Vega Engine Survival

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15,078
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Canada
If there is one engine in the history of the internal combustion engine that is known for being failure prone, it is the Chevrolet Vega 2300 I-4. It was an aluminum block with a high silicone content; and supposedly acid-etching the block left silicone granules exposed as a durable 'wear surface' for the pistons. In reality, the process never worked, and the bores wore out the pistons in no time. There were other problems with the engine, such as leaking valve-stem seals, but this one was what caused the main engine failure. In looking at posts on 'Graphite Oil'; I found two posters who said that this oil worked really well in the Vega engine, and one said the Vega engine was really reliable! What I'm wondering is does anyone else have any stories about a Vega engine, and more specifically, did anyone find an oil or additive that made this engine last a long time....any 'high-mile' Vega accounts'?
 
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12,385
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Northern CA
quote:
Originally posted by addyguy: If there is one engine in the history of the internal combustion engine that is known for being failure prone, it is the Chevrolet Vega 2300 I-4. It was an aluminum block with a high silicone content; and supposedly acid-etching the block left silicone granules exposed as a durable 'wear surface' for the pistons. In reality, the process never worked, and the bores wore out the pistons in no time.
I heard that Mercedes and Porsche used esentially the same alloy except they did it with competent engineers and manufacturing folk and it worked for them.
 
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39,805
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Pottstown, PA
I heard that Mercedes and Porsche used esentially the same alloy except they did it with competent engineers and manufacturing folk and it worked for them. Zactly the same thing I heard. They used a proven aluminum alloy (Reynolds?) that MB used. The rhetoric that I heard was that they used pistons that had too high of an expansion coefficent ..that gawled the walls. This wasn't figured out until the thing was history ...or at least too late to change in terms of contracted part orders and whatnot. At that point the public impression of the thing was too far in the dirt. Hence the Iron Duke being so crowned to distance itself from any association with the ill designed aluminum Vega engine.
 
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Airlie Beach Australia
Hi, addyguy - your comment; " It was an aluminum block with a high silicone content; and supposedly acid-etching the block left silicone granules exposed as a durable 'wear surface' for the pistons. In reality, the process never worked, and the bores wore out the pistons in no time." ....is fundamentally incorrect, and especially this "the process never worked"! Nikasil or Alusil will "ring a bell" for many! If not, "Google" either! There are many thousands of other engines from both Porsche and MB built at the same time (and subsequntely in some engine families for over 20 years) that have near 1m kms (600+k miles) on them without an overhaul! They still use the same process as do many other Manufacturer's. Ask BMW how succesful the process is - they still use it too The honing (finishing) of the bores is very critical if ever disturbed. The protruding silicon particles (about 20000per c/cm) actually assist in keeping a good oil surface on the ring/piston/wall interface Following racing practice Porsche used piston cooling oil jets in 1987-88 (after the engine had been produced for 10 years and had risen in power from 240 (16v SOHC) to 320hp (32v DOHC)) but they were dropped after about 100 engines - they were simply not needed. The process had shown it had enormous potential for development without cooling/wear issues! They can be repaired or in some instances they have been "linered" with success It is one of the truely excellent engine manufacturing processes around - and much better than a simple aluminium alloy in real terms. It has stood the test of time! The Vega's problems were unique as I recall!! XS650 - you got it right!! Thanks!!! Gary - you are correct too - thanks Porsche and Benz both used a variety of coated pistons chromed from Mahle and iron from KolbenSchmidt (KS) and suffered zero problems - well, except for those that are normal in any process involving a warranty. Both piston coatings were/are used in production with the same excellent and very durable results Later problems arose when the ring pack was moved up the piston and lubrication was marginal - it only lasted for about 100 engines in the case of Porsche. Drain returns were the answer Doug [ October 04, 2005, 07:48 PM: Message edited by: Doug Hillary ]
 
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441
Location
Toronto, Canada
I have had 3 Porsches with "Allusil" engine blocks: one with 120,000 miles one with 185,000 miles and one with 140,000 miles. Only the highest mileage one had any cylinder wear issues. You can generally rebuild with oversized cylinders if needed. I remember the Vega well. I was in primary school the year it came out. A classmate's mother won a free 1 year lease on one in a radio station contest. It did not last the year. The Vega was such a total piece of garbage that it was a race to see what would fail first. The bodies rusted instantly too. Here in an area where lots of salt is used on the roads rust is a fact of life. But it was striking how within two or three years of the Vega ceasing production, you almost never saw them on the road here. You still saw lots of Pintos and Gremlins and other bad cars of similar vintage but the Vega is a distant memory.
 
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688
Location
Fort Smith, AR
OMG. What a post out of the past! [Eek!] The 1st car I ever bought was a '71 Vega. At 30K the dealer put in a new engine block under warranty. Scourched cylinder walls from overheating. I was young and dumb. [Mad] By 50K it had a 3rd engine block...and a new fangled contraption called a "coolant recovery system" that the Chevy dealer graciously installed for free. By then I had learned thru the school of hard knocks that a Vega engine running at 200 degrees operating temp doesn't do too well with a 180 degree thermostat. [No no] That was the last GM product I ever bought.
 
