Vega or Pinto? 1972 Chevrolet Vega Kammback

Scotty GilbertsonBy Scotty Gilbertson

Tiny wagon fans, here’s a 1972 Chevrolet Vega Kammback and the bidding is going crazy-go-nuts on eBay with 35 bids and a current price of $5,000! It’s located at a dealership, or broker, in sunny Los Angeles, California. I shouldn’t compare this car to a Ford Pinto wagon, but I can’t help it; they’re both 2-door wagons, 2-inches apart in length, and they’re from the same era. It would be a hard choice for me. The Vega seems to be the rarer of the two, at least as far as seeing them on the street in actual use. I literally can’t remember the last time that I was a Vega Kammback on the street.

It always seems to come down to Chevy Vs. Ford, doesn’t it? I remember that 40-50 years ago and it’s still out there. At 14-feet in length the Vega Kammback isn’t that tiny, but it sure looks small to me, much smaller than a Pinto wagon. It’s only a couple of inches shorter than a Pinto wagon so it has to be something about the design or the scale or the features that make it look so small. Ok, enough about that. The seller says that it’s “a 100% solid, rust free, California car”, and this is probably being picky, but the bottom of the driver’s door is a bit rusty, like it won’t be too long before the bottoms of the doors are bubbling. I could be wrong.

I pick up a little color change between the front clip being a touch lighter than the adjacent doors are? Or, maybe I’m wrong again? They say that there were no “accidents and all panel fitment is perfect.” It does look like rust is at a bare minimum on this car, that’s great to see after so many decades.

Yes, a 4-speed! The seats look like new as does almost everything other than the carpet, and the unusual bright green dash top. Can that be original? This car has AC but the seller says that “we didn’t bother to test it and assume it will need to be serviced regardless.” In my world, testing the AC involves pushing a single button on the dash, so that’s a bit of a confusing statement. Maybe they meant that they didn’t pressure test the system to look for the leak that it surely has after 45 years. AC in a Vega is pretty impressive, though, hopefully it can be brought back to working condition.

This car was stored inside under a cover for a number of years when it was discovered. The seller removed the old gas and the gas tank and resealed and reinstalled it and now it runs great. This is Chevy’s 2.3L inline-four with 90 hp. This is a 2,400 pound car which isn’t a lot, and that 4-speed manual will help to keep it a fun driving experience even with only 90 hp. The 1972 Pinto wagon had a 2.0L inline-four with 86 hp, but it was 200 pounds lighter. They had a similar 0-60 time with the Vega beating it by a half-second. All things being equal: if you had to choose one: Vega kammback or Pinto wagon?

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  1. flmikey

    …in the Pinto/Vega wars, Pinto had the reliable engine, Vega had the style…

    • Mike H

      I’ll drink to that!

  2. Ben

    The AC compressor is not stock.

    The stock radiator was to small for the engine and work with a/C

    • Vegaman Dan

      That was a dealer installed AC under dash unit. While AC was available from 1971, it was built into the vehicle with a thicker radiator and special dash.

  3. Coventrycat

    Watched a brand new 77 wagon start to blow smoke and self destruct after 6 months. Great style, lousy aluminum engine.

  4. Jim B

    We had one of these, new, i think a 73. It was hands down the worst vehicle I’ve ever encountered.

  5. Rock On

    Vegas can be vastly improved with the simple addition of a V8 engine!

    • Vegaman Dan

      They were designed to have a 2.8L V6 (Buick even fire), but forced to go with the 2.3L four cylinder to meet gas mileage requirements pushed out on the industry.

      • ACZ

        There was never a Buick 2.8 V6. The Buick was 3.8L and the even fire version didn’t come out ’til 1977. The 2.8L of Chevy origin was a 60 degree and didn’t show up until 1980.

    • 68 custom

      small V8’s only need apply here, but no 305’s!

  6. Cary Dice

    I bought a screaming orange Vega GT Kammback in 73. The GT had 110 HP because it had a 2 barrell carb instead of the 1. 4-sp, black interior. I loved the car. No problems in the 2.5 years I owned it. Hauled all my stuff right out of college.

  7. Bill Smith

    I’d love a Vega Kammback withe the GT package but I believe you could get a Pinto wagon with the 2.8 V6 if I remember correctly!

  8. Tim M

    383 stroker and a standard shift would make this a fun little car.

  9. Steve H

    I love these Kammbacks. My best friend had a silver one with black interior, not sure of the year. He had very few problems with it, if you don’t count keeping up with traffic a problem. Slow, it was, but it was very cool.

  10. George L

    I bought a ’72 new and loved it for 2 years. Then the engine crapped out and I had to do a full bareblock rebuild in the dead of winter in a very cold garage. In the process I eliminated an unnecessary restriction crossing the mouth of the carb, and it made a significant difference in power. Again I loved the car, but it completely self destructed in another year from rust. No such thing as a rust free Vega.

  11. chip peterson

    I drove a Monza wagon V6 in college. Spun a bearing and still drove it, loudly, for weeks. Drove it to the junkyard! Wish I had it today..

