The Chevrolet Vega was produced from 1971 through 1977 and offered in a variety of configurations including a coupe, hatchback and station wagon. These were not the names that were used, officially, they were Notchback, Hatchback, and Kammback. During the Vega's development, the codename it was given was the 'XP-887'
The subcompact market had become very important to American Automakers, partly because of the influence that the Volkswagen Beetle had secured and the rising competition from other imports such as Toyota and Datsun. During the 1960's Ford introduced their Falcon and Chevrolet their Corvair but neither were able to grasp the popularity that had been established by other imports. With oil embargo's and customers demanding more fuel efficient vehicles, this market was evolving and becoming more important to master.
The Chevrolet Vega was another attempt at wining over the hearts of the American public and to crack the tough subcompact market. The standard engine with a single-barrel carburetor produced about 70 horsepower while the addition of a second carburetor increased horsepower to 85. The 2.3 Liter engine quickly gained a reputation for being unreliable. Due to a poor cooling channel design the engine had a tendency to burn through oil rather quickly as a result of the poorly designed valve stem seals. This did little to inspire confidence in the vehicle. Problems seemed to follow the vehicle throughout its lifespan with reports of overheating, carburetor fires, premature body rust, ruptured fuel tanks, and other issues. It was given the reputation as 'the car that began rusting on the showroom floors'.
Even with its problems, the Chevrolet Vega was a popular vehicle with over two million examples produced during its lifetime. Chevrolet combated the vehicles issues during every year of its production and continued to improve the vehicle. In 1976 they backed their produced with a '5-year, 60,000-mile' warranty which was far superior to the warranties of the time.
The Vega has been included on Forbes Magazine's 'worst car list of all time.' Rising competition and build quality issues were the reason for the demise of the Vega. As the Vega was being fazed out Chevrolet introduced the Chevette and Monza which provided even more competition for the subcompact car. By the time production had ceased, 2,154,434 examples had been produced.
By Daniel Vaughan | Nov 2006