Ultimate Sleeper Wagon! 1971 Chevrolet Vega

I’ve always dreamed about buying an “un-cool” old car or truck, dropping in a massive powerplant and creating the ultimate sleeper. Imagine you are in your new Challenger or Shelby Mustang and pull up to this 1971 Vega at a stoplight. The light turns green and all you see are the Vega’s tail lights through the tire smoke.  This un-cool/cool car can be found here on Craigslist with an asking price of $10,000. Located in Upland, California, it is sure to provide a ton of fun for the new owner.

The key to a good sleeper is the absence of anything that would give an indication of it being a high-performance machine. When you see a roll cage, five-point harness, racing seats, or giant tach, the sleeper vibe goes away quickly. While this car appears to have an aftermarket console shifter, the rest of the interior maintains the sleeper look very well.

Here is the heart of the beast, a 6.2-liter LS engine out of a 2009 Cadillac Escalade. The engine has a rating of 400+ horsepower in stock form and this one has a few extra goodies. It features an LS3 intake and injectors along with a Howell harness. Power is sent to the ground through a new TH350 transmission with a 3000 rmp stall converter, new drive shaft, and new Ford 9″ rear end.

The Mickey Thompson Street Radials out back don’t spoil too much of the sleeper look. The key to hooking up the power is running a big enough rear tire that gives you good traction without being so wide that it’s obvious what you are doing. I think this car pulls off the look well. What do you think? If you were building the ultimate sleeper, what car/engine combo would you use?

Like This? Get Our Daily Email!

Comments

  1. Capriest Member

    Now THIS is a sleeper done right! Price seems reasonable as well. You’d have to get lucky, and know what you’re doing to recreate this for less. Bonus points for being green and a long roof. Just pure awesomeness! I really like that he showed restraint with the wheels and gauges/seats as to not give it away easily. The TH350 is an interesting choice, but I imagine it would be stupid squirrely with a t-56, and I’m not sure if any of the modern AOD’s that bolt up to the LS would fit in a vega without surgery. It’s not like this car was built for fuel economy or top end speed anyway lol.

    As far as my dream sleeper I would build a fox chassis 84 Mercury Marquis woodgrain wagon with a nasty windsor stroker and a tremec.

    32
  2. JACKinNWPA Member

    Indeed this is a great sleeper and like Capriest says a reasonable price. The only sleeper I had was a 15 year old 1963 Chevy II (Nova)Wagon. bad orig. paint mismatched fenders and a BUILT 283 3 2bls M22 4 speed. however the dead give away was open fender well headers…. Now I need this Vega!

    18
  3. Kenneth Carney

    A Chevrollac?!! Really?!! Why not use a
    standard 350 mouse (small block) mated
    to that same TH350 tranny instead of a
    Cadillac engine. That’s the easiest way
    I know to perk up a sleeping vega. In
    stock form, a stock 350 made enough torque to lift the front tires off the ground
    with no real effort at all. And how do I know this you ask? Because I and a few
    drinking buddies dropped a 350 into a
    Vega hatchback back in the fall of ’72.
    We did it to help out a friend of mine
    who was being taunted by some other
    kids that had a screamin’ ’65 Chevy II
    hardtop also powered by a 350 backed
    by an M-22 4-speed. We used an auto
    tranny in our swap to make things easier
    to install on the Vega and save a lot of time putting the car together again before
    the race. I’m here to tell you that a stock
    350 (230 HP) ran off and left that Chevy
    II like it was sitting on blocks! The launch
    off the line was like nothing I’d ever seen
    before–or since. It was all my friend
    could do to keep the car from going side-
    ways down the road. In the innitial launch, the front tires came off the ground briefly and dropped back down
    onto the road. By the time the tranny
    shifted a third time, the car broke loose
    and swapped ends after beating the
    Chevy II by 1/2 a car length. Gotta say
    that a cold beer tastes better when
    someone else is paying for it!!

    21
    • Steve

      Technically speaking a TH350 can only shift two times in drive :-)

      9
    • Southbound

      Its not a Caddy engine, its a LS series GM small block light years ahead of a first generation 350.
      Much lighter and 400 plus on tap stock with fuel injection. It would take a ton of money to get a traditional old school small block even close to performance.
      No comparison and why junkyard LS swaps are so popular.
      The turbo 350 will work well with the 3.00 rear gear. I bet it would run 150 mph if it would stay on the road and get there quick!
      I would bump the rear gear ratio up in the 4.10 range and use a 2004R overdrive for more fun between red lights.
      Awesome car.

      26
  4. SC/RAMBLER

    That Ls is a GM engine not Cadillac or Chevy, being aluminum instead of cast iron it is lighter weight, and therefore it can go faster with less weight over front wheels.

    29
  5. Scott Marquis

    Veg-O-Matic !!

    13
  6. poseur Member

    My first car, and first sleeper, was a 75 Vega GT 4-speed with a high compression 4-barrel 3.5 liter aluminum V8 & 10 bolt rear.
    Within a short time it managed to separate the rear end from the unibody without much effort.
    Second car was a 71 Vega with a tube cage & 9” rear. Pulled the 327 & TH350 out & swapped in the 215/manual.
    Car was fast & fun to drive with good handling until the power came on….then the short wheelbase made it want to swap ends.
    I still look at rides like this Kammback with lust but the reality of sttuffing 2 to 5 Times factory HP into a 70s economy car not known for its quality is far from pretty

    5
  7. G.W.Gilmore

    I haven’t seen one. But has anyone ever put a front wheel drive and V8 in the earlier model Corvairs? I have always wonder what that would be like??? If anyone has I love to know about it??

