When the Cosworth Vega was presented to top GM management in 1972, it was hot stuff; potentially faster than the Corvette.
The Chevrolet Vega had been DeLorean's epic vision from the start and the Cosworth would be the culmination of that quest. A car that would propel him into the the presidency of General Motors. The muscle car era was over, and John DeLorean had ideas that the Cosworth Vega would become Chevy's new performance car, replacing the Camaro if not the Corvette. When introduced in 1971, the stock Vega was faster, larger, more technically advanced and handled better than Ford's Pinto. Chrysler was importing cheap Japanese Mitsubishis. Who'd want one of those?
In a comparison test of cars that qualified for the recently introduced SCCA Showroom Stock Sedan series (which was conceived to replace TransAm pony cars), Car & Driver placed the Vega first. Or maybe not. It was forty five years ago and there was a juggling of the rules at some point that banned the Opel Manta in favor of the Opel 1900 (Ascona A) and the 2 bbl Vega may have been banned as well. Balance of Power and all that.
In any case, the Vega was an unmitigated disaster. It was rust prone and had cooling problems that caused piston scoring and other problems. This author once split the transmission mainshaft and took several teeth of the differential ring gear while pulling a hole shot with a stock 2bbl Vega.
But the hotrod Cosworth was going to save John's DeLorean's butt. Developmental problems pushed the car from a timely 1974 debut to mid 1975, after all the fancy new car introductions had been drooled over and almost before Summer shutdown. Engineering changes, unleaded fuel and emission requirements had cut power from 170 to 110 horsepower from a 122 cubic inch engine. That was the same number as the original 1971 2 barrel 140 cubic inch Vega. The hi-perf 350 cubic inch Corvette made 205 horsepower from an engine nearly three times larger (165hp in the standard Corvette 350 engine). The required 5 mph bumpers dulled the handling. On the positive side, it was the 1st GM car with electronic fuel injection.
2,061 Cosworth Vegas were delivered in 1975. All in black. The car cost twice as much as a regular Vega while having only a fancy paint & stripe job to distinguish it from its economy brethren. It took 12.3 seconds 0-60 and 18.5 in the 1/4 mile. The 1975 Corvette was the most expensive car Chevrolet had ever sold ($6797) and the Cosworth was 2nd, only $600 less.
They added a few more colors to the range for 1976 and sold 1,447 Cosworths. Then it was over. Despite all the bad publicity surrounding the brand, Chevrolet sold 190,321 regular Vega coupes and more in sedan and wagon body styles.
But the Cosworth's failure didn't affect John DeLorean at all. He had left General Motors "to explore other opportunities" in April of 1973. He would found DeLorean Motor Company and produce a very expensive futuristic sports car with an engine best suited for a French taxicab. He was so successful that he retired to New Jersey only two years later. There was also some rubbish about cocaine smuggling but he was acquitted.