Yenko Stinger Tribute: 1973 Chevrolet Vega Kammback

The 1970s Chevy Vega wasn’t the success story that General Motors had planned. Sure, they sold more than two million of them across seven model years, but they were notorious for rusting out and having engines that would overheat and implode. Don Yenko was a Pennsylvania dealer who became famous for hot-rodding Chevies in the 1960s and 1970s. He took a crack at creating souped up Vega’s in 1971 and 1972 and this ’73 Kammback is a tribute to those limited production cars but with one difference: it has a Buick V-6 under the hood rather than a Vega 4-cylinder. The car is located in Bakersfield, California and available here on eBay where the no reserve bidding has reached $5,000.

As the decade of Flower Power was coming to a close, GM needed a subcompact to do battle with the VW Beetle and the newcomers from Japan. That resulted in the Chevy Vega debuting for 1971 with a lot of fanfare. The little cars were similar to the competition in many respects, but different in others. Examples include the use of an engine with an aluminum block and being shipping stacked vertically rather than nose to tail. GM thought they had a winner and so did Motor Trend magazine who named it Car of the Year for 1971. Flaws in the new manufacturing process that GM developed for building the cars quickly became apparent as they would begin to rust prematurely, and the motors became famous for leaking oil and coolant. The OPEC oil embargo in 1973 caused buyers to head to smaller cars in droves, so that saved the Vega overall.  It’s interesting that none off the other GM divisions attempted to copy the car for themselves.

In addition to producing the Yenko Camaro, Chevelle and Nova, Yenko built a version of the Vega, calling it the Yenko Vega Stinger as a throwback to the Corvair Stinger from a few years earlier. 200 are said to have been built in each of the 1971 and 1972 model years, yet a resource that keeps track of these cars can only account for about a dozen today. Since the base Vega’s inline-4 was too little engine for what Yenko wanted to do, he talked Chevy into building a special one for Yenko’s use. This simply meant a set of forged alloy plated pistons made to handle the added pressure of a turbocharger that would be optional and installed by the car’s buyer. The Stinger’s engine would put out 155 hp compared to the stock 110, shaving four seconds off quarter-mile runs. All Yenko Vega Stingers came with the GT Package (RPO Z29) which introduced suspension, wheel, and cosmetic upgrades along with a 4-speed manual transmission and a Posi-traction axle with a 3.36:1 ratio.

We have no reason to believe that the seller’s car is anything other than a one-off. As a tribute to the 1971-72 Stingers, this one uses the Kammback GT body style with striping like the original cars wore. 50 of the 1972 Vega Stingers had been wagons like this. This ’73 Kammback is said to have been selected for the Stinger tribute because the wagon is more versatile than the sedan and hatchback and the styling is more subdued as it was the last year before cowcatcher bumpers were added to adhere to new Federal safety standards. It’s a two-owner auto that has never been registered outside the State of California. We’re told it’s also never been in an accident and has all its original glass and sheet metal.

While the body and gold paint look good at 20 feet, there is some rust brewing along the bottom of the passenger side rear glass. That area has been treated with POR 15 rust converter and prime sealed by a body shop. That should hold it for now and is the only obvious detraction from an otherwise nice-looking Vega. The interior looks especially nice and it may all be original given that the non-engine parts of the car have just 59,000 original miles.

What may be the best thing going for this Vega is that the original 4-banger has been replaced by a Buick 3.8-liter “Gran National style” V-6 motor that has a Holley 670 carb and aluminum intake manifold along with an Accel Super Coil. The seller says this is a very fast car and who’s to argue! Besides the GT Package, the car comes with a center console, factory GT wheels, CD player and leather upholstery. While all the real Stingers had a manual shifter, this one uses a Turbo-Hydramatic.

The seller has included links to videos of both this car and a commercial for the Vega in general. Also, here’s a link to the registry that has been assembled for the known cars. If there are any other Vega Stinger tributes out there, they’re not mentioned. Chevy built 427,300 Vega’s for 1973 and 102,700 of those were wagons like the one started out as. As far as tributes go, how much could this one be worth? Since there’s nothing really to compare against, we’ll have to wait and see how the auction turns out!

Video 1

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Comments

  1. alphasud Member

    Im a sucker for odd cars and in many ways I dig this car. I also never knew Don made a Stinger out of a Vega. As a Corvair Corsa owner this seemed like a logical progression for Don to offer a successor to his successful Corvair run. Since Don offered a turbo kit for the original Vega it only seems logical to that the Buick 3.8 to the next level and install a GNX engine with the efi in there. I think it would be fun to take to the drag strip and car shows and give people something to talk about good or bad.

