The mid-70s were bleak times for any American who considered himself a car enthusiast. The original gas crisis was still fresh in the public’s mind, and it left consumers demanding better mileage over more horsepower. Air pollution was a growing concern, forcing car makers to develop complex, horsepower-robbing emission control systems. Consider this: in 1975, the base Corvette only put out 165 horsepower. The Camaro Z28 had been discontinued, and the biggest motor remaining in the Camaro lineup was only good for 155 horsepower. A good zero to sixty time was anything below ten seconds, and things would grow even worse with the introduction of exhaust-system-clogging catalytic converters in 1976.
Enter the Chevy Cosworth Vega. Originally conceived by Chevy’s engineers in 1970, the car featured a dual overhead cam, sixteen valve two liter motor designed by Cosworth Engineering. How good could the car have been? Early prototype Cosworth motors made as much as 180 horsepower, but suffered from durability and pollution control issues. By the time the car was launched in 1975, the horsepower had eroded to a more pedestrian 110. Still, 110 horsepower in a car that weighed less than 2,800 pounds wasn’t half bad, and yielded a 0 to 60 time of 8.7 seconds. The Cosworth 2.0 liter motor made peak power at 5,600 RPM (versus 4,400 on the Vega’s standard 2.3 liter motor) and redlined at 6,500 RPM (versus 5,000 on the 2.3 liter motor). The car was light and had reasonable handling, made decent power and loved to be flogged. Done up in the original black-with-gold-trim paint, with a gold engine-turned dash, it featured just enough flash to set it apart from the rest of the econobox herd. It had all the ingredients of a home run for Chevy, except for one thing: the price was astronomical. The Cosworth Vega cost roughly twice as much money as a standard Vega, and was less than a thousand dollars cheaper than a 1975 Corvette. Buyers avoided the little-Vega-that-could like meth users avoid oral hygiene, and the car was quietly discontinued after the 1976 model year.
Time has not been kind to the Cosworth Vega, and like any other 35 year old car, good examples are getting harder to find each year. Here on eBay is a very nice example of the breed, offered at no reserve. The car features a full restoration and has only 30k documented miles on the the clock. There aren’t any bids yet, so chances are you can snipe this piece of Chevy performance history for less than seven grand.