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A Vega curiosity


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Did they really make a million Vegas?  I ask because I have a pair of Vega doorhandles which have a sort of an insert on them which say, "the millionth Vega"? It looks to be a factory made thing, but I did not think they made anywhere near that many Vegas!  Thanks in advance if you have an opinion or answr1

Perry

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Actually over 2 million - hit a million in 1973 (IMNSHO the best looking year). And then there was the Astre clone and Skyhawk, Sunbird, Starfire, & Monza.

 

Had a gaggle of them back in the day. Learned to always look for AC because they got a real radiator. Had a steel-sleeved Astre wagon with nomad panels (still in my attic) that was a perfect DD even with the weird rear brakes.

 

And then there was my V8 Sunbird. Not quite politically correct for the late 70s. 66 built.

Edited by padgett (see edit history)
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28 minutes ago, prs519 said:

Did they really make a million Vegas?  I ask because I have a pair of Vega doorhandles which have a sort of an insert on them which say, "the millionth Vega"? It looks to be a factory made thing, but I did not think they made anywhere near that many Vegas!  Thanks in advance if you have an opinion or answr1

Perry

 

Yes they did Perry, they also did a special run of cars commemorating that milestone. I have the production numbers somewhere of those cars I just can't seem to find it. The exterior door handles themselves are a GM corporate part and fit many, many other GM Vehicles. I have to go out now but I will try to get back with the production number later, as I recall I was surprised at the actual number of the Million Vega edition models made was larger then I one would have thought

 

44 minutes ago, padgett said:

And then there was my V8 Sunbird. Not quite politically correct for the late 70s. 66 built.

 

 

However I did come across the second generation 'H' Body production numbers http://monza.homestead.com/Production.html and there is conflict in the amount of  V-8 Sunbirds produced then what Mr P stated to us. In 1978 there were 481 made and in 1979 1773 were made, still rare but not as rare as 66.... Mr P what source did you get the production figure you provided? The source I came upon has states 7X and 27X more were produced which is a large difference, just would like to make sure the correct info gets out there

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51 minutes ago, padgett said:

And then there was my V8 Sunbird. Not quite politically correct for the late 70s. 66 built.

My first car was an 80 Sunbird, but the 4 cylinder variety. My father tried to give me an old Ranchero with a big engine, but I was embarrassed to drive it, so he reluctantly bought the Sunbird I wanted. I found the receipt for it in his garage the other day. It was a really dependable little car, and even did better than my 03 G6 in the snow!

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And what year did the Chevrolet Vega and/or Pontiac Astre

and/or Chevrolet Monza get rid of the problematic aluminum engine?

The Astres and Monzas are interesting cars that are NEVER

seen at car shows today, and some of the Monza coupes are

even good looking.

 

 

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Should have further specified "with four speed manual". There were a bunch of automagics with 2.29 rear gears but 66 coupes and 63 fastbacks with the "Saginaw by Muncie" four speed and a 3.08 gear. Mine also had a Saf-T-Track but no numbers for that. May have been so few because N/A with AC.

 

Should have know my glee club would chime in. Am learning how to tempt them.

 

ps provided the documentation from Pontiac when I sold it.

 

BTW John_S problem was two fold.

First they were very lightly built (one of the things I broke on mine was the whole clutch linkage tore out of the firewall) and tended to rust quickly.

 

Second all Vegas and Astres AFAIK (except the Cosworth maybe) had the all aluminum engine. This included the cylinders (why steel sleeves was a popular fix). But from the factory the cylinders were lined with carbide particles for wear resistance. As long as the engine stayed cool everything was fine but they also came with miniature radiators (if you did not get AC) and Amurricns tend not to do normal maintenance or have gauges (why my Sunbird had a "low coolant level" warning light.

 

What happened most often was the coolant got low, the engine overheated (and the smog stuff didn't help), and when the cyl got hot enough, the carbide particles would separate fron the wall. It was like pouring sand in the carb.

Edited by padgett (see edit history)
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2 hours ago, padgett said:

Should have further specified "with four speed manual". There were a bunch of automagics with 2.29 rear gears but 66 coupes and 63 fastbacks with the "Saginaw by Muncie" four speed and a 3.08 gear. Mine also had a Saf-T-Track but no numbers for that. May have been so few because N/A with AC.

 

Should have know my glee club would chime in. Am learning how to tempt them.

 

ps provided the documentation from Pontiac when I sold it.

 

BTW John_S problem was two fold.

First they were very lightly built (one of the things I broke on mine was the whole clutch linkage tore out of the firewall) and tended to rust quickly.

 

Second all Vegas and Astres AFAIK (except the Cosworth maybe) had the all aluminum engine. This included the cylinders (why steel sleeves was a popular fix). But from the factory the cylinders were lined with carbide particles for wear resistance. As long as the engine stayed cool everything was fine but they also came with miniature radiators (if you did not get AC) and Amurricns tend not to do normal maintenance or have gauges (why my Sunbird had a "low coolant level" warning light.

