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Corvair Corsa and Cosworth Vega

Updated on August 24, 2009
1976 Cosworth Vega
1976 Cosworth Vega
1966 Corvair Corsa Convertible
1966 Corvair Corsa Convertible


Ed Cole of Chevrolet was the designer of the Corvair Monza and Corsa and the key player in developing the Cosworth Vega.

You know about the rear engine, air cooled engine of the Corvair and its primarily aluminum engine. But the Cosworth Vega?

Once Chevy cancelled Corvair after 1.6 million cars from 1960-69, Ed Cole and others on his team needed another sub-compact replacement for the Corvair, the Vega. Vega was designed in two years beginning in 1968. Like the Corvair, Ed Cole insisted on an aluminum engine, this time (unlike the Corvair) EVERYTHING was aluminum. Like the Corvair, Vega's main target were the incoming Japanese and German imports of VW, Opel, Datsun (Nissan), Toyota and fuel economy of the 70s was an issue. Released in 1971, Vega sold for around $2,000 and over 400,000 had been sold by 1974. Motor Trend magazine called it the "car of the year". By 1974, Vega had a tarnished reputation for its propensity to rust away and engine block cracking at around 50,000 miles. One former owner said, "I had a 1972 Vega. My family struggled to purchase the car for me as their contribution to college, as I was putting myself through school. I loved the car. It was zippy and great for a college student. Then two years later, the car simply died. The aluminum-block engine had cracked under heat. I was told I could replace the engine, but lacking resources, I sold it as junk. A two-year-old car! I returned to walking and rarely came home from college." - Robert Marino, Gillette , N.J.

Chevrolet, hoping to save Vega, decided to created a true sport car in 1975-76 (exactly 10 years after the Corvair Corsa was done to create a true Corvair sports car!), this was the Cosworth.

The 1975 Chevrolet Cosworth Vega was powered by a dual-overhead-cam engine with complex Bendix fuel injection and was years ahead of its time. Many cars today have this, but not then. Only one color scheme was available: black with gold pinstriping. Just 2,061 were built for 1975, priced at a breathtaking $5,916 -- more than double the tariff for a regular Vega coupe and only $400 less than a Corvette! 

Cosworth of England, with experience in racing, designed the 16-valve, 2.0-liter engine, which was rated at 110 horsepower. Other 1975 Chevrolet Vegas continued with engines of 78 or 87 horsepower. Each engine was hand made and each car had a production number.

The Cosworth Vega also came with other improvements and refinements not with the non-Cosworth Vegas. The Cosworth caused some excitement, but the car was expensive and Vega's reputation was in bad shape, so the Cosworth did not sell as Chevy expected or hoped, a total of only 3500 were made by the end of 1976.

Like the Corsa, where the consumer was led to believe via advertising that it was a true sports car performance wise, the Cosworth followed the same pattern. Both look like sport cars, the Corsa even more so. But the specs show otherwise, the Cosworth from 0-60 mph was 8.7 seconds, with max power at 5600 rpm, curb weight was 2700 lbs. The Corsa when 140 hp is engaged runs the same 0-60 mph in 9.7 seconds, its curb weight is 2400 lbs. Both cars are peppy but certainly not muscele cars. Both lasted only two production years (although, Corvair continued until 1969, Corsa stopped after 1966).


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      Robert Spinello 6 years ago

      The Cosworth Vega program began before the Vega was introduced in 1970. It was a low priority program alongside the V8 Vega prototype. The Cosworth was chosen by John DeLorean (Chevy General Manager) It was finally introduced in 1975 after a five-year gestation period. It was not introduced to "save " the Vega. It was planned for the 1974 model year to drum up showroom traffic and steal some attention from the Mustang II, which it did even though it wasn't introduced until a year and a half later.