Vega and Monza--What's the Difference?

by Robert Spinello (vegabob)

Vega/Monza is like Chevelle/Monte carlo or even Nova/'76-'79 Caddy
Seville-- meaning same car-different body (with more weight added from
the different body, trim, noise insulation & luxury additions.) when the
vega was introduced in 1971, chevy promised not to change it for 5
years-hoping to appeal to VW Beetle owners. GM wanted to tap into the
foreign car market. little did they know, in 1970, that the Vega would
(mostly) appeal to their own customer base, taking sales away from their
own models like Camaro & Nova. import economy car buyers didn't care
about style; only economy & durability. the Vega was judged the cleanest
design of all, with timeless style. people bought it that were used to
attractive bigger american cars. now they could buy an attractive
smaller car AND save money! this is where GM and Chevy didn't maximize
Vegas' appeal- they should have seen the writing on the wall and should
have given Vega the POWER to match its style. even a limited option to
see if it would sell. it would take 5 years before they did anything
about this, and then only 3,500 overpriced Cosworths that sat at Chevy
dealers sometimes longer than a year. it helped Camaro sell better.
picture this: a '76 camaro sitting next to a '76 cosworth vega at a
chevy dealer- price of Camaro-5,500. price of Cosworth-6,900. i remember
looking at the window stickers of both cars together. it made everything
else look like a bargin! maybe that was their plan. by this time ('75)
Camaro sales were up. (see above) as well as Nova, and the Monza 2+2 was
new. All 3 of these cars offered V8's, but not the Vega-


Chevy was losing money on Vega from the beginnning regardless of the
fact that sales ranged from a low of 80,000 (in '77) to a high of
460,000 (in '74) this fact prevented any new tooling to accept any major
changes, like V8 power.GM's marketing stratagy prevented Chevrolet from
building any Hi-Perf. Vegas, and maybe because Vega was designed by GM
Execs; not Chevrolet. Ed Cole, GM engineer, and later President of GM
has the distinction of having designed the first Chevy V8-the '55 small
block V8...... and 15 years later, the Vega Aluminum 4 cyinder motor,
which Chevy hated, but was forced to build and sell. President Cole
wanted his Aluminum 4 cylinder wonder in the car, and, probably, the '72
CHEVY BUILT V8 VEGA prototype was rejected by Cole. this would explain
why only that motor stayed with Vega until the end, good design or bad.
like the Corvair aluminum 6 (also designed by Cole) that preceded the
Vega, the tooling for these advanced designs, along with Cole's dual
role as engineer and ultimate GM decision maker prevented Cole's design
from being replaced. this car was doomed from the start before it even
went into production!

Vega was the lightest car by at least 500.lbs, right? so it would have
the best performance of ALL with a V8, right? i think Chevy engineers
wanted it built, but, maybe GM and Cole said NO. It all had to pass his
desk first!

Shortly after vega intro a new body was drafted. which later became
Monza 2+2. since vega had 4 different bodies, a new model was offered
instead. they share the same width & wheelbase. Monza is 9.3 inches
longer however, & has a wider track. std. engine & transmissions are
shared. only monza offered V8 (and later, V6 engines) in addition to the
std. 4 cylinder motor. original '75 monza was equipped with a lot of
items optional on the Vega including suspension stabilizer bars,
upgraded springs. only monza would feature square headlights (on the 2+2
intially & Sport Coupe later on.)  one of GM's first cars to have them.
on the inside monza originally came with a deluxe interior-standard.
this was a higher level than the vegas' "custom" interior. this interior
was offered to vega buyers in '75 as well, as an option, but i've yet to
see one with it. Vega GT gauges were std. rear suspension was redesigned
for the monza-(torque arm) replaced the short travel 4-link upper contol
arms of the Vega, eliminating the rear wheel hop on panic braking. rear
brakes were made larger too. these were also added to the '75 Coswoth
Vega, & all Vegas in '76. of course, monza had more
insulation-contibruting to a substancial weight increase over Vega.

Monza for '76 offered lower priced models, also "opera windowed" town
coupes had been avaiable since mid '75. plainer steel bumpered version
coupes & hatchbacks were priced too close to vegas' price. when this
happened, along with '76 Chevette intro, sales of the vega went into the
toilet. Pontiac Astre (Vegas' clone) also had been cutting in on Vegas'
share of sales as well from '75. most of the low priced monzas had the
vega motor, which was now covered with a 60 month/60,000 mi. warranty.
the improved vega engine didn't help the vegas' lagging sales, but Monza
continued to sell well with the same engine.

Vegas' numbered days started when Monza was introduced. looking at
production figures, only the sporty Vega Hatchback & GT's sales were
affected by the Monza. Vega Wagon & Sedan remained steady. Vega sales
slumped the most in '76 with Chevette intro. the even smaller and
cheaper i model Chevette matched Vega sales in '76, and it outsold Vega
2 to 1 in '77. Chevy did it again! the models were competing with each
other. vegas sales troubles, no dought were also due to its name having
been badly tarnished from early model engine troubles, recalls & rust
problems. these problems were gradually resolved by '76, but it was too
late. it hung on until '77. after over 1.7 MILLION Vegas built, Chevy
quietly discontinued their first "mini-car" in '78, with vega gone, std.
motor for Monza was the iron 2.5 pontiac 4 cyl OHV (hugh!)

