Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

New Corvette problems

The much maligned Chevy Vega deserved most of the abuse it got BUT, the engine was tested very very extensively for durability because they were concerned about the aluminum block. The engine ran 1800 hours at wide open throttle, did well in proving grounds testing. As well as anything GM designed to that time.

However… The car failed miserably on the “Little Old Lady cycle” in field testing. I.e. Driven 2 miles to church and the grocery destroyed the silicon-aluminum bores with the acids created in short drive cycles. GM didn’t find out about this until the car was well into production.

I think the Vega body, however was built pre-rusted, as were most Hondas Toyotas and Datsuns at the time. (I had a Datsun 510 that was rusted through at 5 years old, 2 friends had rusted Vegas at 4 y/o)

You guys defending the Vega… never owned one, did you?

I did. Bought it new. Took great care of it. I liked the car, but it was a piece of junk, even for its era. The engine’s self destructed, the cooling system had insufficient capacity, the idle stop solenoid brackets would break and the solenoid would fall into the accelerator linkage… hanging from the wire, the heater hose abraded at the corner of the engine, where it rubbed, the sheetmetal on the fenders was so thin you need to be careful of it, the thin plastic valance panels crumbled into pieces so easily I had to sign a release of liability to get it towed, and, last but not least, the retainers that kept the rear axles on would fall out and the axles would slide free of their gears and out of the housing. And my tranny imploded because it was never properly bolted secured to the bell housing.

Oh, and after only four year of ownership the seat was falling off the rails and the driver’s door was hanging from it’s hinges and had to be lifted up to close the door.

Sorry guys, but the early Vegas were junk, even for that era. But I liked mine when it was running right. Until the rear axle parted ways with the car. At that point, I said to myself “enough is enough”.

And then I bought a Corolla. The difference in quality was truly dramatic. Nothing broke. Everything just kept working. Nothing failed. Pieces didn’t fall off the engine and dangle into the accelerator llinkage, the cooling system was sufficient, the heater hose was safely routed, and the axle staying in the rear axle assembly. I didn’t have to sign a release to get it towed. Six years later when I got rid of it due to a growing family, it was still excellent. The seat wasn’t falling off the rails, the door didn’t need to be lifted to close it, I never needed to be extra careful not to bump the fender lest I dent it.

The rest is history. For me, for Toyota, AND for GM. Me and Toyota did fine. GM, not so well.

@Mustangman … I had a '74 Vega GT and I proved the “Little Old Lady” cycle was true. I “bang shifted” my Saginaw 4-speed hard on the little car and raced it just about every weekend. The only thing I did was install a hotter camshaft. It beat every other Vega and Pinto in the ET bracket easily and gave a lot of V8 cars a run for their money. I ran the GT on a dynometer and the result was that it was providing 150 hp to the rear wheels. The cam and a little advanced timing was all that was needed. The guy running the test said that the best he ever got out of a Vega was about 110 hp. I added the new HEI distributor the next year and the little engine ran even faster. I finally decided, at 36,000 miles, to install a V8 and gave the engine to my brother. He drove it another 40,000 miles before it gave up the ghost. I think it’s demise was the fact that it was installed with an automatic transmission and driven around town way too much. That led to debris and acids in the cylinders that eventually wore the aluminum cylinder walls down. Say what you will about “bang shifting” but it leaves little, if any, debris or acids in the cylinders.

Yes mountainbike I owned many Vegas because I used to buy them up with blown engines so I could install a V8 in them. Toyota was crap in the early 70’s as well as our domestic models that I mentioned earlier. I will add that my '76 Celica GT 5-speed was a great car. In fact, it was one of the best vehicles that I ever owned. I raced V8 powered Vegas and never had any part break so you must have just had a bad one. In fact, Vega front ends were installed on a myriad of street rods in the 70’s and 80’s because they were so dependable and easy to find parts for much like the Mustang II front ends. I do agree that the Vega engine was crap overall but they sure made the price of a Vega drop and I took advantage of that. A stock Vega was laughed at but the laughing stopped at the drag strip when a V8 model showed up. It was a rare car that could outrun one.

From Edmunds;

Separately, another 800 Corvettes — most of them at dealerships — are on hold because they may have been built with only one of the rear parking brake cables fully seated and engaged, according to the GM statement.

I have performed stop sale inspections/service actions/recalls on dealer inventory in the past and the way I interpret this is one of the end of a parking brake cable is not connected to a link and the cable housing is not fully seated. I don’t believe the cars are missing a cable.

