The Chevrolet Vega gets a little respect
by Doug Breithaupt
Chevrolet killed the Corvair in 1965 due to the success of the Ford Mustang
and much less in response to Ralph Nadar's book. While the Camaro came out
in 1967 and took up the battle with the Mustang, the DOA second-generation
Corvair was allowed to limp through until 1969, filling Chevy's 'small-car'
slot. In 1970, the Chevrolet Vega arrived to replace the Corvair. Like the
Corvair, it looked good, was fun to drive, cheap to buy and sales were excellent.
Like the Corvair, the Vega's initial success was soon dampened by bad press.
It seems the Vega's alloy heads were not happy when overheated and an amazing
number of blown head gaskets were the result. 1977 marked the last year
for the Vega, which like the Corvair, was abandoned by Chevrolet as another
Toy versions of the Vega in small-scale diecast have been few. Zylmex did
offer the second-generation GT with racing style decals. The casting is
quite good with a metal base and mag wheels. It is also hard to find, especially
in good condition. Hot Wheels offered the 'Vega Bomb', a funny car body
on the much-used 'Top Eliminator' frame. It initially came with red-line
tires but later versions have black-walls. Like the Zylmex version, the
HW Vega body is the slant-nosed second generation.For the next 20 years,
these two examples were the only small-scale diecast Vega models to be found.
In 1995, Johnny Lightning offered a series of classic drag racers. One of these
represented Revell's 'Jungle Jim' Vega funny car. Unlike the Hot Wheels version,
this Vega body is a first-generation example. Both the JL and HW funny cars represent
real drag racers as the Vega was active on the quarter-mile. The most recent Vega
is the best to date. Mac Regan of Johnny Lightning has a love for cars that have
been overlooked or orphaned. He brings us a very nice 1973 Chevy Vega GT, in perfect
period yellow/orange color. Stylish wheels, rubber tires and engine detail make
this a bargain for about $3. Like the previous Vega funny car by JL, this new
version represents the first-generation style. Would it be too much to hope for
a Kamm-backed wagon, Cosworth Vega or the short-lived 1975-77 Pontiac Astre version
in the future?
Vega GT - Zylmex #D46
Vega GT - Johnny Lightning #920
Vega 'Bomb' funny car - Hot Wheels #7658
Revell's Jungle Jim Vega funny car - Johnny Lightning #325