This V8 Vega Is Equal Parts History And Horsepower

The V8 Vega movement took the idea of a small car and a big engine to various levels of extreme. What started out as an econobox for the masses, morphed into a massive enthusiast following, and for good reason.

Kits were created to make swapping a V8 into a Vega, and all of the downstream components were soon engineered to make use of all that additional power. Before long, extreme instances were afoot with once-stock hoods giving way to bulging superchargers and wheel tubs enabling only the largest tires, which only marginally allowed for suspension components to still connect to the frame.

Byron is a dyed-in-the-wool Vega enthusiast. He’s owned a Vega in one form or another since this 1975 Vega was new! All photos: Speedway Motors

The V8 Vega will always have a place in a hot rodder’s heart, and much like the Volkswagen Bug, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t owned one or knows someone who did. The iconic platform has surely entrenched itself into the enthusiast landscape. But, much like enthusiasts of many other platforms, the Vega has its share of a long-term fan base as well.

One such Vega enthusiast is Byron Burnham. Ever since he sold his 1964 Chevelle SS and bought his first Vega back in 1974, he has kept one of these mini-monsters in his care. His first Vega was created to be an autocross athlete, and that bug hasn’t left Byron ever since.

The car features an asymmetrical paint scheme with both a dark and a light side.

His latest creation is this Jeckyl ‘n Hyde-sided 1975 Vega built on the same V8-swapping mindset, but the means by which everything fit is a tasty blend of V8 swap history and modern technology. For starters, the engine of choice is now a high-revving LS3 which is putting out around 550 horsepower to the crank.

But, before you scratch of this swap as simply modern-motor sorcery, you should know that the engine under Byron’s car was fabricated by one of the originators of the V8 Vega swap himself, Don Hardy. Don was responsible for some of the very first V8 Vega conversions, including those done for the legendary Motion Performance. The coolness icing atop that capable and modern cake is the stacked electronic fuel injection system which gets its marching orders via a Holley ECU.

That LS3 engine pumps out 550 horsepower and was built by the famed Don Hardy himself!

Just like any other V8 Vega swap, all the components south of the flywheel bolts needed a hefty upgrade as well, and that’s where the vintage vibe mixes seamlessly with the modern flair. To start, there are many ways to increase traction. We’ve seen Vegas with big ‘n littles, but Byron wanted to make turns, as well as accelerate, so he mixed in a massive helping of tire, both front and rear. Those old Vega fenders were woefully inadequate to contain them, so he located an old set of Hooker (Headers) IMSA fender flares from back in the day for the Vega.

The fender flares served as the inspiration for the wide-body kit, but the team at A-Team Restoration in Bend, Oregon work their magic to make all the curves out of steel instead. Beyond that, the car also features a steel roll cage, custom-built chassis, and enough go-fast goodies to make any corner-carving enthusiast green with envy.

More than simply a set of motor mounts and shorty headers, Byron's Vega was a full-on rebuild of the General's answer to the fuel shortage. Extra tubing helps shore up the car both inside and underside.

Byron’s V8 Vega gives homage to the foundational truth that made these cars so cool back in the day but also integrates so much of today’s benefits in horsepower and drivability that it establishes it as a viable means of performance today. No matter which decade you call home, Byron’s split-personality Vega is spiced with the coolness that made each era great. The fact that it does so in such a simple, cohesive design is a credit to its builder. Speedway Motors has recently highlighted Byron’s Vega in its TOOLBOX newsletter. If you would like to see more photos of the build, click on the link and check it out.

About the author

Andy Bolig

Andy has been intrigued by mechanical things all of his life and enjoys tinkering with cars of all makes and ages. Finding value in style points, he can appreciate cars of all power and performance levels. Andy is an avid railfan and gets his “high” by flying radio-controlled model airplanes when time permits. He keeps his feet firmly grounded by working on his two street rods and his supercharged C4 Corvette. Whether planes, trains, motorcycles, or automobiles, Andy has immersed himself in a world driven by internal combustion.
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