    3
  8. Marko

    Being as the TH-350 had a mechanical throttle / shift linkage, how does it shift thru the gears in Drive? Is there a module to do this? Or do you just shift it semi automatically like a manual tranny. I can only think that a more modern 4L60E or the original trans from the Escalade is physically too big to fit the trans tunnel, without a lot of surgery.

    Barring that, “What a sleeper!”.

  9. Beaver Member

    LS – 350 no close match the LS is a much better motor! The 350 can be changed to almost alything 265-383 all good in there own way, But the LS is JUST A GREAT motor in every way!!!!

    2
  10. Karl

    I to am a fan of the SBC and have run them all my life. The LS is like comparing the 350 to a old flat head 6. The LS is so modular in it’s design that all you need to do is decide what HP you want and buy the right pieces from GM to make it. I have a well built 377 SBC in my shop that dynoed out at 525 hp full roller etc. I have around 7k into that engine, with an LS I could make that same hp plus fuel injection for half the money! In today’s world THERE IS A REPLACEMENT FOR DISPLACEMENT!

    4
  11. Maynard Reed Jr

    What waste of a nice Vega wagon by putting and ls based engine in it.

  12. Urquiola

    Vega and Pinto is the type of car where I’d install a Mazda Wankel, either an RX-7 or RX-8, as a matter of fact, I’m in the process of having one inside my AMC Pacer, a car designed around the Wankel General Motors decided not producing.
    If there’s enough room under your hood, I mean, 85 to 95 cm large, the Corvair air cooled flat-6 is one of the US wonder engines, it will start same in Death Valley or Alaska, the room heating issue can be solved extracting heat from exhaust ducts with liquid filled copper serpentines. Good luck!

    1
  13. Karl

    The biggest problem with wankle rotaries and other non great production engines is very few performance people building parts for them, that means very low to non existent performance testing, extreme lack of production of these parts and because of all that extremely HIGH prices on anything that you can find. Although highly interesting not very viable to the normal person!!

    1
    • Urquiola

      I’m not that sure, for Wankel, you can check rotaryeng.net, atkinsrotary.com, rotaryresurrection.com, and many others: RX-7 forum, aaroncake.net…
      For Corvairs: Corvairsation, RafeeCorvair…tuning engines of any kind is just a matter of searching Google, YouTube.
      For sure, GM V-8 can be more common.

      1
  14. Angrymike

    My sleeper was always a 65 valiant with 340 power a 4 speed and 4:11’s. This is awesome, I’ve always liked the early Vega’s and this looks perfect !

    1
    • Peter k

      I had one of those in the 70’s

  15. DAVID6

    I HAVE A 73 VW WINDOW VAN WITH A
    WARMED OVER REVERSE ROTATION
    140 CORVAIR, CLOSE RATIO 1st & 2nd,
    BIFFADIFF, IT HAUL’S ASS. AN HP
    STOP HE SAID THAT IN 30 YRS HE HAD
    NEVER SEEN A VW BUS GO SO FAST
    I WAS ON MY WAY 2 WORK, HE SAID HE
    CLOCKED ME AT 116mph, I DROVE THE
    PISS OUT OF THIS VEHICAL 4 100,000
    MILE’S IT COST ME $800 2 COMPLETLY
    OVERHAUL IT 30 YRS AGO IT NEED’S 2
    B REDONE, BUT JUST 2 DO THE HEAD’S
    THEY WANT $1800 IT’S BEEN SITTING
    COVERED ON BLOCK’S 4 25+ YRS WITH
    10 OTHER PRE 73 CAR’S & TRUCK’S

    1
  16. Jason

    What a weapon

    1
  17. Eric

    The key would be to change the stock rear tires to rollers and mount an inboard set of slicks behind the sheetmetal on a shortened driveshaft.

  18. Ted

    1980 I had a 71 Vega LT-1/M-21/12 bolt posi that I traded for. To this day the most unruly/snakiest vehicle I have ever driven. Not a sleeper by any means, but the small car big HP combination can’t be beat. I like this little Kammback, someone is going to have some serious fun with this………..

    1
  19. Larry Creech

    Our 64 Nova 4dr sleeper at last year’s LS Fest in Bowling Green, Ky. LS 1, 4L60, cold air, hot heat, front power disc brakes, stock rear end. Uncut engine compartment, headers through single exhaust. Wife and I are 70 years old and love when they pull back up beside us looking all weird that a 6 cylinder box just chewed on them lol.

    6
    • DayDreamBeliever Member

      That’s awesome, Larry!

      1
  20. chd f

    hope the did some other upgrades like suspension (2* of increase weight) breaks, etc

  21. 1st Gear

    who is missing the point here – IT’S A VEGA without a cage. I’ve observed a hot small block Vega actually pop the windshield out coming outta the hole,the thing twisted so much.

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks. Don't post your car for sale in the comments. Click here to get it featured on the homepage instead.

*

Notify me of new comments via email. Or subscribe without commenting.