blueprint

      Bubbafy all the things 😉

      Like 3
  6. Howard A Member

    People that weren’t there in the 70’s( or were in diapers) are quick to poo-poo the Vega,( diapers, get it?) Europeans had a lifetime of small cars, for America, this was uncharted territory, and had to start from scratch. When that happens, vehicles like the Vega are the result. The reason so many were sold, is staunch USA’ers, who refused to buy a foreign car, were desperate for ANY American small car from GM to thumb their noses at the neighbor who bought a Toyota. We all know who had the last laugh there, ( and still laughing) but the Vega wasn’t so bad. I’ve said many times, I knew plenty of people that had great luck with Vegas. Strict oil changes were only part of the key, being in a cooler climate, we didn’t see as many failures as those in hot climates. Overheating was the kiss of death, even once. This is a great find, and no question on the mileage, it’s refreshing to have a seller that admits that,,,and only on BF’s, I might add,, and certainly not the original motor, maybe even 2 replacements, but it’s a Vega wagon, and a very important part of our automotive history, even though, many would like to forget it. If it runs okay now, probably good for a while yet, just don’t kill the dang thing going 80mph on the freeway, like most folks did coming from that Electra “deuce and a quarter” that many Vegas replaced. Super find!!

    Like 27
    • AMCFAN

      I was around Howard. Yes the Vega was a horrible car. I know of no one that had one ever say it was a good car on its own.

      They sold well because for one GM was in bed with the media. The Vega was car of the year. What’s that say? It’s sad those that just wanted a good entry level car was still paying on it after the motor melted or body rusted away first.

      After the Vega and the Citation all those GM owners were driving imports. If that didn’t get them the 4-6-8 Cadillacs did. GM has duped the public for years and now they are telling us that they are a leader in making electric vehicles but are saddled in recalls over the Bolt. Changed the GM logo to a nice environmental looking logo making one think it’s all new.

      No way they can compete with the market leader Tesla.

      Like 6
      • Howard A Member

        Hi AMCFAN, well, it’s bit unsettling someone called “AMCFAN” would throw stones at a Vega. I’m as big an AMC fan as you, but they didn’t exactly make sweethearts either. What exactly is “horrible” when it comes to cars? The Amphicar? The Marlin? The Alliance?( 2 out of 3 AMC) Had a good friend with a Vega GT, fun car, never melted the motor, my late ex-mother-in-law, had a Vega, loved it ( it was my job to add oil every week, however), point is, history is littered with “horrible” cars, but I’m a firm believer that you have to start somewhere, and of course, by today’s standards, cars of today probably don’t even have a hood release, the Vega could be considered a poor car, but at the time, it was a great attempt at thumbing our noses at the imports, and that was worth something.

        Like 10
      • bone

        The Alliance was put out by AMC , but the Alliance was all Renault , and it was foreign and it was junk. The Iron Duke Vegas were dependable engine wise ,but they rusted away as bad as the earlier ones. There’s a reason so many Pintos are still around and very few Vegas .

        Like 4
      • David Ulrey

        Well AMCFAN we don’t know each other but I can state that in the early to mid 80s I owned a total of 3 of these. Every one of them did right by me. Living in Arizona none of them had a bit of rust either. Decent mileage for a non fuel injected car of that Era. Never blew a head gasket. Never overheated. Of course my step dad taught me as a child to check fluids once a week and not to ignore idiot lights or gauges. He also taught me to pay attention to the sound of a vehicle and the feel of things while driving. I guess whether it’s a Vega or any other kind of car, more people should have been and still should be taught those things.

        Like 9
      • Brad460 Member

        I beg to differ on Tesla. Their fit and finish is not good. I recently rode in the back seat of a Model 3, and it was loud, uncomfortable, and had a horrible ride. Unbelievable amount of wheel and tire noise. I’ve talked to several people now with the Telsa S that have had door handle problems where the door handles either won’t come out, or quit working. Tesla may have a tech and software edge, but they are way behind on the basics of car production.

        I’ve also heard of some where the steering shaft and flexible connectors at the lower end wear on. That type of failure is unheard of on any vehicle from any legacy manufacturer.

