This Time It’s A GT: 1976 Chevrolet Vega

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We recently featured a Vega wagon, and several of you commented that you’d rather have a GT. Well, ask and you shall receive–here’s a nice one! It’s a 1976 GT, and is in Hawaiian Gardens, California (just look at the palm tree in the background!). The auction is here on eBay, where bidding hasn’t met the reserve as I write.

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As you can kind of see from this shot, there have been some issues on the rear deck that have been “repaired.” That’s the only rust mentioned by the seller, which has to be a huge rarity for a Vega! Also, being a 1976, this car benefits from the improved version of the much detested Vega engine (sorry, Vega fans, but I felt that way too after helping my high school best friend keep his 1973 GT alive).

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Despite the seller telling us that the driver’s seat is worn and the aftermarket steering wheel, I’m struck by how cool this interior is! What a plaid! I think it would wake me up every morning if I were commuting–don’t you think? I’d miss the radio and whatever else is missing in that area, though. I did find several original steering wheels on eBay; they were used in many GM cars at the time.

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The seller tells us the car has been sitting for two years but runs fine. They also state it has only 63,000 miles, which is quite possible given the interior condition. I’m also surprised to see the emissions equipment intact. Vega experts — what do you think the funnel stored in the cowl is used for? Massive oil consumption requiring lots of filling? This is the improved engine, after all — tested non-stop for 60,000 miles in 60 days in the Nevada and California desert according to this article and this period television advertisement (if you watch the advertisement, I’d love to know how they replaced the timing belt without stopping!) Maybe all the engine’s issues were fixed by that point? Anyone out there experienced in Vega lore, or had a good one from the last two years of production? Let us hear from you!

 

 

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Comments

  1. Joe M

    My older brother had one of these back in the day. Red and black plaid interior. Looked cool. slow as heck. Some of the engineers I worked with at Boeing tricked these out with small block 400’s. Took one to lunch for Chinese one day. Scary fast, maybe too fast for mechanical ability.

  2. Gary McKean

    My 1st car was a 75 no gt. rebuilt the motor .Updraded to a “loud stereo” had it painted. I think the thing had a whopping 144 c.i. Would run 110, but somebody decided I didn’t need it (high school jealous boyfriend) DAMN GIRLS. Anyway I thought it was cool!

  3. boxdin

    GT wagon for me, too practical and good looking.

  4. Vegaman Dan

    It is a GT for sure. It has the 2 barrel Holley carb, correct instrument panel, 4 speed transmission, blacked out headlight buckets (1974 and up were blacked out). It is missing the stripes on the side that ran along the sill and then up and over the wheel wells. Likely been repainted at some point, though silver was an option in the late models. GT rims were painted gunmetal grey with chrome dish trim rings, so someone has painted these black. It’s a good look for the car.

    That interior though- these are not cars where red is a good choice.

    I never liked the grills on the 76/77 models, nor the tail lights with the large cluster of lense crammed in. My favorite taillights were the slots in the rear panel found on the Pontiac Astre of 74-75.

    With the smog pump in place, you can expect almost 80 hp with that current setup if everything was perfect. Timing cover is still in place, and that plastic cover is frequently missing with any rebuild.

    Not the model I would want, but it’s a good solid example of a $2K Vega. Just not very desirable.

    • Glenn blevins

      All vega gt did not have that stripe that you are speaking of I had a new 76 and it only had the gt badging on the side, if was a fantastic car could not make it use any oil.would give my left nut for another one

  5. JohninCM

    “I’m also surprised to see the emissions equipment intact.”

    As a 1976 or newer SoCal car it is required to be smog tested every other year. 1975 and older do not require emissions testing. So this Vega is actually one year too new to hop up here in the southland … legally anyhow.

    • David Montanbeau

      Up here in Northern CA, only needs smog once when selling.

  6. Vince Habel

    I had a dark blue one with black interior for a demo till it was sold. I then got a Monza 2plus 2 with a 5 speed.

