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1973 Chevrolet Vega Hatchback Street Machine

What Was Once Old Is Now New

Photography by

TECH NOTES

What: It's a '73 Vega hatchback with Camaro taillights. When was the last time you saw a V-8 Vega on the street?

Owner: David Cartwright

Hometown: Encinitas, California, just north of San Diego along the coast, where beach cars rust from the top down because of the salty ocean air.

Engine: The only reason to build a Vega is to stuff a small-block in it. So David latched onto a 383 small-block built by T&L Engine Development. It began life with a Scat rotating assembly including a forged crank and forged I-beam rods with Speed-Pro forged 10.3:1 compression pistons. David wanted a healthy small-block, so T&L used a Comp hydraulic roller with 224/230 degrees of duration and 0.502/0.510-inch lift, and Endurex lifters that move the 2.02/1.60-inch valves in the Dart 210cc Pro 1 aluminum heads using Comp roller rockers. T&L matched those excellent heads with an Edelbrock Performer RPM Air Gap intake and a 750-cfm Speed Demon carburetor, along with a Pertronix distributor and a set of Sanderson 158-inch headers with Flowmaster 40s, to create a very streetable engine package. T&L also dyno'd the engine, coming up with a solid 427 hp and 473 lb-ft of torque.

Transmission: David likes to shift for himself, so he chose a Muncie close-ratio four-speed and a Hurst shifter working with a Monza bellhousing and a custom 1012-inch clutch assembly.

Rearend: David knew that the limp-wristed 6.5-inch stock 10-bolt would never take the abuse of that 383, so he upgraded a narrowed '70 8.5-inch 10-bolt built by Doug Brown. It includes a set of 3.73s from Motive Gear along with Moser 30-spline axles and a custom-built four-link that utilizes the factory rear- suspension pickup points.

Suspension and brakes: It's all stock Vega underpinnings up front plus a PST 158-inch front sway bar, 90-10 Summit Racing front shocks, and '78 Monza front disc brakes. The rear suspension trailing arms are made of adjustable-length tubing and rod ends riding on '78 Monza station wagon shocks and custom-wound coil springs. The rear brakes use larger Ford 11-inch-diameter drums.

Wheels/Tires: In keeping with the spirit of the '70s, David chose a set of Cragar SS wheels with 15x8-inch biggies in the back and 14x7s in the front. The rolling stock consists of BFGoodrich 215/65R15 Radial T/As out back with even smaller 195/60R14s in front.

Interior: There's not a lot of room in a Vega, so David made the most of it with an Auto Meter Ultra-Lite tach and four matching gauges set into the stock dash, splashed with a Grant steering wheel. Then Valencia Upholstery used red Mercedes vinyl for the dashpad, door panels, console, and seats. David also saved a little space by putting the parking brake handle inside the Camaro console.

Paint and body: As owner of Encinitas Auto Body, David has over 40 years of experience in bodywork and paint, so it's not too surprising that he'd work a little magic with the exterior. The most obvious change is the second-generation Camaro rear body panel and taillight assembly, which work with the rear spoiler. David chose a nice single-stage PPG black to illustrate his sheetmetal prep skills, while John Walko laid down the paint.

Crew: David wants to acknowledge John Walko, Doug Brown, and Andy Shawn for their help with the car.

Performance: 12.30 at 110 mph carrying only 2,730 pounds. END

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