BTW I sold my Vega in 1986 before I moved west. It was a rust belt car with 140,000 miles on it.

Missileman, I meant no disrespect, but I would argue that there’s no such thing as a V8 powered Vega. Once you tear the powertrain out and replace it with a V8 powertrain, it changed the entire character of the car… and it removed many of he problems inherent in Vega’s. To me a V8 Vega is no more a Vega than Ed Roth’s Outlaw is a Model T.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Vegas retrofitted with V8s, and even considered it once myself. Cosworth used to sell a complete kit. It was even rumored in the mid '70s that the reason the engine compartment fit a smallblock so well was because Chevy had originally intended to offer a Vega with a smallblock.

But if you kept a stock Vega as a daily driver for just a few years you’d begin to struggle with the constant recalls and if you kept it longer you’d’ begin to struggle with the failures of all the cheesy body parts. A stock Vega on the road is an entirely different animal than a retrofitted Vega used at the drags.

I liked my Vega. Always will. It’s unfortunate that the quality was so poor. If it had been even reasonably reliable, if its weaknesses hadn’t been so life threatening, if its body parts hadn’t been so downright cheesy, I might have become a GM man. I might never have bought the Toyota.

I’m reasonably sure that back in the days of the Vega higher-ups at GM were saying Vega problems were cured, today is the dawn of a brighter future for quality, yada, yada.

There’s 3 or 4 Vegas still running around here. One is an all out drag car (strip only), another is a V-8 conversion, and another is bone stock. I see that stock one a few times a year. There’s even 3 or 4 old Mavericks still tooling around here on a regular basis.

Back in the 70s a local guy had a pretty cool Vega. It was the 2 door panel delivery wagon and had been repainted in a beautiful blue color with custom wheels. It also had a high performance 350 stuffed in it.
I never saw it race but heard it was a real screamer.

To be honest, I’d love to get my hands on a stock '72 hatchback (like I had) in decent shape for a hobby car. It’d be fun. Chances of doing so approach absolute zero, but it’s a fun thought. Mine was “Mohave Gold” with aftermarket and chin spoilers that I’d added and wide tires on slotted mags. Damn, I liked the looks of that car. Sidepipes would have really finished the car off visually, but I got sidelined by the constant recalls and mechanical problems.

Re: the problems, I seem to remember that they started sleeving the cylinders on their later engines, and I think they fixed the rear axle problem 'cause I stopped reading about it. I know they fixed the idle stop solenoid bracket problem, because they issued a recall for replacement of the part, but I’d already welded mine back together with a gusset plate added. They fixed the cooling system capacity problem with a recall to add a plastic reservoir, but, you guessed it, I’d already fixed mine myself… by adding a plastic reservoir.

I think most of the Vegas that exist now have been snagged by the drag racing guys and any that haven’t have rotted away for the most part.

Problems aside, those 2 DR hatchbacks were not bad looking cars at all with the right color, wheels, and body accessories.

I seem to remember the Vega of my wife’s aunt going through an engine sleeve job and an axle repair of some sort but that’s been so many years ago I do not remember the details.
I agree with you; sidepipes would have looked killer on your car.

No offense taken the same mountainbike because my wife uses the same logic as you on some things. She says if I take the pickles off of a Big Mac (which I do) then it’s no longer a Big Mac. I disagree but life goes on. Cheap, used Vegas dried up in the 80’s so I moved on to Chevy S-10 pickups. The Vega V8 swap was easy compared to the S-10’s but I did them anyway. BTW…I used the Base Hobby Shop scrap pile to make my retrofit kits. I bought my first kit for about $500 from Hooker Headers. I was shocked at the size of the box when it arrived since it was not much larger than a shoe box. I made my next retrofit kit in less than 30 minutes with about $6 worth of scrap steel. I did the same thing when it came to building my first V8 S-10 (or whatever you care to name it). I still see it on the streets occasionally but the guy wants about 5 times what he paid for it. The only thing he added was a set of Rallye wheels with the 5 slot pattern. I sold him the little S-10 about 20 years ago. It looks just like this example right down to the Rallye wheels.

It was even rumored in the mid '70s that the reason the engine compartment fit a smallblock so well was because Chevy had originally intended to offer a Vega with a smallblock.

The Vega was built on the same H body as the Monza which was available with a SB. but I doubt the Vega was considered for a SB as the Monza already had one.