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ME
There's a guy around here with a Cosworth Vega from 1976 who brings it to all the car shows. He has this huge poster with all the neat facts and alleged firsts: twin overhead cams, fuel injection. Oh, and it's for sale, but overpriced. It's either restored or a pristine original. It has a sweet interior, and 2300 miles. The punchline? I've seen him on the road blowing tons of blue smoke.  -
 
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MO
Shelly drove a white vega with black stripes. She was a cheerleader and her daddy was one of the richest guys in town. Shelly sure was a cutie!!!!!! Her brother and I got in a fight. I whomped him good, real good. Couple months later, shortly before heading off to bootcamp, figgered' I had nuthin' to lose so called Shelly for a date. She wasn't sure who I was..... I gave a few tips and hints but che still couldn't place me. We definitely hung out in different crowds at school. Well, finally, so she would know who I was I mentioned I was the guy who pulled out part of her brother's hair and left his face rather beat and battered...... but that he had started the fight. Wonder why she hung up on me? Anyway, Shelly looked really cute in that Vega.
 
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2,688
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Elderly County, Florida
I have a sister named Shelly who used to drive a white Vega. That's really the last thing I remember as this fella I knew whomped up on me one day. I just came out of the coma and discovered the World Wide Web. Now that I've learned to type with a pencil in my teeth, I can tell my story to the world. I wonder what ever happened to the fella - last I heard he was heading off to boot camp. I sure did like that Vega.
 
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704
Location
Bismarck, ND
That may have been me, the guy with a Vega and arco oil. My vega was a 77. Sometime in 76 or 77 GM started using engines with steel sleaves or something like that. I don't know if that helped or not, but I had mine for about 10 years and it was very reliable.
 

addyguy

Thread starter
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15,078
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Canada
For the earlier posts, commenting on the fact that I had it wrong about the reliablility of this engine design, I just want to clarify that I have read that MB and Porshe got this process right and created a high-quality engine from it. But in the Vega specifically, the process was never done right, and the engine was junk in that specific car. Engineers at GM at the time were rushed on this project, and weren't motivated to do it right, hence the crappy work and not figuring out what was wrong with the car until it was too late to do major changes....
 
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3,094
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Metro Detroit
quote:
Originally posted by GreeCguy: I have a sister named Shelly who used to drive a white Vega. That's really the last thing I remember as this fella I knew whomped up on me one day. I just came out of the coma and discovered the World Wide Web. Now that I've learned to type with a pencil in my teeth, I can tell my story to the world. I wonder what ever happened to the fella - last I heard he was heading off to boot camp. I sure did like that Vega.
[LOL!] Way too funny!
 
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441
Location
Toronto, Canada
quote:
Originally posted by GreeCguy: I have a sister named Shelly who used to drive a white Vega. That's really the last thing I remember as this fella I knew whomped up on me one day. I just came out of the coma and discovered the World Wide Web. Now that I've learned to type with a pencil in my teeth, I can tell my story to the world. I wonder what ever happened to the fella - last I heard he was heading off to boot camp. I sure did like that Vega.
My name is Shelley. For years I have been searching for my long lost brother, driving the country in my white Vega....
 
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12,385
Location
Northern CA
quote:
Originally posted by addyguy: For the earlier posts, commenting on the fact that I had it wrong about the reliablility of this engine design, I just want to clarify that I have read that MB and Porshe got this process right and created a high-quality engine from it. But in the Vega specifically, the process was never done right, and the engine was junk in that specific car. Engineers at GM at the time were rushed on this project, and weren't motivated to do it right, hence the crappy work and not figuring out what was wrong with the car until it was too late to do major changes....
Early Corvair, Vega, Olds diesels, Cadillac 4-6-8, 3.1 V6. etc. The same excuse could be made for all of them. In the end all that matters is that GM has used it's customers as beta testers on a lot of crap engines that weren't ready for production.
 

addyguy

Thread starter
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15,078
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Canada
"The same excuse could be made for all of them. In the end all that matters is that GM has used it's customers as beta testers on a lot of crap engines that weren't ready for production." With this being said, I'll go back to my original question - anyone ever got really high mileage out of a Vega/Astre engine, and how did you do it?
 
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Spring HIll
[Off Topic!]
quote:
Originally posted by gudmund: and to think, The 1971 Vega was Motor Trend magazines "Car of the Year"!!!!
Another reason why I never believe much of what MT says. They seem like the "Windows 95" of automotive magazines.
 
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12,385
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Northern CA
quote:
Originally posted by ToyotaNSaturn: [Off Topic!]
quote:
Originally posted by gudmund: and to think, The 1971 Vega was Motor Trend magazines "Car of the Year"!!!!
Another reason why I never believe much of what MT says. They seem like the "Windows 95" of automotive magazines.

Closer to Windows 2.0.
 
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8,711
Location
Nothern USA
quote:
Originally posted by gudmund: and to think, The 1971 Vega was Motor Trend magazines "Car of the Year"!!!!
The Vega was a highly innovative car, well deserving of the award. MT had no way of knowing the design would be so poorly executed. The militants at the Lordstown factory deserve their share of the blame too. What were they to give it too, the Pinto? What did we learn from the Pinto except Americans will accept cars with mixed metric and SAE fasteners, and gas tanks need more protection? What forgotten product in that class did Chrysler offer? No design that we learn from was a complete failure.
 
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