  12. Steve Patterson

    Bought new 1 1976 vega gt (not wagon) pretty little sporty looking car but 5 speed transmission didn’t make 30,000 miles and motor went out at 60,000. Still sitting behind homestead old barn.

  13. Dan

    Back in the day it didn’t seem like the back end looked just like the Pinto’s

  14. Sam

    Great find. Preseved and cleaned up is ok. OR some attitude…split front bumper like a Camaro…Subaru WRX engine and AWD….oh yaaah!

  15. Richard Prokopchuk

    In early 74, I bought a 72 Vega Kammback GT. Bright red with a white stripe from front to back. interior was really nice. It drove well until on a trip from Ft Ord to Pa and down to San Angelo it was using a quart of oil per 1k miles. I was sorry to see it go.

  16. Rustytech

    Rare to see one of these at all today, let alone one in this condition. Most of these were crushed years ago. I’d do an engine swap but would would likely go with a modern V6. What’s up with that dash cover, it just looks weird! It would definitely need a dye job. I agree these definitely had it all over the Pinto in the style department, and they didn’t explode when rear ended either.

  17. AMCFAN

    Give me the GLH

  18. John

    I had a 74 Vega gt , had oversize radiator never over heated just could not use the AC incredibly fun car to drive wish I still had it

  19. Ralph Robichaud

    Loved the looks of the Kammback.. simple can be beautiful.

  20. junkman Member

    My brother had one of these with a 396, turbo 400,and a 9 inch 4.10. A crazy ride for sure. a total blast to drive, would do anything but corner or stop!
    ps: still having issues with response on the website, anyone else having problems trying to read or comment today?

  21. Paul B

    Vega is the more comfortable better driving, shifting and steering car. But Pinto has the bulletproof mechanicals. So, having driven both, I’d reluctantly have to go with the uncomfortable, rattly, crashy-riding Pinto over the more refined Vega which would likely self-destruct under continued real world use.

  22. ROTAG999

    This one looks to have the weak opel Tranny also not the later Saginaw.
    That is the small radiator but looks to have a thicker core then stock.

  23. Woodie Man

    I spent a many summers night in a friends ’71 driving the I 95 going from Connecticut to New York where the drinking age was lower………….I can’t remember why……..

  24. Kevin C

    I had a Vega wagon and my friend had a Pinto wagon. After school we were naughty racing each other in the back country roads. My Vega can out run his Pinto. Both were automatics. Rust took its toll.

  25. Kevin Reid

    Would in no way shape or form be concerned with either one of them-not even bringing them to the scrapper-even if 10 of EACH of ’em were given to me free. Both were real bad ideas and examples of cars.

  26. Howard A Member

    We’ve been over this and over this. People’s views are pretty steadfast when it comes to Vegas. Personally, I like them. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, ( except one person) ever kept a Vega wagon. These were used by auto parts, flower shops, any kind of light duty city delivery, and were literally run into the ground. There rarely was anything left. This poor thing, I can only imagine with the a/c on, but for sitting in L.A. traffic, probably was ok. I agree, this should have a radiator twice this size for Cal. Great find, can’t be many like this that haven’t been turned into toasters. Seems like a deal. Not sure about what to do power wise, though.

  27. FiremanDK

    Had a 75 and a 76… the 75 was a Sedan ? (trunk Model) that was like brand new off of a used car lot and didn’t make it to 87,000 miles despite religiously maintaining it : The motor was on its last legs when an ambulance took it out DID not have a steel sleeved engine despite being a 1975, much to my chagrin.

    The 1976 had a 5 speed Borg-Warner transmission, pop out side windows, sway bars front and rear (GT) , was a hatch back, and I put a Webber manifold and carb on it…had to switch back and forth to get it smogged … It to didn’t last too long…blew a head gasket on highway 101 at Camp Roberts on the way to the Fire Department in Shandon , CA.

    Took the head off at the fire station, slapped a new gasket in it and put it up for sale . A young guy from salinas bought it had about 125,000 on it ..I was honest with him, he liked it and gave me $900. A few months later , I saw it in an AUTOTRADER magazine , it still had the personalized license plate MAHA ( for Maherajah Water Skis) , and the add said “SPORTY BUT ECONOMICAL, LOW MILEAGE”… I had a pretty good laugh over that ….

  28. LimoDan

    Growing up we had an yellow/gold one that we towed behind a motor home , lots of good family memories of vacations.

  29. wuzjeepnowsaab

    I can hear the car screaming for a SBC swap all the way here in the Rockies


    Anyone know what the vents on the rear quarters were for? Was always curious about that.

    • Rando

      Vents were for flow through ventilation. Chevy had some fancy name for it. Shame this isn’t a GT. The dash, steering wheel, and wheels were so much better on the GTs

  31. Richard Prokopchuk

    The steering wheel was also used on the Corvette. sad but true.

  32. Cubs win

    Junk then junk now. The Gremlin was a much better designed car and was bullet proof.

  33. Jared

    back in the early 1980’s my dad had a black early 70’s vega like this but with a 454 in it. Probably one of the fastest accelerating cars i ever been in. he has a car dealership so sold it within 6 months.

  34. Scotty Gilbertson Scotty Staff

    Auction update: this Vega Kammback sold for $9,589!


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