Putting a V8 in a Vega is more like taking the hamburger and the “special sauce” out of a big mac. You don’t get the “big mac” experience.

But, anyway, I always liked the V8 Vegas. They had the attributes of a nice body style, comfortable driving positions, and an actual working motor.

@PvtPublic The Monza didn’t come out until 75, the Vega started in 71. The Monza was an “H Special” body based on the Vega (the H body) with a different rear suspension with a heavier (7.5 inch versus 6.5 inch in the Vega) axle.

The Monza was intended for a Wankel rotary engine but GM couldn’t get around Mazda’s apex seal patent so it was dropped. It came with an iron pushrod 4 cylinder but most 4 cylinder engines are only slightly shorter than the venerable small block Chevy V8 so it fits. It fits a Vega for the same reason. Same concept as a Sunbeam Tiger. Tight, but fits. So did the 90 degree V6 Buick bought back from Jeep.

Nothing is going to change. In 5 or 10 years the ignition switch issue will be largely forgotten

Not with this crowd. It never fails that whenever a discussion topic like this surfaces, the Vega gets brought up and how long ago did THAT happen? :wink:

23 years in manufacturing left me totally convinced that a production line person is very, very, very, very rarely the cause of a quality problem. Almost all problems are caused by management (an often-estimated 80%),

My brother-in-law is a retired plant manager of Chryco…and his estimate is even much higher. 95% of production problems is caused by management. Either the employee wasn’t trained properly…or the line is designed wrong…or the team isn’t being managed properly. It’s rarely the individual worker that’s the cause.

For what it’s worth, when I was 31 having owned (and profited from their sale) two older Corvettes, I though I’d roll my profits into a brand new 1984 Corvette. I found one totally loaded (only option missing was power lumbar driver’s seat) for $28.5K…5-speed, two-tone paint, plexi-glass roof panel, Delco-Bose, red leather…a sweet ride until the problems began. 1st, the crystal display dash board went out…Chevy replaced it under warranty. Now this car was stored every winter (I lived in Vermont) and it was only caught in the rain once (never driven unless a nice sunny day). It was always garaged and covered with soft blankets. Suffice it to say this was a pampered car I intended to keep into my old age. Most Corvettes in Vermont, are not driven as a daily driver so they can sit for a few weeks between drives. In 12 years of ownership (and 28K miles), I replaced the battery 5 times due to the computer running when the car was off (maybe I should have put a trickle-charger on it). One winter as it was being stored in a nearby barn, I closed the passenger door and the window fell into the door. I called the dealer and they said wait until Spring. They replaced the motor (out of warranty) with a new one (which went must faster than the driver’s side). Apparently there wasn’t a speed adjustment and to keep them the same, they replaced it with a used one. Next the factory clear coat started changing color. At first, I thought it was the paint. Dealers thought it had been in an accident at first glance. Once a paint expert determined it was the clear coat and it was stripped and replaced, it looked fine (outside of warranty). Then the nose color started changing colors (rubber vs. fiberglass?). Finally, a white substance started appearing on the red leather that no one could figure out what it was or how it could be removed. At the same time I bought the Vette, I purchased my first non-American car, a brand new 1985 Toyota 4WD pickup to navigate the winter commute. In 1996, fed up with all that had happened to a car that was 3 times the cost of the truck, I sold the Vette to a collector and bought a new Civic…one of the best experiences of my car buying history (we’re still driving Honda’s and Acura’s). We’ve never gone back to one of the big 3. As I have listened and read of problems through the years, it doesn’t seem to me that GM has learned much…

Ooh I had an '84 Corvette, too. Bought used with a few fixes already installed by the previous owner. It was a first year model (C$ new for '84) from GM, never a good thing.

It was like a very pretty, high maintenance woman. I want a NEW steering gear! I want a NEW harmonic balancer, I want a NEW catalytic convertor. I want, I want , I want.

I miss it sometimes…

well as far as the white substance coming out of the leather, it was probably mink oil or a similar oil. it happens with good leather shoes too.

I really thought changing the Camaros and vettes to the short wedge shape was horrible looking when they first did it. they sure didn t appeal to me as a high school senior in 1985 I

Mike, having spent many years as a senior manager in manufacturing, I can tell you that your BIL’s estimate of 95% is probably far more accurate than the “official” estimate of 80%… which actually comes from a study published in a book… it’s been too many years for me to remember the book title or the author.