VEGA BODIES REBORN in '78!- the Monza "S". which was identical to Vega
Hatchback coupe from the year before was offered in '78 only, again to
reduce monzas' base price, although few of these were built. wagon body
returned as a monza, also was identical to vega wagon, save the monza
grill, bumpers, Dash & steering wheeel. it sold as well as the Vega
Wagon had and was offered until Monzas' end.

When the Vega was introduced in '71 at 2,100-2,300 lbs; depending on
body style, it was considered 200 lbs overweight versus the
"competition" the 1975 Monza was 2,700+ lbs. with the std. Vega motor!
Chevy took a now aging design (Vega was designed the 60's) and getting
heavier due to safety regulations.V8 Monza is 3,200 lbs! Chevy should
have produced the ALL ALUMINUM 302 V8 (prototype-1972) Vega GT. they
were too buzy spending millons on the Wankel (rotory) engine. testing it
in Vegas as early as 1973 in Canada. this is the motor that was planned
for Monza. of course this project died, as fuel economy & emmisions
dictated GM's priorities.

Had chevy beefed up the Vegas' brakes & rear axle earlier on, and
offered the 302 Aluminum V8, the Vega would be highly desirable indeed. 
weight of aluminum V8 brought the vegas total weight to only 2500 lbs.! 
13.9 QUARTER MILE TIME! with stock rear axle and tires; 350 automatic. 
these engines were designed in 1959 as 289's for use in corvette
research vehilcles. chevy updated one of the remaining motors for the
vega prototype. main change was overbore to 302 c.i. few exsisted in
1972. a production car never had it. can you imagine what a FACTORY
72-73 Vega GT with an aluminum 302 V8 would be worth today. TOO MUCH for
me to afford. in '72, i was 13, riding a bike! but loved these cars. i
visited my local chevy dealer quite a lot (usually during school lunch.)
maybe after all these years I MIGHT build one (similar) start with a
71-73 coupe (2,000 lbs. without motor) add a new 350 with aluminum heads
and aluminum manifold crate motor-330 h.p 4-spd-narrowed 12 bolt rear-
custom radiator TOTAL WEIGHT=about 2,500 lbs.!!! or 700 lbs lighter than
V8 Monza. compare some specs.-

  1972 vega 4 cyl. 110 hp 4-speed 3:36 axle
  0-60 12.5 sec. qtr mi.19.1
  source motor trend jan.'72

  1975 monza 8 cyl 110 hp 3 speed auto. 2.93 axle 
  0-60 12.6 sec. qtr mi. 19.0
  source motor trend nov.'74

Isn't that amazing. 4 cyl vs. 8 cyl-SAME PERFORMANCE-why? weight. the 
early vega was (is) 600 lbs. lighter.

  1977 monza spyder 305 140 h.p V8 4-speed 2.73 axle 
  0-60 10.5 sec. qtr. mi. 17.5 sec.
  source- car & driver april'77.

  1972 vega GT (prototype) 302 V8 3-speed auto 
  qtr. mi 13.9 sec.
  (h.p. & 0-60 time N/A)
  source- hot rode june'72

I'm tired of the Vega bashing all these years. time to set the record
straight. the numbers speak for themselves. it's time to finally
realize, the stock Vega was better than most people can remember and
could have been THE BEST (before the weight gain) with a performance
powertrain. then Chevy let it die, along with the monza in '80. but
then, they kill everything rear wheel drive anyway-examples: Nova,
Camaro, 90's Impala SS, etc.

unfortunatly, Vega & Monza were born when GM was under pressure to get
rid of fast cars.ex.-Z/28 killed end of '74. but reborn in '77. Monza
Spyder was better than ever-see specs but, the V8 was discontinued end
of '79. a year before all Monzas were discontinued in favor of- 1980
Citation? fwd? junk for the masses. it sold over 500,000 in a year.

1977 was the year Chevy descided performance would make a comeback. in
it's last year of vega production, Chevy didn't even offer the Cosworth
engine, let alone a V8 it never had. it should have had the V8 back in
'72 when the prototype was built. WHERE IS THAT CAR??... that didn't
stop people from building their own, however. V8 Vegas were the most
popular swap for street & track from day 1. Monza now had a proper 305
(140 h.p.) 350 (125 h.p.-Calif. only) specs are preety good- it was
short lived, howver, only offered 3 years, thru '79.

The stock vega has always been good enough for me, as i have owned over
20 of 'em! i prefer the vegas' look, feel and handling it was praised
for, preventing me from ever doing a V8 swap on one. the original
4-speed Coupe (3.36 axle) can keep up with '75 265 V8 Monza & '75/'76

'77-'79 Monza Spyder with its 305 (140 h.p) motor, Monza Mirage, &
'75/'76 Cosworth Twin-Cam Vega are Chevies' best 3 efforts in high
performance H-Bodies that were sold new.

Yenko offered a Vega Stinger (71-72) vega 4 cyl. TURBO-220 h.p 0-60 7.7
sec.! was as quick as most V8 muscle cars of the time, but vega engine,
although reliable, wasn't up to that much h.p. Ditto the Cosworh
(modified) racing twin-cam 4......

In closing-
An early Vega ('71-'73) Coupe/Sedan SWAP-with a 350 V8 (with weight
saving aluminum components) has the best POWER TO WEIGHT RATIO. and that
fact makes it the best combination for a street/strip keeper that won't
"blow the budget" with prices of new cars 25,000+ and 60's muscle car
prices getting INSANE, it is looking better than ever!