1976 Chevy Vega – A Widebody Supernova
Byron Burnham’s 1976 Chevy Vega just might have you second guessing Chevrolet’s black swan of the 1970s.
This is no fallen star. An ultra-rare Cosworth edition, it survives today reborn like a rare symbol of a bittersweet past. That is, a car once coined, “Car of the Year,” with production numbers well into the millions, but deserted within a seven-year production span, and viewed by many as a disaster. But these Cosworth models were both potent and elusive with only 3500 being produced. Aside from stiffer suspension, the Cosworth models featured a 122c.i. all-aluminum inline-four with a DOHC cylinder head.
If you recall the ironic past of the “little car that does everything well,” the Vega marked a turning point in the long history of General Motors’ financial success. It was perhaps hopeful in theory, but with an array of poorly executed new engineering and production methods, the venture proved quite the opposite for GM’s reputation.
Despite the rocky history, Byron’s bad ass Vega is an exciting relic. Just passing by you need to look twice. That custom widebody is easy to mistake, hard to put your finger on initially and extremely unique especially with its Trans Am look and half and half paint scheme.
Byron’s 1976 Chevy Vega was finished in April 2018. It was a 10-year build that had him chomping at the bit to take out and drive.
Byron’s fascination for the 1976 Chevy Vega started as far back as he can remember. “I think I bought my first Vega back in high school,” he said. Perhaps it was his goal to prevail as the underdog, or his ample willingness to take the conventional to extraordinary.
One of the biggest challenges was the space constraints. Repositioning and fitting the much larger LS3 engine and transmission was a feat of its own. Everything including the interior needed to be moved back three-inches.
The engine is mated to a TKO 500 5-speed, putting the power down through a 9-inch rear. The front and rear suspension are fully custom as well. The rear houses a 3-link with an Art Morrison watts link. The front was custom built with tubular control arms and 2-inch dropped spindles. It has RideTech adjustable coil-over shocks front and rear. ET Minilite wheels finish off the road race vibes.
There’s plenty of stopping power with the big Wilwood 13” discs and 6-piston calipers on both the front and rear. The Falken tires wrap very cool E-T LT-111 18-inch wheels.
It was painted Jekyll & Hyde gray and white with an offset stripe – designed by Pfaff Designs in Royal Oak, Michigan. The widebody kit is something of its own too. It was designed and built by A-Team Restorations – a full hand made design that’s one-off.
With all the punch this Vega packs it should easily tear up the autocross courses. Same goes for getting it out on the road – something Byron is more than excited about and looking forward to.
This is one radical Vega that stretches far beyond the standards it had been given in its past life and pushes mid 70s subcompact cars into the conversation of next generation muscle.