1971 Chevrolet Vega

1971 Chevrolet Vega front view
Chevy had high hopes for the 1971 Chevrolet Vega, a
great-looking car (note the Camaro-like front-end treatment)
with novel engineering.

The 1971 Chevrolet Vega inspired high hopes among Chevrolet customers and the company. Vegas seemed to be just the right size and price for the changing times and in fact sold splendidly for the first couple of seasons.

But then a few inherent flaws in the engine and the body had revealed themselves, and adverse publicity began to take a serious toll on sales.

Like several rivals, including AMC's Gremlin and Ford's Pinto, the 1971 Chevrolet Vega was designed in the European fashion. Simple and economical, the unibodied Vega rode a 97-inch wheelbase, making sensible use of available space. John Z. DeLorean, prior to his departure from Chevrolet, earned credit for much of the engineering concept.

The clean, sculptured front end of the 1971 Chevrolet Vega exhibited a certain resemblance to the sporty Chevrolet Camaro. In back, rectangular taillights sat above the bumper.

Four body styles went on the market: a two-door notchback coupe, a hatchback coupe, a Kammback wagon, and a Panel Express, which was a Kammback with blanked-out rear windows.

An overhead-cam 140-cubic-inch four-cylinder engine with a cast-iron head and aluminum block produced 90 with a one-barrel carburetor or 110 with two-barrel carburetion.

Chevrolet identified the four-cylinder engine as a "2.3 Litre," following the metric measurement method, which would not take hold in America for some years. Though promising at first, this engine proved to suffer disastrous durability woes.

In addition to conventional manual shift or an automatic transmission, the buyer could select a Torque-Drive semi-automatic unit. The driver changed gear ranges with a column-mounted shift lever, but a torque converter replaced the clutch, eliminating the need to push a pedal. Only 7,835 Vegas were ordered with this feature and it was dropped at the end of the model year.

Prices for the 1971 Chevrolet Vega began at just $2,090, and more than 400,000 were sold in their first calendar year. Hatchbacks were most popular by far.

1971 Chevrolet Vega rear view
The 1971 Chevrolet Vega was GM's way to fight back against
imported subcompacts and small cars from other domestic makers.

1971 Chevrolet Vega Facts

Model
Weight range (lbs.)
Price range (new)
Number built
Vega
2,190-2,230
$2,090-$2,328
269,905

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