 

What happened most often was the coolant got low, the engine overheated (and the smog stuff didn't help), and when the cyl got hot enough, the carbide particles would separate fron the wall. It was like pouring sand in the carb.

 

Mr P,  you might want to check your facts (again) for a clarification, not all of the Astre's had the Aluminum 4 cylinder as you stated, the last year of production 1977 the Astre's went over to the 2.5 litre cast iron four cylinder, so not all Astres had the aluminum engine as you claim, I presume I am part of your so called "glee club" I am just correcting statements that you make that some people might take as a fact, 

 

 

 

3 hours ago, John_S_in_Penna said:

And what year did the Chevrolet Vega and/or Pontiac Astre

and/or Chevrolet Monza get rid of the problematic aluminum engine?

The Astres and Monzas are interesting cars that are NEVER

seen at car shows today, and some of the Monza coupes are

even good looking.

 

 

 John there is just none left, and those that are have been modified, A friend of mine had his Monza Town Coupe at Hershey this year, was not on the show field just parked on the red field. The source for parts other then mechanical are very limited. I presently own two H bodies in my collection, very hard to find certain items, especially any of the plastic interior parts

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Agree but had a gaggle of 73 GTs/4-speed/AC that were kinda neat. Even had a gadget on the AC that turned off the compressor at WOT.

 

ps 77 Vega had the redesigned 140. Would not surprise me that 77 Astres had the Pontiac Iron Duke, said AFAIK

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I was going to add the millionth Vegas were orange as stated above.  The Pontiac Astre was iron duke 4 in 1977. I test drove a new one at the local Pontiac dealership an was assured it was the Duke engine.  It was a nice car but I would up buying a 1977 Rally Nova instead with a 305, auto and 2 bbl carb. Pontiac was too small for my liking.

 

Terry

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Another noteworthy item in the Vega story was the novel way they were stacked in railroad cars to maximize the number of cars that were put in each rail car.  A vision of sardines in a can comes to mind!

 

 

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1 hour ago, TerryB said:

Another noteworthy item in the Vega story was the novel way they were stacked in railroad cars to maximize the number of cars that were put in each rail car.  A vision of sardines in a can comes to mind!

 

 

 

Good reminder Terry......... then came the crash bumpers in 1975 and that was all over the cars did not fit anymore. I remember reading somewhere because of that stacking in the special made rail cars the batteries had to have the fill caps favoring one side so the acid would not spill out when the cars were on end

vega3.jpeg

vega2.jpeg

vega 1.jpeg

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10 hours ago, padgett said:

 

Second all Vegas and Astres AFAIK (except the Cosworth maybe) had the all aluminum engine. This included the cylinders (why steel sleeves was a popular fix). But from the factory the cylinders were lined with carbide particles for wear resistance. As long as the engine stayed cool everything was fine but they also came with miniature radiators (if you did not get AC) and Amurricns tend not to do normal maintenance or have gauges (why my Sunbird had a "low coolant level" warning light.

 

What happened most often was the coolant got low, the engine overheated (and the smog stuff didn't help), and when the cyl got hot enough, the carbide particles would separate fron the wall. It was like pouring sand in the carb.

 

Actually the alloy that the blocks were cast out of had a 17% silicon content in the block, so the cylinders were not "lined" with any particles as you state. The entire block not just the cylinder walls have this 17% silicon alloy throughout, Reynolds Aluminum along with GM developed the alloy used, as well as the process electro-chemically etched the cylinder walls, once they were etched that process removed a thin layer of the aluminum in the cylinder walls leaving behind the hard silicon surface. Seemed like a good idea on paper I guess 

 

Your Sunbird was a gen II H body and was not part of the original engine issues that the gen I H bodies suffered from, Regardless if the full instrumentation package was installed or not the low coolant idiot light was installed on every vehicle. I strongly doubt your theory that the idiot light was installed because American's don't service their vehicles, or have gauges. Again the light was installed on every vehicle regardless of gauge packages.

 

Again I am just trying to get the information straight that you put forth

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OK I give up, what I remember is what I was told while a GMI student & working for GM. Obviously you have better sources.

 

Do remember that one of the things that held up delivery of my special ordered 78 Sunbird was a lack of the optional instrument cluster & adding temperature gauges to my Vegas that did not have one and the 75 Astre Safari my wife drove (does not have the nomad panels in picture).

