by Robert Spinello (vegabob)
Vega/Monza is like Chevelle/Monte carlo or even Nova/'76-'79 Caddy Seville-- meaning same car-different body (with more weight added from the different body, trim, noise insulation & luxury additions.) when the vega was introduced in 1971, chevy promised not to change it for 5 years-hoping to appeal to VW Beetle owners. GM wanted to tap into the foreign car market. little did they know, in 1970, that the Vega would (mostly) appeal to their own customer base, taking sales away from their own models like Camaro & Nova. import economy car buyers didn't care about style; only economy & durability. the Vega was judged the cleanest design of all, with timeless style. people bought it that were used to attractive bigger american cars. now they could buy an attractive smaller car AND save money! this is where GM and Chevy didn't maximize Vegas' appeal- they should have seen the writing on the wall and should have given Vega the POWER to match its style. even a limited option to see if it would sell. it would take 5 years before they did anything about this, and then only 3,500 overpriced Cosworths that sat at Chevy dealers sometimes longer than a year. it helped Camaro sell better. picture this: a '76 camaro sitting next to a '76 cosworth vega at a chevy dealer- price of Camaro-5,500. price of Cosworth-6,900. i remember looking at the window stickers of both cars together. it made everything else look like a bargin! maybe that was their plan. by this time ('75) Camaro sales were up. (see above) as well as Nova, and the Monza 2+2 was new. All 3 of these cars offered V8's, but not the Vega- WHY? Chevy was losing money on Vega from the beginnning regardless of the fact that sales ranged from a low of 80,000 (in '77) to a high of 460,000 (in '74) this fact prevented any new tooling to accept any major changes, like V8 power.GM's marketing stratagy prevented Chevrolet from building any Hi-Perf. Vegas, and maybe because Vega was designed by GM Execs; not Chevrolet. Ed Cole, GM engineer, and later President of GM has the distinction of having designed the first Chevy V8-the '55 small block V8...... and 15 years later, the Vega Aluminum 4 cyinder motor, which Chevy hated, but was forced to build and sell. President Cole wanted his Aluminum 4 cylinder wonder in the car, and, probably, the '72 CHEVY BUILT V8 VEGA prototype was rejected by Cole. this would explain why only that motor stayed with Vega until the end, good design or bad. like the Corvair aluminum 6 (also designed by Cole) that preceded the Vega, the tooling for these advanced designs, along with Cole's dual role as engineer and ultimate GM decision maker prevented Cole's design from being replaced. this car was doomed from the start before it even went into production! Vega was the lightest car by at least 500.lbs, right? so it would have the best performance of ALL with a V8, right? i think Chevy engineers wanted it built, but, maybe GM and Cole said NO. It all had to pass his desk first! Shortly after vega intro a new body was drafted. which later became Monza 2+2. since vega had 4 different bodies, a new model was offered instead. they share the same width & wheelbase. Monza is 9.3 inches longer however, & has a wider track. std. engine & transmissions are shared. only monza offered V8 (and later, V6 engines) in addition to the std. 4 cylinder motor. original '75 monza was equipped with a lot of items optional on the Vega including suspension stabilizer bars, upgraded springs. only monza would feature square headlights (on the 2+2 intially & Sport Coupe later on.) one of GM's first cars to have them. on the inside monza originally came with a deluxe interior-standard. this was a higher level than the vegas' "custom" interior. this interior was offered to vega buyers in '75 as well, as an option, but i've yet to see one with it. Vega GT gauges were std. rear suspension was redesigned for the monza-(torque arm) replaced the short travel 4-link upper contol arms of the Vega, eliminating the rear wheel hop on panic braking. rear brakes were made larger too. these were also added to the '75 Coswoth Vega, & all Vegas in '76. of course, monza had more insulation-contibruting to a substancial weight increase over Vega. Monza for '76 offered lower priced models, also "opera windowed" town coupes had been avaiable since mid '75. plainer steel bumpered version coupes & hatchbacks were priced too close to vegas' price. when this happened, along with '76 Chevette intro, sales of the vega went into the toilet. Pontiac Astre (Vegas' clone) also had been cutting in on Vegas' share of sales as well from '75. most of the low priced monzas had the vega motor, which was now covered with a 60 month/60,000 mi. warranty. the improved vega engine didn't help the vegas' lagging sales, but Monza continued to sell well with the same engine. Vegas' numbered days started when Monza was introduced. looking at production figures, only the sporty Vega Hatchback & GT's sales were affected by the Monza. Vega Wagon & Sedan remained steady. Vega sales slumped the most in '76 with Chevette intro. the even smaller and cheaper i model Chevette matched Vega sales in '76, and it outsold Vega 2 to 1 in '77. Chevy did it again! the models were competing with each other. vegas sales troubles, no dought were also due to its name having been badly tarnished from early model engine troubles, recalls & rust problems. these problems were gradually resolved by '76, but it was too late. it hung on until '77. after over 1.7 MILLION Vegas built, Chevy quietly discontinued their first "mini-car" in '78, with vega gone, std. motor for Monza was the iron 2.5 pontiac 4 cyl OHV (hugh!) VEGA BODIES REBORN in '78!