Hell Freeze II: 1976 Chevrolet Vega Wagon 14K Time Capsule – Sold?

Oct 2020 | Classifinds, Wagon Wednesday

December 1st Update – We just confirmed the Craigslist ad for this ride expired and with no replacement listing found, we’re assuming this car sold.  This one may have got away, but if you have your heart set on something similar, email us the details of what you’re looking for or call Rudy directly at (908)295-7330.

October 20th Update – We just noticed a fresh Craiglist ad for this extremely low mileage Chevy Vega wagon, however, the price in the listing remains the same at $12,000.

September 30th Update – The latest Craigslist ad for this very ow mileage Chevy Vega expired earlier this week, so with no replacement listing found, we’re calling this one “Sold.”

September 15th Update – While updating our Wagon Wednesday database we confirmed the private seller of the ultra-low mileage Chevrolet Vega just lowered their asking price $2,500 to $12,000.

In 1976, Chevrolet’s subcompact Vega lineup entered its fifth year of production with a vast amount of improvements added to resolve the quality control problems found on earlier editions.  Bad first impressions are hard to shake off and Vega sales continued a downward slide as better quality Japanese competitors gained traction in the U.S.  Consequently, 1976 Vegas are now a rare sight. We are willing to bet this 1976 example with only 13,800 original miles first listed in September 2020 on Craigslist in Cleveland, Ohio that spent most of its life in dry Montana may be the most original example in existence today.  As a result, the private seller is currently asking $12,000 for his showroom new Vega.  Comparing this price against the NADA Guides Classic Car Online Valuation Tool confirms this private seller has his Vega wagon priced above the current “Low”, “Average”, and “High” retail value range of $5,225, $7,575, and $13,300, respectively.

Chevrolet produced the subcompact Vega from 1971 through 1977 in two-door notchback, hatchback, station wagon, and sedan delivery models. The Vega received praise and awards at its introduction, including Motor Trend Magazine’s coveted Car of the Year Award.  The accolades didn’t last long as Vegas entered real-world use. Chevrolet’s innovative subcompact became widely known for a range of problems related to its engineering, reliability, safety, the propensity to rust, and lack of engine durability. 

The aluminum-block, inline-four cylinder engine was a joint effort by General Motors, Reynolds Metals, and Sealed Power Corporation. GM Engineers developed the engine and its die-cast block technology before it was passed off to Chevrolet’s team for finalization and production. Ed Cole, involved with the 1955 small-block V8 as chief engineer at Chevrolet and now equally involved with the Vega engine as GM president, often visited the engineering staff engine drafting room on Saturdays, reviewing the design and directing changes, to the consternation of Chevrolet engineers and manufacturing personnel, who knew he wanted a rush job.  The engine in development became known in-house as “the world’s tallest, smallest engine” due to the tall cylinder head. Its vibration, noise, and tendency to overheat required engineers to start developing fixes shortly after Vega entered production. Even worse, the innovative sleeveless aluminum engine block had a propensity to start burning oil way too soon.

Consequently, for 1976, Chevrolet engineers launched some three hundred changes to the Vega. A facelift included a revised header panel with Chevy bowtie emblem, wider grille, revised headlamp bezels – all in corrosion-resistant material – and new tri-color taillights for the notchback and hatchback (although the amber turn signals were nonfunctional). The cooling and durability of the Dura-Built 2.3-liter engine was vastly improved. The chassis received the Monza’s upgraded components including box-section front cross-member, larger front and rear brakes (with the fronts gaining vented rotors), and torque-arm rear suspension. Extensive anti-rust improvements to the body included galvanized fenders and rocker panels.  New options included Borg-Warner five-speed manual overdrive transmission and houndstooth seat trim named “sport cloth” at an additional $18.  Despite a series of recalls and design upgrades, the Vega’s problems tarnished both its own as well as General Motors’ reputation. Production ended with the 1977 model year. However, the wagon body style continued as a rebranded Monza for several more years.

Here’s a thirty-second TV spot posted on the Osborn Tramain YouTube channel selling the 1976 Vega wagon:

The seller relies on the extremely low miles and Montana provenance to sell this like-new Vega.  As someone who endured driving a very similarly equipped example in the early 1980s, for many years I believed Hell would freeze over before anyone would spend $4,500 for this car let alone $14,500 as the memories of driving a Vega in traffic wasn’t all that nostalgic.  However, if you’re looking for a great Malaise-era preservation class car to show next year at AACA events, this Vega makes a compelling example.  Good luck with the purchase!

Here’s the seller’s description:

“Unbelievable 13,800 miles and looks it. 216-647-7272 Montana car.

Do you have a Vega Wagon story you’d like to share?  Comment below and let us know!


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