V8 Velocity: 1976 Chevrolet Vega Hatchback Street Machine – Sold?

by | Feb 2022 | Classifinds, Malaise Monday

April 3, 2022, Update – We just confirmed the listing for this “Classifind” expired, so with no replacement found we’re assuming this ride “Sold?” While this one got away, please reach out either by email or call us directly if you’d like to be informed when we come across something similar.

February 28, 2022 Update – The private seller of this V8-Swapped 1976 Chevrolet Vega just replaced their original listing with a fresh Craigslist ad.  In it, the description, pictures, and asking price all remain the same.

Long before the LS V8 and its popularity for stuffing one into just about any ride imaginable, hot rodders were swapping small block Chevy mills into Malaise-era compacts.  A prime throw-back to those times is this 1976 Chevrolet Vega Hatchback originally listed in January 2022 on Craigslist in Kissimmee, Florida that is powered by a 350 cubic inch small block sending power to the rear wheels through an M22 “Rock Crusher” four-speed manual transmission. This Vega also features aftermarket air conditioning nicely integrated into the bottom of the car’s dashboard.

Currently offered for $15,000, comparing that price against the  Collector Car Market Review Online Tool reveals the asking price is $4,600 above this guide’s #1 “Excellent” appraisal of $10,400. Unfortunately, the Hagerty Insurance Online Valuation Tool only lists Vega Cosworth values, so we elected not to include those in this listing.

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, 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 were 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.

The Cars & Stripes YouTube Channel features this Canadian 1976 Chevrolet Vega commercial:

The interior and undercarriage shots appear to indicate this Vega street machine is likely a well-sorted and highly detailed street machine.  When you connect, please remember to mention you saw his Vega street machine featured here on GuysWithRides.com. Good luck with the purchase!

Here’s the seller’s description:

“For sale 1976 Chevy Vega, Monza, no rust the car is in excellent condition, 350 Chevy engine .030 over with TRW forged pistons, Std crank bearings, high volume oil pump, Muncie M22 rock crusher 4-speed transmission with Hurst shifter, the carburetor was just replaced with Holley street avenger, Holley remanufactured, 3-row aluminum radiator, spark plug wires replaced. 6.5 rear axle 2.92 gears with torsion bar, Headers, new tires, Air conditioning, door, and hatchback seals replaced, new fuel pump, rear trans seal replaced, Hurst shifter bushings replaced, alternator replaced, new battery with battery maintainer, also has original owners manuals, bumper jack. Car cover included. Many extra parts included, must see to appreciate, not looking for trades or offers. $15,000.00 contact Henry

Show or go: what would you do with this V8-powered 1976 Chevrolet Vega Hatchback Street machine?  Comment below and let us know!

3 Comments
  1. Anonymous

    Make it handle….

    Reply
    • Guys with Rides

      We had a V6-powered Vega for sale on the site two years ago where the seller upgraded his Vega with later-model Monza brake and suspension components and he claimed it made quite a difference over the stock setup.

      Reply
  2. AnalogMan

    Way back in the late 70’s, I once owned a similar V8 Vega, a 1971 with a 350/350 engine. Swapping V8’s into Vegas was fairly popular in the 70’s and 80’s, as the original engines were fragile and had well-documented short lives. It was one of the most fun cars I’ve had of the well over 100 I’ve owned in my life.

    It was the ultimate sleeper. Totally stock exterior except for larger wheels and tires, but would surprise many a ‘muscle’ car in stoplight street races. It was an absolute blast to drive, albeit with the limited stopping ability of the stock brakes.

    The Achilles heel of my old car was the same as I think this car might be saddled with: the original rear end. A 6.5″ rear is not built to handle the torque output of a V8. I was gentle with mine and it survived it’s time with me, but the person who bought it blew the rear within two weeks. I suspect the same might be a risk with this car.

    It looks nicely done with the M22 transmission, and the clean, stock, sleeper body. To really make it into a reliable and usable car the rear end and brakes need to be upgraded to match the engine. If the body is solid and not full of bondo, the price seems reasonable for the work that’s already gone into it.

    Reply

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