Many folks consider the Chevrolet Vega to be the worst car ever produced by General Motors, but not John Wales of Franklin. He happens to love the first subcompact car manufactured in America.
Named “Motor Trend’s” Car of the Year in its first year of production in 1971, the Vega soon gained its fair share of critics. The car became widely known for its major issues of engine reliability and excessive rust. Despite these major flaws, GM managed to sell more than 1 million of these cars in the first 2 ½ years of production. Two million had been sold when production was halted in 1977.
A Vega sighting today is a rarity. But if you look closely you can usually spot one at a raceway or drag strip. The car became a drag racer’s delight because of its small size, short wheelbase, light weight and its ability to accommodate huge V-8 engines.
John’s Vega combines the attributes of a race car with those of a street legal vehicle. This original 1976 Bosworth Vega barely resembles its stock appearance. The engine was replaced with a Chevy 468 big block. It has dual carburetors, can run on nitrous oxide and is topped off with an 8-71 roots-style blower. The front fenders were stretched to fit the massive motor, and the rear fender wells were modified to allow the Mickey Thompson “steamroller” tires. Race track requirements such as a full roll cage, wheelie bars and a parachute punctuate this Vega’s racing pedigree.
Even with all these performance and speed-related upgrades, John and his wife, Lydia, have no concerns driving it around town to car shows, where it always draws a crowd of curious onlookers. The couple truly enjoy sharing its history, especially with the younger generation of car enthusiasts.
Until next time, happy cruising!