The story is about as juicy as Chevy Vega stories get. Apparently GM paid Yunick to see how much grunt he could squeeze out of the stock L11 engine, a 110-horsepower four-cylinder that was anything but a performance engine. With a small Schwitzer turbo bolted to a custom manifold, a ported head, and a rejected Rochester 350 cfm two-barrel carburetor, this experimental engine blew 7 pounds of boost. And then… GM killed it.
Looks like we’re about to reveal that Smokey ran it on water or developed a 100 mpg carb that Big Oil made disappear. But no, we think it’s entirely possible that Yunick was hired to do the build and test the engine.
It becomes a citrus press. The guy who built this car – we’ll get to that in a moment – claims the engine hasn’t been opened since Smokey touched it. He was therefore the last person to see the inside of the engine. Sold after Smokey’s death, it ended up in the hands of Ricky Smith. He owns RSR Restorations, which specializes in GM’s legendary Yenko and COPO creations. Good things. We’re not sure anyone has ever bundled a Vega with this kind of pavement-pounding company, but the engine story and the Yunick connection kindled a fire in Smith’s mind.
So Smith found a suitable, clean Vega in which to drop the engine, creating the type of vehicle GM might have had it greenlit the project past the engine testing phase. It’s a combination of probably legit experimental skunkworks stuff from GM, the legend of Smokey Yunick, and a bit of “movie magic” to create a vehicle that never was, but certainly could have been.
And now it’s for sale. Mecum has one of zero Vega listed at their giant Indy auction. It appears to come with the boxes of documentation that Smith said he collected to accompany the car when he sold it. And for anyone who’s ever enjoyed the look of these three-quarter scale pony cars – or seen what they can do on a drag strip, with a tube and a big fat V-8 ass – the idea of a factory performance edition is intriguing. Smith’s stripes, air dam and rear wing suit a factory (or dealer-installed) vintage package perfectly – we’d expect nothing less from someone who knows the scene so well. Yenko and COPO.
One thing’s for sure: you’ll have quite the story at any auto show you go to. Some of them might even be true.