1975 CHEVY VEGA


Chevrolet needed a performance car to sell, so in 1975 the Vega model was selected to be the car. Of course, planning began years earlier.

Into a three-door hatchback was placed a 122-cubic-inch, four-cylinder engine with a 16-valve twin cam. An aluminum cylinder head was designed by England’s Cosworth Engineering. United States government-mandated regulations at the time meant that the final product developed only 111 horsepower.

Just 2,061 of the Cosworth Vega hatchbacks were manufactured during the 1975 model year, each one with a base price of $5,916, almost twice the price of a regular non-Cosworth Vega.

Back in the late 1970s Frederick Seoane was a high school student in Falls Church, Va. He liked the Chevy Vegas and had transplanted larger Chevrolet V-8 engines into two different Vegas. In those days Seoane had read about Cosworth Vega models, but because so few existed he had never seen one.

About 30 years after graduating from high school, Seoane had some spare time and was looking for a project. Remembering the pleasure he received from squeezing big V-8 engines into Vegas, he began shopping for a Vega for another engine transplant. He was surprised when he found the rare 1975 Cosworth Vega in nearby Warrenton, Va. It was number 1,953 of the 2,061 manufactured that model year.

Seoane purchased the 14-foot, 7.4-inch-long car in February 2008 with the odometer having recorded 103,350 miles. He had the car delivered to his home on the back of a truck.

The all black Vega — inside and out — had a few gold highlights including: gold pinstriping; gold cast aluminum 13-inch wheels; and gold, engine-turned dashboard panel. Incomplete records that came with the Vega indicate that Seoane is at least the fourth owner.

The Cosworth Vega is devoid of any power-assisted equipment. Even the windows have hand cranks. It does have an AM/FM radio with the antenna embedded in the windshield. The rear window has the telltale horizontal red lines of a defogger. The side windows behind the doors pop out at the rear to aid in ventilation.

“There is no air conditioning,” Seoane says, “but it has a heater.”
Standing at only 50 inches high the cozy interior of the car is a mere 65.4 inches wide. The back of the rear seat folds down to provide a convenient, flat surface.

A four-speed manual transmission shift lever sprouts from the floor between the bucket seats. In the dashboard beside the 120 mph speedometer is an 8,000-rpm tachometer with a red line of 6,500 rpm. In the hub of the four-spoke steering wheel is an identification label proudly stating, “Cosworth Vega.”

The driver has a clear rear view, complements of a pair of aerodynamic outside racing mirrors. The five metal louvers shading the rear window do not hamper rearward vision.
Handling is quite nimble, helped by the special suspension with both front and rear anti-roll bars and the 97-inch wheelbase. The gasoline tank has a 16-gallon capacity.

“When the Webers open up the gas gauge takes a plummet,” Seoane says. He is referring to the pair of two-barrel Weber carburetors. He believes the engine was last rebuilt in 1998.

Seoane isn’t one to keep his black beauty hidden away in a garage. In the two-and-a-half years that he has owned the Cosworth Vega, he has added about 3,000 miles to the total on the odometer.

The exceedingly rare Cosworth Vega is likely the only one you’ll ever see. In 1975 the Cosworth Vega was the second most expensive car that Chevrolet had ever sold. A new Corvette was only an additional $600.

Seoane is very happy with his Cosworth Vega and has only had to maintain the car in its present condition. His only problem is that he still hasn’t found a project car. — Vern Parker

Copyright, Motor Matters, 2010

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