  7. Graham Line

    The stripes could be deleted on an ordered car. Friend of mine in ’72 had a very quick ’72 GT with a load of Chev exhaust and suspension bits that dropped the car by about an inch and made it handle very well. He was in the Air Force and had the time to study the order sheets while on overseas assignment. Rapid acceleration, so might have had a shorter-than-normal rear axle.
    Still preferred my ’68/’72 Fiat 124 Sport Coupe. Better ride and quieter cruise. Lived longer, too.

  8. Alexander

    My 72 GT was silver with black interior and a fun car, until the oil consumption started.
    First couple years no problem, but then it was a quart per thousand, then per 500 miles, then the oil would be black at 100 miles and a quart of oil use in 250. Took it to the dealer and had to pay to replace the head gasket because it was over 12K miles and out of warranty.
    Soon the oil was black at 50 miles and was using a quart per 100 miles. That led me to the local Chevy dealer who said they would need 6 to 8 hours labor to diagnose the problem because they would need to remove the head.
    Mentioned it to a friend who had heard there was an expansion problem with aluminum block and cast iron head, causing scored walls leading to high oil consumtsion. I called Chevy in Michigan and the guy who took the call said the dealer was gaming the system and to go back and tell them his name and that he told me to do so.
    The dealer said leave it the next AM. I gave them till 2PM and called to check on it. They said it was all set. They ordered a short block and the car was ready to pick up.
    I asked how it could be ready if it took only 5 hours and they originally told me it was a 6 to 8 hour job due to removing the head. They said they just removed a spark plug and shined a light into the cylinder and saw the scored walls. It was a 5 minute job because they knew somebody gave me a heads up, otherwise it would have been 6 to 8 hours labor out of my pocket.

    • Rando

      My 73 would use a quart every 35 miles. Talk about oil loss. I carried 3 or 4 sets of plugs with me- changed them and cleaned as necessary. Blew the ceramic out of one once. I got to the point I would drive it with the oil light on . It would wrangle enough oil to go off at 35mph or so usually. Drove it a couple years. Never left me stranded, just had to stop when that plug blew apart that one time. I thought the whole motor was a goner – when the ceramic blew out at 60 mph, it was still attached to the wire, so it banged hard into the firewall and of course the motor went to 3 cylinders. Changed the plug and it fired back up and off I went.

      Mine was a green hatch with green upholstery. Someone had put a powerglide in place of the 3 spd auto. Still had 3 spd indicator, but only 2 gears in driving.

  9. Vince Habel

    The silicone wore out. They should have sleeved these engines and they would have lasted.

  10. Bear

    My very 1st car was a ’76 Vega GT in Silver w the Black GT body striping & Black vinyl bucket seat interior.
    I LOVED THAT CAR!!
    It had a Borg-Warner 5-speed trans, the 2.3L 2-barrel 4-banger, but with ALL of the smog removed it was quite peppy for the time period!
    I added Keystone Klassic mags & 60-series BFG Radial TAs, + KYB shocks & stiffer springs with a 1″ height drop. I also upgraded the anti-sway bars. It handled GREAT!
    Also added a 6 speaker Concord stereo, & a front spoiler.
    I drove that car EVERYWHERE in NoCalif for much of my high school & early college years, & it NEVER failed me. (..it also never used any oil, & it never required any major repairs!)
    That was the best $2200.00 (in 1980 $$) that I ever spent on a car!!
    (I actually sold it for over $3K when I finally decided to part with it!)

    Like 1
  11. Paul R

    Great candidate for a V-8 swap!

  12. Bear

    The later model Vegas had galvanized bodies (so no major rust issues), & the engine issues (cylinder wall scoring & overheating) had been cured.
    But by that time the cars had earned a BAD reputation, so sales suffered.
    Interestingly, the Chevy Monza was essentially the same car (with the added V6 & V8 options), but managed to avoid much of the reputation issues.
    MANY Vegas were hot-rodded by dropping in a V8 engine.
    I did several of those engine swaps “back-in-the-day” & they were a fun car for cruising up and down ElCaminoReal in SanMateo,CA. …a cheap hot-rod if you sourced your parts carefully!! :-)

  13. Bear

    I think the recommended timing belt service interval was approx 60K miles.
    I did mine at just over 60K & it was a very easy job to do.
    Interestingly, the water pump (mounted w slotted holes on the pump) served as the belt tension adjustment device.