        Where I live it is cold. Very cold. Had to laugh the other day when I watched a Tesla driving into a gas station I suppose to by soda pop, and the HVAC system in his Model S that he could hardly see out of the windows. If it can’t even partially defrost the windows, I can’t imagine it was nice and warm inside. I just smiled from the seat of my Silverado as we were toasty warm. I would also add this was at the high point temp wise of the day where it had gotten up to almost 0. Overnight at -20 to -30 that tesla would put your life in danger if you were to get stranded out in the country should you get stuck or go in the ditch. As for me personally, I’m not opposed to electrics, per se, but they need a lot more engineering before I’ll change.

        Like 10
      • Mike D

        I had a 1981 Citation, and I guess I am one of the few people who had a good experience. Yes, they were somewhat under engineered, but I found mine to be reliable, roomy, economical, and even sporty, with a V-6, 4-speed, and F-41 suspension. No brake problems for me. And I bet the later ones were even better once they worked out the bugs.

        Like 2
      • Bick Banter

        I always thought the Vega was a very attractive design, particularly the pre-1974 models. I never owned one but I think the styling was good. It was let down by the engine and obviously the rust issues.

        I did have a 1980 Citation. 4 door hatchback with the Iron Duke 4/auto. I concur with your assessment. It was a pretty good car. Reliable and actually somewhat peppy. I didn’t experience any of the commonly reported problems with it. I’m not saying it offered a BMW driving experience, but it did the job as basic transit, which is what I needed for at the time living in the city.

        Like 3
  7. Mikefromthehammer

    I have to laugh when I see things like the following in the ad:

    “This car only has a small spot of rust on the rear gate (pictured) and it is very repairable.”

    It begs the question, if it is very repairable why didn’t the owner repair it.

    Like 10
    • Psychofish2

      Per the article:
      ‘We’re told the Chevy runs well now that the seller, a dealer, has tuned it up, replaced the fuel pump and carburetor, and installed a new set of tires all around.’

      Why would a dealer do body work? Why didn’t he do the carpet and upholstery. How about new rings ? Pistons? Why not paint too ?

      Like 4
      • Mercuryman

        I would prefer a dealer left those things. A dealer would slap bondo on it and paint match. I would prefer it in its honest state

        Like 12
  8. Chris

    I had a V8 Vega it just got me in trouble . Young & Dumb & Fast !!!!!!!

    Like 12
  9. Stephen Coe

    All Vega except the cosworth at $1,000 cars I had 5. 1 I got for $800 18 months old w/ blown motor, new engine at Chevy dealer ship was $248.00 I put it in. Shaved the head .030, drove it 200,000 miles & sold it for $1,000. The 77 cosworth Vega on the other hand was sweet.

    Like 8
  10. Tom Nemec Member

    These cars were literally presenting rust issues brand new at the dealerships in Chicago when new. We bought one this color BUT with the Panel in place of the rear window. If this were the panel version, I would buy it right now.

    Like 5
    • Steve Weiman

      I always wondered why GM didn’t use the paid for solid as an anvil 153ci four-cylinder from the Chevy Nova in the Vega??

      Like 5
  11. Psychofish2

    ‘Chevrolet did not go into the Vega project lightly and quite a lot of research went into the car’s design.’

    Chevrolet was assigned the Vega by GM corporate. Their first corporate vehicle.

    This as referenced in one of several books on John DeLorean even in “On A Clear Day You Can See General Motors”.

    Like 5
  12. Comet

    Interesting fact: Vega bodies were made of candy.

    Like 7
    • Patrick Lambert

      I heard they were made of poo. Like the engines, they were poo too.

      Like 2
  13. Mh

    IF Vegas were just about Junk when they were new… What category does that put them in now…LOL..LOL

    Like 1
    • Patrick Lambert

      Super junk.

  14. pwtiger

    I would think that the fastback was more of a kammback then a wagon

  15. Terrry

    For all the “research and design” Chevy did, this thing was an unmitigated disaster. Chevy cranked them out and sold them by the millions, but when the suck…er people who bought them found out the junk that they truly were, the damage had been done. The best thing you could say about the Vega was it was the perfect reason why Americans should have bought Japanese cars.

    Like 2
    • P. Lambert

      It really was criminal. Somebody should have gone to jail. LOL

    • bone

      Japanese cars of that era- at least in the rust belt , rusted away faster than Vegas.

