Ok, so back in the early to mid ’90s I bought and sold Chevrolet Vegas like at a rate of 3-5 a month. Back then they were dirt cheap and we often stuffed smallblock Chevy motors in ’em. They were the scourge of the 5.0 mustang kids….finally got so they wouldn’t even race us anymore. But I kept playing with Vegas and a job came along that included track privilege at Second Creek Raceway. SCR was a small 1.5 mile roadcourse east of Denver near well, nothing at least when they built it…It’s closed now as Denver has slowly crept up right to it. But for a few glory years while it was still open and I was fortunate enough to work there, I had my own key to the gate. With which I had access to as many laps of fun as I or the car could take so long as someone else hadn’t actually paid to have the track privately. So, obviously no fun while clubs or the SCCA were holding races there….I was there on the SCCA weekends crewing cars and getting paid. But come Monday, Before work started, at lunch and when the day was done, I got to play. Diddn’t take long before I’d picked out one Vega, a Silver ’72 Notchback from the herd and lowered it, realigned it to take better advantage of Yokohama A008 205/60/13 tires that were available for free by picking thru the tire pile at work. There were always enough half used up tires in the pile to keep me going. Drove to and from work on them too. Boy, do those suck in the rain. But once warmed up, magic happened: With a basically lightly warmed up Vega 8 valve motor in the car it turned 1:28 laps! This track was twisty and handling was definitely more important than horsepower. This particular Vega motor has been in at least 5 different cars. But this car gave it more miles at full boogie speed than any other. It was a ’76 durabilt engine that had smoked a lot and got pulled from a car we were parting out years before… There was no scuffing in the bores and looked like almost no wear in the cylinders. For reference, we are talking about the aluminum bore engines. Not the sleeved ones. As an experiment, I bought a set of chrome rings and installed them in it. No honing, boring, prep work or anything other than making it clean was done. It got a set of fresh rod bearings and a crank polish. Motor worked great. No smoke, no issues and we ran it for YEARS. It literally had THOUSANDS of laps on it. Until 6 weeks ago. I finally pulled it. Why? 16 Valves of Cosworth Vega engine is why. Now I have had this motor stashed away for
about 10 years specifically to stick in this car. Why now? Well I guess I just felt like it. This engine has been rebuilt but I have no idea as to what internals were used to do it. It’s not a production Cosworth block. It’s a early 70’s part# ( ironically perfect for the car I’ve put it in). It has Weber DCOE carbs on it and a production header. So, in one weekend my buddy Crash and I, long familiar with swapping Vega motors pull the 8 Valve out….in 20 minutes. Beating our old record of 25 minutes! Now I had never installed a Cosworth Vega motor into a Vega before. But, there were no real issues to deal with. It runs great! I have driven 3 other Cosworth Vegas in stock trim. They always seemed a bit slower than I expected them to be. Well I can say that one of these engines in a early lightweight Notchback pre-safety-bumper car goes like stink! The car is geared with 3.36 gears which should theoretically make it kinda gutless in the bottom end…..yet…seems geared fine. Years ago I swapped in a Vega T50 transmission into the car because the original Opel 4 speeds were kinda weak. Plus, overdrive combined with the 3.36 gears was awesome for mileage. It got 32 mpg on a couple road trips with the 8 valve motor. Normally, a Cosworth Vega ordered with this trans would get 4.10 gears so I’m a little mystified about this. The 4 speeds got 3.73 gears. They never offered an automatic with this motor as it was intended for sporting purposes. They made nearly 2 million Vegas yet only 3,508 with the Cosworth engine installed in them. The Cosworth option basically doubled the price of a Vega bringing it price-wise into nearly Corvette kinda money. All that money went into a lot of neat stuff to include electronic fuel injection (a GM first) and a lot of special trim and special wheels.
My ’72 Notchback has a set of period-perfect Minilite wheels still shod in some rather dry-cracked A008s. Soon a new set will get installed…and as my back gets better, I hope to drive it at High Plains Raceway where I unfortunately do not have a key to the track…..I’ll happily pay.