David Carroll’s 1973 Chevrolet Vega, Building the Underdog
When the average Joe thinks about American classics, he may envision a Mustang or a Camaro – a Chevrolet Vega doesn’t lead the way. He might even favor Bel Airs or Impalas. The chances of him saying, “Why, yes, the Chevy Vega is my favorite car,” isn’t normal. However, for those few enthusiasts who take pride in embracing the uncommon, taking something small and making it magnificent is what they do best. Enter David Carroll, head of Norcal Garage.
David is no stranger to building cars that fall on the gnarly side of the spectrum. Readers may be familiar with his LS swapped Datsun 280z. He is a regular winner in Goodguys AutoCross competitions and has held his own in the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational. He’s a fan of aggressive stance, performance capability, proven parts, and obviously, uniqueness. The widebody 1973 Chevrolet Vega featured here is the product of David’s latest automotive effort via Norcal Garage. The little car was acquired about a year ago, after David found it listed for sale over 1,100 miles away in Laramie, Wyoming. After deciding to purchase the car without seeing it in person (and without his wife knowing), he welcomed it to its new home about a week later.
At first look, it’s hugely obvious that this Vega isn’t your standard project car. It’s anyone’s guess as to all of the goodies packed into this neat, little package. That’s why we felt it would be necessary to break down the build in its own spotlight.
The Vega’s power plant isn’t the typical LS swap—rather, a new Chevrolet Performance LTG 2.0 Turbo crate motor is nestled comfortably under the hood. It’s mated to the corresponding LTG six speed manual transmission, and is followed by upgrades such as a Mustang GT500 aluminum driveshaft, and a V8 Monza rear end made sweeter by Moser Axles. The stout Chevy sits atop lightweight X6 Jongbloed Racing Wheels, which are set at 18 x 10 in the front and 18 x 10.5 in the rear. The power stance of this car is quite loud and makes clear that it isn’t just for show. Hiding behind the X6 faces are Wilwood C5 front brakes and first generation Camaro rear discs.
On the inside, David kept things simple and clean. The dash setup is a custom idea of his, wherein he removed the stock dash panel, replacing it with a fabricated version to accommodate an iPad Mini to display the Autometer Dashlink gauges. The roll cage is also customized by Marcus Fry Racing. Outside of those more noticeable items, you’ll find a full carpet kit from Auto Custom Carpets (who knew they still made complete kits for Vegas?), a Hurst pistol grip shifter, DJ safety harnesses, and two Optima batteries, relocated to the hatch below the floor tray.
While there is a lot to look at in terms of what the Vega is comprised of, the conversation piece is definitely the engine. “We wanted to stand out,” he stated. “There are plenty of bolt-on upgrades to double the numbers it’s currently putting out.” Those numbers are 242 RWHP and 262 ft-lb, respectively.
The Vega took a total of eight months to build to this stage. Seeing as this swap is a one-off, the reality of the idea wasn’t made clear until it came time to get the work done. David explained to us that the LTG motor was a bit taller than anticipated, so fabrication was needed to make everything fit, including modifying the firewall and transmission tunnel.
“This build was a little more involved,” David explained, comparing it to past projects. “This hasn’t been done to a Vega before. Hurdles everywhere!” While the car sits at a great stage of its life, it isn’t complete. Future plans include fabricating a front splitter and rear spoiler, as well as fine tuning the suspension and drivability to his liking.
David is of the deeply thoughtful and methodical breed of gearhead who never stops thinking about what’s next. If he builds something, he questions how he can make it better the next time around. “My passion for cars runs deep, and deeper than most,” he said. “All I think about is cars, and I love involving my family as much as I can.” This was easy to see, as David’s young son attended our photoshoot, and happily bounced around and talked about how he loves cars—just like his dad.
“My wife isn’t a huge fan of the cars, but she does her best to encourage and support me when she can,” he expressed. Having support from family is probably one of the most crucial parts of being able to fully immerse yourself into your automotive obsession. That said, David also revealed that their family will be growing by one in April—so he’s going to need all the support he can get.
We’d like to thank David for bringing his Vega out to show us what he enjoys most about it. In addition, David would like to give a big thank you to those involved with this killer build: Ron Davis Racing Radiators, Wilwood Disc Brakes, Falken Tire, K&N Filters, Spectre Performance, Chevrolet Performance, Autometer Gauges, DJ Safety, Trackspec Motorsports, No End Customs, Marcus Fry Racing, Centerforce Clutch, TMI Products, Auto Custom Carpets Inc, Ridetech Suspension, Jongbloed Racing Wheels, Xtreme Kustom Details, Rick Tanks, Mike Maier Inc, Flowmaster Exhaust, South Bay Driveline, Hurst Shifter, PPG Paint, Church Boys Racing, protouring.com, bangshift.com, Design Engineering Inc, and Optima Batteries.