1977 Vega Hatchback Coupe

Beginning in the early 1960s, 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 in later model years, and the Vega became 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 cars.
By the 1970s, many American motorists discovered the advantages of subcompacts 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. Many were used as second cars. The shift to subcompacts made families more mobile, and greater fuel efficiency offset the effects of gasoline shortages and price increases. 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 this 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.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
General Motors Corporation
Physical Description
steel (overall material)
glass (overall material)
rubber (overall material)
overall: 54 in x 64 in x 176 in; 137.16 cm x 162.56 cm x 447.04 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Industry & Manufacturing
Road Transportation
See more items in
Work and Industry: Transportation, Road
Road Transportation
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Guenther Sommer

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