    Also interesting was the Borg-Warner 5 speed manual transmission’s factory specified lubrication. Dextron 2 ATF!! (Yes, automatic trans fluid in a manual trans!!)

  14. Bear

    Although the 76 & 77 models had “amber” (aka “yellow”) lenses on the rear tail light turn-signal lenses, the only functioning lights were the red brake/turn-signal lens & the white back-up lenses. The amber/yellow lenses were non-op. I assumed that this was because they opted to just use the ’75 & earlier wiring harness.
    ….
    I opted to modify my ’76 by adding a set of bulbs in the yellow/amber lens areas & spliced these in parallel to the existing brake/turn light bulbs. This resulted in red AND amber/yellow lights for both braking and for turn signals. (& I never had anyone get close to my rear-bumper during panic braking in heavy traffic!!)

  15. Mike

    I bought a 76 gt hatchback ordered in nov 75. I didn’t want the stripes or a radio in it. I have a borg warner t50 5 speed trans. It is med blue with a white interior with a 140 cid 2.3 engine. I had it restored and am putting it back together to be like factory condition, 90% new parts. I still need a few more new parts.I have no ac or defrost in the rear hatch. Oics coming soon.

  16. Patrick

    Back in the day…..I worked at a service station selling 55 cents a gallon gasoline. To force us lackeys to check the oil, owner would sponsor “oil selling” contests. We’d fight over the Vegas as they’d come in, and sometimes cram 5 quarts of $ 1.10 oil “supreme” into those things that only held 4 quarts. Ahhh…the good old days….

  17. ROTAG999

    That cloth interior sucks my 74 GT had a full rear seat bottom not cut out over the driveline hump. But i had the black vinyl interior thank goodness.

  18. Rustytech Member

    If what is visible is the only rust, and the price stays below 4 grand this could be a nice project. I dropped small blocks into several of these back in the 80’s and yes they were scary fast but wow were they fun, and the other guy never saw it commingle! To bad once again it’s on the other side of the country. I’d be all over it.

  19. Dutch 1960

    Seems like it is sitting sorta high. Gas shocks?

  20. Howard A Member

    It seems, as much as we complain about the Vega, there sure are an awful lot of stories about them. They were immensely popular. Showed just how badly we wanted a car like this at the time. I had a friend that bought a new GT like this. I remember it was a neat car, kind of a mini-Camaro. He changed the oil religiously, and never had any issues. He traded the Vega in on a BMW 2002, which ironically, began using oil after only a short time. ( but was clearly a much nicer car) I’m sure that’s exactly why the funnel is there. Was a popular spot for one. My ex-MIL’s 1st car was a Vega ( not a fastback) I know, she was in her late 60’s when she got her 1st car,and of all the cars to choose from,,,she gets a Vega. She drove about 20 miles a day, and it would use a 1/4 of oil every other day. When we’d visit on the weekend, it was a standard ritual, to put some oil in Ma’s car. She always had a gallon in the back.( and a funnel in the firewall) I think Pinto was a bit more reliable with the 1600 engine, but this had style all over the Pinto, ( and most Asian cars for that matter) This one is a little worn, but there were literally PILES of Vega’s in junkyards. Great to see one like this again.

  21. Maria

    @JAMIE PALMER is there a way to message you? I’d like to talk to you about a vehicle you posted that caught my attention please reply or email me at MariaBabe@email.com

  22. Tony

    Had a girlfriend who had one. We’d stop at the gas station, full-service back then, fill up the oil, don’t worry about the gas. Fun to drive, just keep an eye on the oil.

  23. Rando

    oh yeah, this one needs some white letter tires. Preferably something with small letters like the old Goodyear Polyglas tires.

  24. Utes

    A dear late friend had one back-in-the-day…..smashed it up but was then resurrected by graft-welding the remaining intact half to a donor-half that provided a replacement for the smashed-half! The “rebirth” was indistinguishable !

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