Volume IX, Number 2

The Chevrolet Vega gets a little respect in small-scale
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 PR disaster.

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