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HomePick of the DayPick of the Day: Cosworth Vega was favorite daily driver for many...

Pick of the Day: Cosworth Vega was favorite daily driver for many Indy racing officials

The enhanced version of the Chevrolet economy car coupe has been refurbished with performance tweaks

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If there was an unofficial car of Championship Auto Racing Teams, the CART contingent that operated Indycar races in the final decades of the 20th century, it was the Chevrolet Cosworth Vega.

The Cosworth-enhanced economy hatchbacks weren’t used on the oval track and road courses — at least not in official competition — but they were the choice of personal transportation for many of the CART race-day officials.

While there was nothing really special about the mid-’70s Chevy Vega, for the 1975 and 1976 model years, Chevrolet equipped a few more than 3,500 Vegas with 2.0-liter 4-cylinder aluminum-alloy engines topped by double-overhead-cam cylinder heads designed by Cosworth Engineering, the British company famed for its work on racing engines.

Cosworth, Pick of the Day: Cosworth Vega was favorite daily driver for many Indy racing officials, ClassicCars.com Journal

In full racing guise, including dry-sump lubrication and used in Chevron and Lola purpose-built racing chassis, the engines could pump out as much as 260 horsepower. In the guise of the Z09 Cosworth Vega models, the engines were rated at 110 horsepower (with 8.0:1 compression). That was 40 more ponies that the 2.3-liter 4-banger in the standard Vega.

The resulting cars cost about twice the price of the standard Vega, which pushed them to within $1,000 of the 1975 Corvette base price. But they were light and quick, and with manual gearboxes, they were very much fun to drive. 

Cosworth, Pick of the Day: Cosworth Vega was favorite daily driver for many Indy racing officials, ClassicCars.com Journal
Cosworth, Pick of the Day: Cosworth Vega was favorite daily driver for many Indy racing officials, ClassicCars.com Journal

One of those cars, a 1976 Chevrolet Cosworth Vega,  (click on the link to view the advertisement), the 2,315th of 3,508 produced, is Pick of the Day on ClassicCars.com, where it is being advertised by its private seller in Manistee, Michigan.

The seller reports that the car features Bendix electronic fuel injection and a 5-speed Borg-Warner manual transmission. 

“The prior owner spent a year and a half refurbishing the vehicle after it had been sitting in a garage in Cincinnati for 33 years,” the seller shares. “All components were rebuilt, with OE and era-correct equivalent parts used throughout the majority of the build. 

“Paint and graphics are described as original. Good records date back to the 2nd owner in 1977 and hint that the 44k miles shown are accurate.”

Those graphics include gold pinstriping and wheels, the later fitted with era-correct BFGoodrich T/A tires. As far as the seller knows, the black paint is original but has been color-sanded and compounded, “appearing in good condition in photographs with some blemishes noted due to age.”

During reburbishing, the car got a new grille and trim and period-correct IECO front air dam, the seller says.

“The interior is clean with new carpeting, window seals, and a new hatch seal. Black upholstery shows little wear, with door panels and dash appearing in equally nice condition. The factory Delco AM/FM/8-track is said to function properly.”

The seller notes that the cylinder block has been sleeved and has J&E forget aluminum pistons with a 10.5:1 compression ratio. The redo included 4.10:1 gearing and limited-slip differential. The 1975 low-restriction exhaust is in place “with catalytic converters removed.”

The car lacks air conditioning, power steering or power brakes. But it has new brake lines, rear wheel cylinders, pads, shoes, master cylinder, remanufactured front calipers and surfaced rotors. It also received new suspension hardware, including period-correct Koni shocks.

In other words, the car has undergone many of the same tweaks that those CART officials made to their Cosworth Vegas.

The car is being offered for $22,500. To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.

Hagerty
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

8 COMMENTS

  1. The black and gold was the livery of the John Players Special (cigarettes James Bond smoked). They were Lotus F! cars and JPS also ran Indy cars. I was 26 and racing SCCA B sports racers – those were fun days.

  2. Pretty nifty little great looking car! But with forget aluminum pistons? I think that it was supposed to be forged aluminum pistons, wasn’t it?

  3. Always a question about cam bearings. They were famous for spinning. It was a problem encountered when involved in SCCA and IMSA racing. Otherwise a great car

    • No camshaft bearings on these engines. camshafts supports ran directly on the aluminum cam carrier cast in place supports.

      • PW – please recheck your specs. In the Z09 Cosworth Vega engine, each camshaft is supported by five bearings and is turned by individual cam gears on the front end.

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