• Sep 1st 2010 at 7:01PM
  • 36
Chevrolet Vega Car & Track segment – Click above to view the video after the jump

"The goal is to be nifty." Quite a gem of a quote from Car & Track's look into the work behind bringing the Chevrolet Vega to market. C&T was among the first national television shows that covered both auto racing and road tested the cars of its day, and their videos remain fun to watch and offer a glimpse into the past to see cars that have become both famous and infamous in their original context.

Looking at the Vega's design, testing, engineering and construction, C&T calls it "the most precisely engineered car built in America." Uh-huh. Thankfully, 'precisely engineered' means something rather different today, and even if we don't lust after the Vega like other cars from its era, we can still enjoy a glimpse inside some of General Motors' vehicle development and testing methods from some forty years ago. Check out the video after the jump – and be sure to scroll down to see what C&T has to say about the one-and-only 1971 AMC Gremlin, too! Top tip, Tom!

[Source: Car & Track via YouTube]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      OMG the Gremlin's test.

      >We needed this additional power for the air conditionner.

      >40MPH through the cones
      >Now in slow motion.

      >wheels squealing during the turning radius test.

      how far we've come.
        • 5 Years Ago
        No kidding! There were so many one liners in that clip I couldn't contain myself!
      • 5 Years Ago
      LOL Vega. My Dad owned one, drove it home from the factory sometime in the '70s. Not his finest car choice.

      Though at least I can make fun of him for owning one of the "Worst Cars of the Millenium."
      • 5 Years Ago
      The Vega was a good handling car, too, so long as it was a GT or Cosworth, with the front and rear sway bars. The '76 and '77 cars also added a Panhard rod and a torque arm to the rear suspension, along with larger front and rear brakes, improvements which came over from the Monza.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I disagree with some of the posters here. I think 1990 was probably the year with the largest gaps in auto history. A 1990 LS400 or Celica still is a decent car today - and they are all over the road. But take a cougar or Seville from the same year and they seem 15 years older. I think the difference is all manufacturers are now on a relatively similar playing field. But IMO for a company like Toyota things haven't changed nearly as drastically in the last 20 years as they did between 1970 and 1990.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Oh how I miss Speedvision.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I've owned two Vegas, and they were both good for me. I don't live in the Rust Belt, so rust wasn't a concern. Also, I kept the cooling system in good order, which is a requirement. My second one ('76 GT 5-speed) had 218k on it when I sold it, and still had good compression. It leaked way more oil than it burned.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I had two Vegas too when I was in high school. The first one, a 73, cost me $45. It was a notchback. It had no back seat, the carpet had been replaced with brown shag carpet from a house, and the radio was missing. In its place was a hole, with a mannequin hand sticking out of it. It had a 3-speed gearbox, and would do about 70 mph. I had to stop occasionally and screw the carb down onto the intake once in a while. It had no muffler and was loud as hell! I had a lot of fun in that car, and girls seemed to dig it for some reason.

        I found another one later, a 72 wagon, with an asking price of $100. It was pretty clean (considering the price), but the guy said it wouldn't start. I offered him $80 and he took it. While I was getting ready to work on it and get it to start, I put some gas in it. It turns out the problem with it was that it was out of gas. It started up and I drove off. I drove that car until the engine literally exploded. I still have a chunk of piston that flew into the battery tray when it happened. Most of the oil leaked out of the crankcase, causing the oil pressure to drop to nothing. Vegas had a fuse that would interrupt the fuel pump in the absence of oil pressure. I stuck a piece of wire in the connector to force the fuel pump to work, got in and drove toward home. The engine was putting out a weird metallic moaning sound and was running on 2 cylinders when I finally took my foot off the gas. The engine locked up, stopping so abruptly that it locked up the rear tires in 3rd gear and the car slid to a stop in the middle of the highway. I pushed it into the ditch, called my mom, and got her to co-sign a car loan so I could buy something that wasn't a total piece of crap.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I had a few Vegas while in high school. This video was quite humorous where GM was bragging about the aluminum engine technology and how they put a whole 250,000 some test miles on the vehicle. Today's vehicles probably endure ten times that testing. That aluminum engine with aluminum sleeves was the weak link and only lasted 50,000 miles or so in each vehicle. The car was otherwise fairly decent. Good fuel economy for the time and the two door hatch was quite handy. They even made the two door wagon, sort of like the old Chevy Nomad. One of mine was a '73 silver GT with the black four spoke steel wheels. It also had the deluxe instrumented dash with the gawdy wood grain shelf paper.

      The oil pans in the Vegas were low slung and would invariably scrape on the ground so frequently as to eventually grind a hole and begin leaking (or continue leaking at a much greater rate than usual due to poor seals and gaskets of the era). It was a toss up as to whether it could leak oil faster than it burned it. The running joke was that at gas stations it was necessary to add oil and check the gas.

      There was a local machine shop in Fort Wayne that could put steel sleeves in these engines and that's what I should have done. On the other hand, salvage engines were only a few hundred bucks, so it was a toss up. The ultimate and supposedly common fix was to drop a small V8 into these things. There was so much room under the hood, a person could nearly stand in the engine compartment next to the small standard four cylinder.

      • 5 Years Ago
      Vega,Corsair,Cavalier,Nova. GM small cars that have a bad reputation.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I remember those days. I was a high school grad in 1971. All ready to go to General Motors Institute for an automotive education. All expenses paid. Well, you know, paid by the 6 week class, 6 week factory floor system. What stopped me? During my last tour of the GM plant in Fremont, CA and the talk was all about the new smog and safety regulations I suddenly realized I had a huge doubt about the American car. I didn't see much of a future for it. I went to college somewhere else. Turned out my doubts were realized in 1974 when a roommate bought his Toyota Celica GT. What a nice car! The right sized car for the times at the right prize. Better than the American product. Everyone eventually took notice and fixed things and made them better. I don't regret my decision and I am still a car guy. Buy American now? Except for Ford, forgetaboutit!
        • 5 Years Ago
        My how things have changed. There is no more Celica and the Venza is far from right sized.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I thought the later Cosworth version of the Vega was pretty cool. Kinda liked the black and gold color combo too.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The Vega was a 20' car in that it wasn't bad looking. But oh was it a piece of crap, from the instantly ovaling cylinders, pot metal bodies and the paper mache interior bits.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The engine problems were caused by the cylinders flexing in the block as the piston moved up and down. The idea was to have the head hold the cylinders in place...didn't work out. But you know they don't build cars like they use too and to that I say "Thank God." I don't want one.

        Watching the AMC road test is reason enought not to retturn to the old day...what junk and they are really unsafe at any speed.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I had a 73 Vega GT 5-speed hatchback. It was my first real car. I don't count the 68 FIAT 850 spyder as a real car. Anyway, I thought it was a great car - at least for the first couple of year. After that, it was burning a lot of oil and rust was breaking through the hood. I sold it to some gearheads who wanted it to put a V-8 in it and go drag racing. I replaced the Vega with a Buick Skyhawk which was pretty much the same concept but with a V-6 and an upgraded interior. The Vega was more reliable than the Skyhawk if you can believe that.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I remember when my friend got his 1973 Vega GT hatchback. It was
      silver gray with a black stripe on the hood and trunk lid.

      It was a great looking car, but it only lasted about 60k miles!
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