Nomad is one of Chevy’s most venerated nameplates, while Vega is one of the brand’s most vilified. Put them together and you get today’s Nice Price or No Dice Vega Nomad, an extremely rare trim package offered for just one model year. Let’s see if the seller has named a decent price for it.
I was having technical difficulties on Friday and couldn’t jump into the comments on the 1992 Toyota Celica convertible we looked at until the weekend. I must say, it was worth the wait. The vast majority of you seemed to like the car, and enough of you liked its $2,300 price to honor it with an overwhelming 86 percent Nice Price win.
The Celica nameplate served Toyota for more than four decades, through seven generations. That’s an impressive run, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see the Celica name brought back in some form, same as the company did with the Supra name.
Do you want to know one automobile nameplate that’s really unlikely to make an encore engagement? That would be the Vega from Chevrolet. That’s not to say that Chevy is totally averse to reconstituting old names; they’ve done so with Impala, Malibu, Stingray and most recently, Blazer. The issue with the Vega is that the car that originally carried that name gained the reputation for being such an unmitigated turd that it’s seemingly tainted evermore. The weirdest thing is that while the Vega name died off after a disappointing six-year model run, the cars themselves carried on in various guises as the Chevy Monza, Pontiac Sunbird, Buick Skyhawk and Oldsmobile Starfire.
This 1976 Chevy Vega Nomad is an extremely rare edition of the ill-fated model, offered only in the ’76 model year and in a quantity that allocated only one per dealer. The trim package incorporated styling cues taken from the original Nomad edition of the Tri-Five Bel Air, although with modest success. The changes from the standard Vega included curved panels on the wagon’s side windows, six luggage-rack-style bars on the tailgate and the Nomad name in script below the rear window. Missing on this one is the vinyl roof that extended from the A-pillars to the end of the side glass. The chrome trim defining its back edge remains.
This being a ’76, it has the updated Dura-Built 140 four-cylinder engine. This had the same 2287cc displacement as the original Vega engine as well as its weird aluminum block/cast iron head design, but it was engineered for better cooling and quieter operation. Despite that, the big four was still pretty coarse and unrefined. By this time it also made only 70 horsepower and 120 lb-ft of torque, so you aren’t getting much in return for it shaking your fillings loose.
Regardless of its general lack of civility, the seller of this Vega boasts that a recent carb rebuild plus a new alternator and battery has the car running great. The ad explains that the car has been “resting since 1993,” but that those new bits and some fresh rubber — which appear to be trailer tires — now has it back in fine fettle.
The same can’t be said for the paint or the interior. The original merlot outer coat is duller than CSPAN after 6 p.m. and is fading through in places. There’s the additional issue of the missing vinyl roof and some clouding of the aluminum on the five-mph bumpers. Lastly, the lock on the hatch appears to be missing as well.
On the plus side, the car seems to have most all of its trim, and the steel wheels wear handsome bright hub caps and trim rings.
The interior is in even harder shape. In fact, sitting in there may require booster shots. The seats are torn and that’s exposing foam padding that’s now being worried away. Cracks crisscross the dash and the carpet looks like it’s out of a frat house common room. Much of that may be made up by the fact that the shifter for the four-speed manual has a cool double tang below the knob that you pull to engage reverse.
If you’ve ever lived in California for any length of time, you’ll know how much people in the state love their old license plates. It’s become such a passion point that the state now lets you buy ’60s style black and gold plates for your cars. That’s the reason that the seller points out the blue and gold plates this Vega still wears. The registration sticker on the back plate shows 1995 as the last year the car was tagged. Hopefully, it has been kept on non-operative registration ever since, keeping it in the DMV’s computers. If not, those plates will be hanging on the garage wall rather than on the car. These are likely not the car’s original 1976 plates as California didn’t switch to 7-digit numbering until 1980. The title, at least, appears to be clean.
OK, that’s a lot to take in. This is a rare edition of a car that’s more infamous than famous, and one that will be pretty miserable to drive what with its lack of power and sparse amenities. It really will appeal only to the extreme Chevy devotee, and lucky for the seller such individuals do exist. For those Chevy fanatics, we now need to decide whether this rare Vega is a value. The seller is asking $5,500 for the car. What do you think, should they get it? Or, is this Vega a Nomad that no man — or woman — should waste their time and money on?
San Diego, California, Craigslist, or go here if the ad disappears.
H/T to Pete Sears for the hookup!
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