 

2intx.jpg

 

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A lot of newer motorcycle engines use a nikasil coating on the cylinder walls in place of liners. The nickel silicon carbide coating is flash applied from what I read.  Sounds like something GM was experimenting with on their aluminum engines in the 70s from the discussions mentioned here.  Given the time frame in which they were made, the Vega and the Pinto set a new direction for US small car development.  Not all memories of those cars are positive but they sure marked a time when the idea of smaller is better became part of the automotive landscape.

 

Terry

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Contrary to popular belief, the linerless construction of the Vega engine was NOT the cause of the oil burning problem. Both Porsche and Mercedes have used the same silicon carbide-infused aluminum alloy in engines without liners with great success.  The problem with the Vega was the cantilever cylinder bores. In the quest to cut cost as much as possible, GM used a die-cast, not sand cast, process for the blocks.  As a result, the cylinders had no structural attachment to the deck surface of the block - this allowed the mold for the cooling jacket to be withdrawn from the block in one piece. Aluminum has one-third the stiffness of iron, so it didn't take much torquing of the cylinder head bolts to distort the cylinder walls out of round and out of parallel.  This, naturally, did wonders for ring sealing. People who raced Vegas quickly figured out that welding blocks of aluminum between the tops of the cylinders and the deck, then re-machining the block, immediately fixed any ring sealing problems, as this now stabilized the cylinders.

 

Vega_block_cylinder_bores.jpg

 

Vega_aluminum_engine_block.jpg

 

Vega_engine_block_cylinder_bore.jpg

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i purchased a brand new vega in 1973. got used to it really quick by taking a long trip to niagra falls. loved the way it drove, and the great gas milage helped me get thru the "energy crisis" about the same time with the odd/even gas purchases. at the time i was a mechanic at the local olds dealer, and noticed we had a wrecked 66 chevelle malibu on the back lot. it had a sears air conditioner in it, something my vega didn't have, so i commenced to install it. i think that was a good move because that condenser was so much larger than the vega radiator, i swapedf the chevelle one to the vega. seven years later, still never had an overheating or head gasket problem. another interesting sidenote, when i sold the vega in 1980, it still had the original delco battery!

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Well the Nova was originally the Chevy II. Then again there was the Royal Mail and the Baby Grand (with a Delco electric starter even)...

 

Cheeze: did you shoehorn in the Chevelle radiator ?

 

ps all of my Vegas were 73 GTs with AC (had two or three of them). Really comfortable interiors & just suited me but then have always preferred smaller cars (GTP is actually larger than the Jeep in every way but height).

Edited by padgett (see edit history)
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1 hour ago, padgett said:

Well the Nova was originally the Chevy II. Then again there was the Royal Mail and the Baby Grand (with a Delco electric starter even)...

 

Cheeze: did you shoehorn in the Chevelle radiator ?

 

ps all of my Vegas were 73 GTs with AC (had two or three of them). Really comfortable interiors & just suited me but then have always preferred smaller cars (GTP is actually larger than the Jeep in every way but height).

 

I have to agree, my Cosworth is pretty comfortable, problem is it is real HOT with that header pipe under my feet, and it is a little too low to the ground to get in and out of, starting to feel my age. I think that might put it up for sale next summer after the COVA convention. I am done playing with it

Edited by John348 (see edit history)
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15 hours ago, joe_padavano said:

Contrary to popular belief, the linerless construction of the Vega engine was NOT the cause of the oil burning problem. Both Porsche and Mercedes have used the same silicon carbide-infused aluminum alloy in engines without liners with great success.  The problem with the Vega was the cantilever cylinder bores. In the quest to cut cost as much as possible, GM used a die-cast, not sand cast, process for the blocks.  As a result, the cylinders had no structural attachment to the deck surface of the block - this allowed the mold for the cooling jacket to be withdrawn from the block in one piece. Aluminum has one-third the stiffness of iron, so it didn't take much torquing of the cylinder head bolts to distort the cylinder walls out of round and out of parallel.  This, naturally, did wonders for ring sealing. People who raced Vegas quickly figured out that welding blocks of aluminum between the tops of the cylinders and the deck, then re-machining the block, immediately fixed any ring sealing problems, as this now stabilized the cylinders.

 

Vega_block_cylinder_bores.jpg

 

Vega_aluminum_engine_block.jpg

 

Vega_engine_block_cylinder_bore.jpg

 Very interesting. Thanks for posting.

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14 hours ago, nearchoclatetown said:

The real reason the Vega was a flop was it was the first Chevrolet that the name didn't start with a " C ".

The Vega was certainly NOT a sales flop, as the figures show.  It may have been an engineering flop in its introductory state, but as others have stated, once the engine received steel liners, and better cooling, most of its problems were solved, 

 

A 1922 copper-cooled Chevrolet it was NOT!

 

Craig

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At least it didn't have a rear seat screw trying to penetrate the gas tank.

 

Could be wrong (often am but learn from the sharks) but thought the 69 ZL-1 used the same Reynolds process.