- the Monza "S". which was identical to Vega Hatchback coupe from the year before was offered in '78 only, again to reduce monzas' base price, although few of these were built. wagon body returned as a monza, also was identical to vega wagon, save the monza grill, bumpers, Dash & steering wheeel. it sold as well as the Vega Wagon had and was offered until Monzas' end. When the Vega was introduced in '71 at 2,100-2,300 lbs; depending on body style, it was considered 200 lbs overweight versus the "competition" the 1975 Monza was 2,700+ lbs. with the std. Vega motor! Chevy took a now aging design (Vega was designed the 60's) and getting heavier due to safety regulations.V8 Monza is 3,200 lbs! Chevy should have produced the ALL ALUMINUM 302 V8 (prototype-1972) Vega GT. they were too buzy spending millons on the Wankel (rotory) engine. testing it in Vegas as early as 1973 in Canada. this is the motor that was planned for Monza. of course this project died, as fuel economy & emmisions dictated GM's priorities. Had chevy beefed up the Vegas' brakes & rear axle earlier on, and offered the 302 Aluminum V8, the Vega would be highly desirable indeed. weight of aluminum V8 brought the vegas total weight to only 2500 lbs.! 13.9 QUARTER MILE TIME! with stock rear axle and tires; 350 automatic. these engines were designed in 1959 as 289's for use in corvette research vehilcles. chevy updated one of the remaining motors for the vega prototype. main change was overbore to 302 c.i. few exsisted in 1972. a production car never had it. can you imagine what a FACTORY 72-73 Vega GT with an aluminum 302 V8 would be worth today. TOO MUCH for me to afford. in '72, i was 13, riding a bike! but loved these cars. i visited my local chevy dealer quite a lot (usually during school lunch.) maybe after all these years I MIGHT build one (similar) start with a 71-73 coupe (2,000 lbs. without motor) add a new 350 with aluminum heads and aluminum manifold crate motor-330 h.p 4-spd-narrowed 12 bolt rear- custom radiator TOTAL WEIGHT=about 2,500 lbs.!!! or 700 lbs lighter than V8 Monza. compare some specs.- 1972 vega 4 cyl. 110 hp 4-speed 3:36 axle 0-60 12.5 sec. qtr mi.19.1 weight-2440. source motor trend jan.'72 1975 monza 8 cyl 110 hp 3 speed auto. 2.93 axle 0-60 12.6 sec. qtr mi. 19.0 weight-3043 source motor trend nov.'74 Isn't that amazing. 4 cyl vs. 8 cyl-SAME PERFORMANCE-why? weight. the early vega was (is) 600 lbs. lighter. 1977 monza spyder 305 140 h.p V8 4-speed 2.73 axle 0-60 10.5 sec. qtr. mi. 17.5 sec. weight-3310 source- car & driver april'77. 1972 vega GT (prototype) 302 V8 3-speed auto qtr. mi 13.9 sec. (h.p. & 0-60 time N/A) source- hot rode june'72 I'm tired of the Vega bashing all these years. time to set the record straight. the numbers speak for themselves. it's time to finally realize, the stock Vega was better than most people can remember and could have been THE BEST (before the weight gain) with a performance powertrain. then Chevy let it die, along with the monza in '80. but then, they kill everything rear wheel drive anyway-examples: Nova, Camaro, 90's Impala SS, etc. unfortunatly, Vega & Monza were born when GM was under pressure to get rid of fast cars.ex.-Z/28 killed end of '74. but reborn in '77. Monza Spyder was better than ever-see specs but, the V8 was discontinued end of '79. a year before all Monzas were discontinued in favor of- 1980 Citation? fwd? junk for the masses. it sold over 500,000 in a year. 1977 was the year Chevy descided performance would make a comeback. in it's last year of vega production, Chevy didn't even offer the Cosworth engine, let alone a V8 it never had. it should have had the V8 back in '72 when the prototype was built. WHERE IS THAT CAR??... that didn't stop people from building their own, however. V8 Vegas were the most popular swap for street & track from day 1. Monza now had a proper 305 (140 h.p.) 350 (125 h.p.-Calif. only) specs are preety good- it was short lived, howver, only offered 3 years, thru '79. The stock vega has always been good enough for me, as i have owned over 20 of 'em! i prefer the vegas' look, feel and handling it was praised for, preventing me from ever doing a V8 swap on one. the original 4-speed Coupe (3.36 axle) can keep up with '75 265 V8 Monza & '75/'76 Cosworth.(impressive) '77-'79 Monza Spyder with its 305 (140 h.p) motor, Monza Mirage, & '75/'76 Cosworth Twin-Cam Vega are Chevies' best 3 efforts in high performance H-Bodies that were sold new. Yenko offered a Vega Stinger (71-72) vega 4 cyl. TURBO-220 h.p 0-60 7.7 sec.! was as quick as most V8 muscle cars of the time, but vega engine, although reliable, wasn't up to that much h.p. Ditto the Cosworh (modified) racing twin-cam 4...... In closing- An early Vega ('71-'73) Coupe/Sedan SWAP-with a 350 V8 (with weight saving aluminum components) has the best POWER TO WEIGHT RATIO. and that fact makes it the best combination for a street/strip keeper that won't "blow the budget" with prices of new cars 25,000+ and 60's muscle car prices getting INSANE, it is looking better than ever!