The Chevrolet Vega has never gained the same status as its bigger brothers the Camaro and Chevelle — but that hasn’t stopped the little coupe from gaining a cult-following. The Vega isn’t known for a being a growling muscle car or having an illustrious racing history, but they did play a roll in leaving a footprint on motorsports in the 1970’s and on.
We stumbled across an impassioned builder with a different sort of vision for his Vega, and his motivation is really starting show as the modified Chevy takes shape. Byron Burnham of El Cajon, CA has embarked on an IMSA inspired Vega build incorporating extensive bodywork, suspension, and engine modifications — converting this poor-mans Camaro into a track-built thoroughbred.
“I’ve always had Vegas since 1974 — either Cosworths or regular body — it’s a disease,” Burnham exclaimed with a chuckle. Never really taking to drag racing, Burnham’s interest remains in road racing. “I wanted to get involved with the USCA and autocrossing again,” he continued.
The concept for the build centers around a “1976 Vega Cosworth, with a Hooker Header IMSA wide body kit and an Art Morrison 3-link rear clip,” according to Burnham. While this car may look unassuming from the rough exterior — underneath lies some serious drivetrain and suspension to handle the bends.
“The front suspension is all custom built tubular control arms with Chevy S10 2-inch drop spindles and a power rack and pinion,” Byron continued. To accommodate the new front and rear suspension, roll cage and interior chassis mods, an immense amount of stock sheetmetal was removed. Gutted and tubbed the build-up could commence.
Bringing some updated stopping power to the IMSA Vega are Wilwood brakes. 13-inch calipers will help keep the weight down, while 6-piston front, and 4-piston rear calipers will keep enough thermal capacity in the braking system to stand up to some track abuse.
Providing a heartbeat to this compact fastback is a modern American V8. “A Griffin aluminum radiator with dual fans cools the Chevy LS3 with a Tremec TKO 500 transmission which has been set back 3-inches from the stock location, moved 3/4-inches to the right, and lowered approximately 2-inches. Custom built 1-3/4-inch equal-length headers feed into the exhaust pipes that go into one muffler exiting out the right side of the car,” explained Burnham.
The IMSA body kit is surely the highlight of this build. Rather than taking the millenial-generation approach of bolt-on instant gratification this Vega was treated to a fascia overhaul to right way. Sheetmetal was contoured over a wire frame and sculpted to the desired air damn profile.
With the bumper in shape, complementary front fender flares were formed into the Vega’s plain vanilla fenders adding an aggressive posture and offering a rear-facing gill to evacuate any high pressure air trapped under the arch.
The rear the composite accouterments are what really set off the motorsports style of this ’76. The wedged body line of the flared rear fenders culminates into a trunk spoiler, and wraps around to the other side. A cowl-induction hood with appropriately placed vents for heat extraction wrap up the front end. The car sits in paint to the tune of a red and white livery. The goal is to have the car ready for SEMA 2016 so keep your eyes peeled next November!