      Like 8
    • Brad460 Member

      After owning over 100 cars, American, Japanese, and European, the mid 70s were not a glowing period for Japanese cars either. My buddy’s brother had a 76 Datsun B210 that rusted incredibly fast. By 1980 the seat upholstery and dash material had literally disintegrated.

      Even on some of the 80s Honda products I own the steel, plastics, and fabrics used were of very poor quality compared to a US made car. The Japanese cars ran well and had less drivability issues, but the body structure, heaters, and everything other than the engine was pretty much junk.

      Like 3
  16. Howie Mueler

    This car will sell fast, so call now. Really?

    Like 3
  17. Ed H

    I am not sure the Chevette replaced the Vega, the Vega became the Monza, the Chevette was a new offering at a lower price point.

    Like 6
  18. Rik

    Chevrolet tried to keep their customers happy…my ’74 GT Vega developed rust holes through the top of the fenders by ’77, and they replaced them, and touched up the rest of the car at no charge. Supposedly when the bodies were dipped for rustproofing, an air bubble formed in the fender, keeping the primer from reaching the top. Had a lot of fun with that car, but by the end it was “fill the oil, and check the gas”

    Like 5
  19. Maestro1 Member

    If I had the room I’d buy it because it’s a small wagon, remove the engine and
    install a Vortec or a V-6 if it will fit with an automatic, raise the wheel size one inch, power steering, air, and power windows. I am on the Left Coast and if I had adequate storage facilities (I’m looking) I would do this. I don’t care what
    the thing would be worth when I am done. I know I can move it at the apprpriate time for realistic money.

    Like 7
  20. Shawnga Shawnga Member

    A happy owner !

    Like 21
  21. gbvette62

    I really wonder how many of the Vega experts on here were alive in the 70’s, when the Vega came out, let alone ever drove or owned one? I’ve actually had plenty of experience Vegas.

    During the 74 gas shortage, my father bought a new 74 Vega GT. He had a Buick Electra Limited, but when NJ instituted odd/even gas fill ups, based on your license plates, he bought the Vega and put odd tags on it, opposite of those on the Buick. I drove his Vega for a month in 75, while my 74 Trans Am was being repaired after being run in to. I bought the TA after GM cancelled the order I had for a Cosworth Vega, due to delays with emission certification. Later my father gave the Vega to my 17 year old stepbrother, who drove it for 4 years, and beat the heck out of it. When he got rid of it in 79, it wasn’t smoking and didn’t have any visible rust, in spite of living a hard life here in the northeast.

    My best friend bought a new 73 Vega GT, when he got out of the Navy. He drove it till 77, when he traded it in on a new TR7 (now that car was a piece of crap). He wasn’t a motorhead, and didn’t give it any special treatment, but I don’t recall him ever having any major issues with his Vega.

    I’m familiar with Pinto’s and AMC’s too, as my girlfriend (latter wife), was driving a 72 Pinto when we met. Her Pinto was rear ended and totaled, but she was lucky, her’s didn’t burn, like so many other Pinto’s. I found her a year old Javelin, and while I liked her Javelin, the build quality, handling, etc, of it wasn’t close to that of my father’s Vega, let alone my Trans Am.

    Like 2
  22. Mike

    When I was in college 1980 I purchased a 71 Vega for $100.00 it needed painted. Spent another 100 on paint some other parts. Jumped in it and drove it from Ohio to upstate New York to see a girl. Good times.

    Like 1
  23. Kirk K

    The Vegas rusted out so bad in these parts I heard 1 fella who followed the salt truck all the way home from work 1 day and when got up the next morning and went to get back in the car there was nothing left in the driveway but 4 tires some seats and a carpet! Now I’m not sure how much of that story was true but the old guy who owned the Ford dealership told me it was quite the common occurrence in the coastal regions

  24. Stevieg Member

    I had a 1976 Vega which was a total nightmare of a car, but that’s because it was a beat to crap $75.00 beater when I bought it in about 1989. The engine, which has that reputation, ran great! That was, oddly enough, the best part of the car lol.
    The p.o.s. had so much wrong with it, Wisconsin took my license for 5 years because of it (habitual traffic offender because of equipment violations on the car). I ended up junkies it.

  25. John E Alm

    Back in the day I worked in garage my first boss bought a 1975 2dr cosworth Vegas , black with gold striping & gold aluminum wheels , ran pretty gold for what it was , wasnt rusty was a Connecticut Car

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