Really there were two answers popular at the time:

1) steel sleeves

2) drop in a V8 (i.e. "Grumpy's Toy")

 

Heard a long time ago that it only takes about a 5% failure rate to be thought a "lemon".

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2 hours ago, padgett said:

At least it didn't have a rear seat screw trying to penetrate the gas tank.

 

Could be wrong (often am but learn from the sharks) but thought the 69 ZL-1 used the same Reynolds process.

Really there were two answers popular at the time:

1) steel sleeves

2) drop in a V8 (i.e. "Grumpy's Toy")

 

Heard a long time ago that it only takes about a 5% failure rate to be thought a "lemon".

 

 

Very true, but from what I had read the 3.8 Buick V-6 was the combination to use on the H Bodies. 

That seat screw most likely was there it just rotted off on the showroom floor.

by the way Mr P the Pontiac's you owned looked much nicer then the Chevrolet version

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I recall getting good service out of my '73 Vega wagon, although I remember being quite surprised that when it came time to have the front end aligned, it needed to go to a frame shop to have the sagging front cross member raised up to bring it back to factory specs. That was in '78, so it hadn't been on the road all that long. The issue was the weight of the engine. I believe that the story told at the time was that the aluminum block required a weighty iron head to give it the rigidity that it lacked on it's own. Apparently the front cross member wasn't up to the weight.  Did any of you have any similar experience?

Edited by Hudsy Wudsy (see edit history)
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13 minutes ago, Hudsy Wudsy said:

I recall getting good service out of my '73 Vega wagon, although I remember being quite surprised that when it came time to have the front end aligned, it needed to go to a frame shop to have the sagging front cross member raised up to bring it back to factory specs. That was in '78, so it hadn't been on the road all that long. The issue was the weight of the engine. I believe that the story told at the time was that the aluminum block required a weighty iron head to give the block the rigidity that it lacked. Did any of you have any similar experience?

 

I owned a 1972 Vega panel wagon in the early 1980s.  I bought it specifically to swap the four cylinder for an aluminum Buick 215 V8. Unlike the SBC swaps, at 305 lbs the Buick only weighed 20 lbs more than the Vega motor.  Never had any alignment or sagging issues with the front end. At 285 lbs total, I'd hardly call the Vega motor "weighty". The car ran very nicely with the aluminum motor.  Unfortunately, despite spending it's entire life in L.A. county, this Vega STILL rusted out.  Pretty sure they came with that rust from the factory.

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Screw wasn't a Vega issue, it was the competitions.

 

78 Sunbird with a SBC had extra struts welded in everywhere. Does the Monza Mirage have something similar ? Is the same drivetrain I had.

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1 hour ago, padgett said:

Screw wasn't a Vega issue, it was the competitions.

 

78 Sunbird with a SBC had extra struts welded in everywhere. Does the Monza Mirage have something similar ? Is the same drivetrain I had.

 

I know the screw was not a Vega issue, I was intended to be a joke, it was meant to come of as:  but if there was a screw it would have rusted away before it became a problem......

 

As far as the Mirage I really did not notice any extra stuff welded on, but then again I never really had seen a 4 cylinder Monza that I can remember to compare it too. I did have a Skyhawk in the past few years and that was a 3.8 everything seemed to be the same as that. I have had two other Mirages besides this one in the past 5 years, one of which was a dealer Mirage add on kit, those two were rather crunchy but nothing real noticeable if it were I could not say it was "everywhere" I will say one thing it is real fast! I have some photos of the undercarriage I will post later tonight. Where specifically were these extra struts, on the rear diff?or the front end    

Edited by John348 (see edit history)
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Here is a few photo's of my Monza Mirage, I ran a wanted ad in our magazine and I was contacted by a friend of the family, It truly was a "barn" find (I hate that term) It was last on the road in 1983 and had not run for a some time. After I got it to run I found out why it was sitting for all those years, the oil pan was rotted, which was a common problem and only application was for a V-8 H Body. Took some searching and some $$$ and I found a real nice one. After some extensive cleaning and a lot work I got it to run, even had it at the Southeastern Meet in Naples this past March for an HPOF certification. Planning on having it at Ocala this coming February. It is pretty cool because most people comment that they have not seen a Monza in years and this one the people who know what it say it was the first one they ever saw, a majority never heard of it.

Once I saw the pictures I knew I was going to buy it, it is rare to find any of these cars, even rarer to find on that was not messed with, Still has the original GM vacuum hoses, and ignition wires,

These were on the Vega platform. The car was screaming for the factory 10 slot rims. Looked pretty goofy with the hubcaps and whitewalls. The rims were a factory option for all of the Monza's not just the Mirages. I have the sales brochure and those rims were on it so the search was on. Changed the entire personality of the car.

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Edited by John348 (see edit history)
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