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1977 Vega hatchback coupe

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1977 Vega hatchback coupe
Courtesy of Guenther and Siewchin Yong Sommer


This object appears in the following sections:

Smithsonian Automobile Collection — Car collection, 1970-present

The 1977 Vega arriving at the Smithsonian in 2001
The 1977 Vega arriving at the Smithsonian in 2001

Vega hatchback coupe
Catalog #: 2001.0168.01, Accession #: 2001.0168
In collection
From the Smithsonian Collection

In the 1970s, many American motorists discovered the advantages of subcompact cars and hatchbacks. Convenient, easy to drive, and economical to own and operate, domestic and imported subcompacts offered expanded opportunities for driving, commuting, and carrying goods. The shift to subcompacts made families more mobile, and these cars' greater fuel efficiency offset the effects of gasoline shortages and price hikes. This 1977 Vega hatchback was Guenther Sommer's second car; he and his wife, Siewchin Yong Sommer, drove a 1967 Pontiac Grand Prix convertible as their primary transportation. Mr. Sommer used the Vega to haul building materials at his home on Long Island. By removing all seats except the driver's seat, he converted the Vega to a small truck and even used it while building a new house. In 2001, he reinstalled the carefully preserved seats and donated the car to the Smithsonian.

Physical Description

Blue hatchback with white interior. Four-cylinder engine, manual transmission.

Date Made:
New York
Long Island
Gift of Guenther Sommer

In the 1960s and 1970s, American auto manufacturers responded to a wave of imported compacts and subcompacts that reached 20 percent of domestic new car sales by 1971. The Chevrolet Corvair, Ford Falcon, and Plymouth Valiant were introduced in 1960, followed by the AMC Gremlin in 1970 and Ford Pinto in 1971. General Motors introduced the Vega as a 1971 model. Like other domestic small cars, the Vega was attractive and handled well, but mechanical quality and reliability were disappointing. On early models, the aluminum-alloy engine block overheated and expanded, valves leaked, and body corrosion was a problem. General Motors was able to correct these defects on later models; overall, the Vega was a popular model that made money. This turnaround marked a reawakening of the American auto industry to the need to manage design, performance, and quality-control issues and compete more successfully with imported subcompacts.

Related People, Places, and Events
Chevrolet Motor Division, General Motors Corporation

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