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Pick of the Week: 1976 Chevrolet Cosworth Vega

 The 1976 Cosworth Vegas received styling enhancements compared with the regular Vegas

The 1976 Cosworth Vegas received styling enhancements compared with the regular Vegas

The Chevrolet Vega is a much maligned little car (with good reason), but there was one bright spot: the remarkable Cosworth Vega, a limited-edition model that boasted a British-made performance engine.

I never expected to have a Vega for Pick of the Week, but the 1976 Cosworth Vega advertised in ClassicCars.com for sale in Deltona, Florida, sounds like a tasty survivor offered for the affordable price of $15,500. The car is in restored condition, the seller states, with a Creamsicle orange paint job.

The twin-cam 2-liter engine was hand built in England

The twin-cam 2-liter engine was hand built in England

The car is equipped with the desirable five-speed manual transmission and has apparently been a Florida car its entire life, sparing it the rigors of northern winters that notoriously caused Vegas to rust out.

Cosworth Engineering of England produced the hand-built 2.0-liter engines, which benefited from the company’s experience with racing engines. The twin-cam four banger produced 111 horsepower and 107 pound-feet of torque, which might not sound all that impressive these days, but with a curb weight of just 2,760 pounds, the Cosworth Vega could sprint from zero to 60 in 7.7 seconds, according to tests at the time.

The Cosworth Vega also received aggressive suspension tweaks, improved brakes and a special performance wheel-and-tire package. Contemporary road testers were impressed, several of them suggesting that this is what every Vega should have been like in the first place.

Attractive alloy wheels set off the Cosworth Vega

Attractive alloy wheels set off the Cosworth Vega

Notably, the Cosworth was the first Chevrolet passenger car with fuel injection, although the photos of this car’s engine show a pair of Weber side-draft carburetors. That aftermarket modification could help boost performance. The seller doesn’t reveal any other upgrades, but the Webers are a good sign of an engaged owner.

Cosworth Vegas are very rare. The cars were built for just two years, 1975-76, and only 3,508 of them were produced, compared with the run of ordinary Vegas during that time of more than 190,000. In 1976, just 1,447 Cosworth Vegas were made.

The sticking point was the price tag. In 1976, the list price topped $6,000, which was just several hundred dollars less than a new Corvette. With the Cosworth engine built overseas, they were expensive to produce. Only those performance enthusiasts who understood the exotic nature of these cars stepped up to buy.

Posted in: Features

About the Author:

Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.

12 Comments on "Pick of the Week: 1976 Chevrolet Cosworth Vega"

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  1. 1957 Belair had fuel injection as an option.

  2. Bob Golfen says:

    Good catch, Amy. Corvettes also had optional FI. Story should have noted that the Cosworth Vega was the first Chevrolet product with standard fuel injection, not optional.

  3. Ricky Rupp says:

    I was employed at Chevrolet Tonawanda motor division in Tonawanda, NY from 1973 to 1982. The Cosworth twin cam engine was assembled at the Tonawanda factory- Plant 1 in an air temperature controlled dust free room. There were only a handful of men that assembled these engines. They were all in the inspection department.

  4. Corey Hartman says:

    The vega is the best car I ever owned . I can not find many that are not either destroyed or ready for the strip….. Love to see any article featuring a vega…. Thanks for the good work

  5. Hank McCabe says:

    I love the color ” Creamsicle”” everyone my age knows Orange on the outside & White on the Inside. The best Ice Cream I ever enjoyed on a stick. I never owned a Vega, but this one sure is nice. Hank McCabe

  6. Paul says:

    I think the 57 Bel Air was mechanical injection the Cosworth was Electronic injection. Plus another first for the little car was a stainless steel tubular header as standard

  7. Clark Kirby says:

    The Chevy Cosworth was the first Chevy to have ELECTRONIC fuel injection (EFI), the first General Motors car with EFI being the 1975 Cadillac Seville V8 engine. Cosworth Engineering in England developed a 2 litre racing engine using the aluminum Vega engine block. That engine won some races in Europe but was ultimately a failure. GM had a deal with Cosworth to use their design for a streetable engine which a few years later became the Cosworth Twin Cam Vega’s engine. As an original owner of a ’75-1/2 Chevy Cosworth, and a lifelong member of the marque club, my advice to collectors should be to get one now. The prices for an original, unmodified Cosworth are going up substantially due to the scarcity of good examples.

  8. Paul T says:

    Clark is correct I owned a slightly used 75 1/2 in 1977-79 and it was a great little car. After owning a new 72 GT the Cosworth was a totally different drive with more power all the way to 7000 rpm and very nimble.I looked at a couple of very nice examples 2 years ago for less than $7000 now they are $10,000 plus so I missed out on a very nice deal.

  9. Bob Golfen says:

    Thanks, gents, for clearing up the fuel-injection issue.

  10. Clark Kirby says:

    The advertised car is one of the “Limited Production” (a limited edition is usually just a trim package!) ’76 Chevy Cosworths that were built halfway through the model year (Jan. ’76) when GM decided to offer Cosworths in eight Vega exterior colors (perhaps to boost flagging sales) in addition to black. Before that, all Cosworths were black. Interestingly, black was NOT a factory exterior paint option on Vegas until the 1976 model (only on the Cosworths). The Medium Orange exterior with white interior is striking. I know the owner of this car who is a long-tenured CVOA member who has recently retired. The photos show the car on display in Building T at the 2011 Carlisle GM Nationals. This car, along with my car and eleven others, were Invitational Cars, picked by a Carlisle panel for display that year when the Chevy Cosworth was the featured car. So, this car is one of the absolute best examples, even with the engine modifications, especially of a 1976 Cosworth. The only thing, I believe, that has kept this car from already selling, (if the seller is not including the complete EFI system with the car) is that it would be expensive to find the necessary long-discontinued and rare parts to reinstall the original EFI back on this car’s engine.

  11. Al Kamieniecki says:

    Yep the author is incorrect. The engine was assembled in the US. It was a special off the assembly line team that built it. There is video and pix out there. The engine was very advanced for it’s day with dual overhead cams and a computerized EFI. As far a power, the debate is ongoing as to whether the Webers or the EFI is quicker. I always felt that the EFI was a first in it’s day and taking it off was not the way to go. My Cosworth is long gone the rust bunnies got it as it was a Chicago car. But I plan on getting another. Also no one know exactly how many Cosworths were made, I have heard 5000 as a number, but they keep popping up as barn finds, some with very low miles. All in all a cool car which is getting the respect it deserves (finally).

  12. p says:

    The ads used to say “One Vega for the price of Two.”

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