    Like 9
  2. Vegaman Dan

    There is no center console. It is just a TH350 transmission. AC is a dealer install. Factory installs had a different control cable setup and no lower vents.

    It is really nice, but it has a bit if body damage, doesn’t have the Yenko engine though the 3.8L even fire V6 is a really good choice.

    I would love to have it, but too expensive.

    Like 1
  3. Roger Hackney

    Pontiac did have a similar car , I believe it was called Astro .

    Like 6
    • Vegaman Dan

      Pontiac’s version was the Astre. The Astro is Chevy’s minivan.

      This same wagon was still produced under the Monza and Astre names. Oddly, no Buick or Olds versions of the wagon were ever made.

      Like 13
      • Joel Cigelske

        Wrong…the Oldsmobile Starfire was offered as well as a Buick Skyhawk….I was an H-body collector in the ’80’s…the best one I had was a Chevy Monza with the 252 v-8…great Corvette beaters!! problem was trying to stop the damn thing once it was wound up!! Kenne-Bell made lots of Buick 231 hot rod parts to make these cars scream…

        Like 1
    • John Oliveri

      Pontiac Astre

    • Kevin

      Yes pontiac did their version of the vega,it was the astre,barely any left!

  4. Roger Hackney

    Astre , there ya go.

    Like 7
  5. Jcs

    Arguably the best looking little wagon ever made. Someone’s going home with a super cool little ride.

    Like 16
  6. Steve blevins

    This car needs to be a split bumper

    Like 5
  7. Jeff Tidwell

    I first car was a ’72 Vega GT I inherited from my big brother after he overheated and warped the engine block. I learned to work on cars by using a Doug Thorley header and motor mount kit to drop a 350 in it. A bigger radiator, stronger front springs, and swapping the heater core around made it fit. I also paid a welder to cut a 12 bolt rear end and weld mounts to it. It was fun in a straight line, but not in curves. I sold it for $500 and the guy had to tie the driver’s door shut with a rope after the unibody warped. He told me later he sold it to a kid who ripped the whole rear end out in one week doing burnouts. I thought the Vega was a cool looking car at the time, it’s too bad GM put a crappy aluminum motor in it originally. By the time they fixed that problem with the cast-iron block, it’s reputation was shot.

    Like 2
    • JoeNYWF64

      The vega’s motor was an alum block but had a cast iron head. Dumb.
      Swapping in an alum buick 215 v8 & putting the battery in the back of the car might mean no need to change springs …
      https://www.gomog.com/allmorgan/engineweights2.html
      I can’t believe the ancient Chevy L6 216/235 weighs 630 lb! lol

      Like 1
  8. Superdessucke

    With originals going for over 18k, the owner might want to put that 4 banger back in!

  9. JoeNYWF64

    Maybe not the best idea painting over the chrome window moldings, side window frames, & stainless wipers with black paint – done in late 70’s – with peeling black paint the result later on.

    Like 1
  10. dwcisme

    I kind of liked the Vega until a friend of ours bought one. It was a competition between it and my sister’s Fiat 124 coupe as to which rusted into oblivion faster. By the time you finished fixing the rust, it was time to start again.

    Like 2
  11. PairsNPaint

    ARRRGGGHHHHH! Another desirable car on the wrong coast! Although I think the seller went a bit overboard with the Armor-All.

    Like 1
  12. Tirefriar

    Love pre-74 Vegas, especially the wagon, with exception of Cosie which is near the top of my bucket list. Good ideas here but execution is lagging. Auto trans is a cop out, too much spaghetti dangling underneath the dash indication of rushing through things. Current bid is over $6k, so yeah its up there. I don’t care if it would cost more to build, the market for these in proper condition is in the $4k-$6k range. This Vega may remind someone of their happier days and they are willing to stretch for it.

  13. Danno

    And here I thought the Pinto was the only cool little wagon. That wee beauty is just begging for an aluminum V8 and 6-gear.

    • chrlsful

      discs up frnt, frame stiffiners, lowered a bit, need R&P steering I guess (careful@junk yrd, tho most turn opposite way)…

  14. Bobby Thatcher

    Actually it was a Pontiac star fire that was on the Vega body or the monza one I can’t remember that far back

    • Vegaman Dan

      Oldsmobile Starfire
      Buick Skyhawk
      Pontiac Astra
      Pontiac Sunbird
      Chevy Monza

      Only the Astra and Vega branding for the pre-74 body. The wagon continued in the Pontiac and Monza brand after 1977.

      Like 1
  15. misterlou Member

    Offered on craigslist (where I now search for Vegas thanks to BF for planting that seed where I thought nothing could grow!) for $9K- was $10K a week ago. https://bakersfield.craigslist.org/cto/d/bakersfield-1973-chevrolet-vega-gt/7256027173.html

    Like 1
  16. Joe Haska

    Barn Finds does it again and I am going along with It as usual. You feature a car ,I never even knew existed and now I want it! It is not fair ,my list of cars I want to own ,is getting way too long and IMHO , it is all B/F fault.

  17. Troy s

    I’m wrong in my thinking yet again, must have been Baldwin Motion that was sticking V8 ‘s in these and selling them,,,,until big brother stepped in with a seize and desist order.
    Vegas look better than Pintos if that helps at all.

    Like 1
  18. Patrick Anderson

    If Motor Trend picked a car as “Car of the Year” I’d stay the hell away from it. I always smelled a fix. MT probably got paid to bestow the title on a new car.

    Like 1
    • Vegaman Dan

      They chose it for the new tech as it was presented at the time. It was exceedingly easy to work on with the engine fully accessible the spark plugs had nothing blocking them. Only the exhaust manifold could be tricky but no worse than any V8.

      Like 1
  19. Christopher Gentry

    I’ve always been more of a Ford or import guy , but always thought the Vegas where some of the coolest little cars. Sounds like this has its bigist problem fixed with throwing out the original engine.

  20. Alford H Pouse Member

    Bought a panel delivery version of the wagon at a Farmers market car auction in Pa. Only reason I got it was someone had put a cast iron 4 cylinder and a 5 speed trans in it. Kept it for about 2 yrs. Never regretted buying it. Good mileage and performed quite satisfactory. Like many of the cars I’ve had wish I still had it. $225.00

  21. Paul S

    Did anyone else notice the duct tape passenger side rear window a very long piece and a shorter piece above the stinger name?

  22. Paul S

    The font bumper is not straight and the same with the grill, hood is out of wack, because the gaps are not right.

    • wcshook

      That tended to be the norm in the ’70’s. Quality control left a lot to be desired back then.

  23. Paul S

    Where is the interior pictures??

    • Tirefriar

      Fleabay ad

  24. Art Schrameck

    Yep I had a dark blue 71 Vega whose engine burned about a quart of oil every 50 miles and the top of both fenders rusted out. Not a winner of a vehicle.

  25. David Donahue

    Another GM division (did) re-badge the Vega in the Pontiac Astre brand, from 73 on. I love the Kammback design pre 74. Chevy muscle car guy’s always take exception when I point out how close the front end design was in 73 to the same year Camaro. Look closely , the Vega is the Camaro’s obnoxious little cousin

    Like 1
  26. Guy Blessing

    OK. A car I know! I had a ’72 Kammback GT, 4 spd. Fun but eventually the head gasket gave up as they all did. I found a 262″ V8 from a later Monza and bolted in after a few performance mods. Ran right with the 5.0 Mustangs at the dragstrip. One of the most fun cars I have had and I have had a Corvette and several Chevy fun cars.

    Like 1
  27. John Oliveri

    The Pontiac Astre was indeed the Vegas cousin,

  28. chrlsful

    grand national style to me means ” turbo w/o intercooler”? (ford guy here).

  29. Jcd

    I must add the this cars interior is incredible. Every where you look, the design is spot on. The GT dash and gauges along with modern A/C seals the deal in proclaiming this to officially be one uber-cool ride.

  30. Tom bowers

    My. Parents bought a yenko stinger brand new. Man o war red wide o ovals front spoiler and all like most vegas, the motor ate oil and it rapidly rusted all over. But darn I wish we still had that car

  31. Hans VanDyk

    Front looks out of wack look at the hood grill ect seller states never been in a crash, they don,t get out of shape on there own.
    I have a 73 Vega coupe 4.0 ltr Toyota hemi all alloy V8. I,m in the last stages of finishing it , had to shorten the power steering rack on r/h side to get bump steer out.
    Cheers Hans in Australia.

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