AKA The Tornadoed Cosworths


Mike Reed, Lake Odessa, Michigan


It was July, 1978. I had been an avid admirer of the Cosworth Vega from the moment Chevrolet announced its production. A fellow employee and 'car nut' had become aware that the Chevrolet dealer in a small town about 35 miles from my business had a Cosworth in its inventory. At last in a position to own a car other than my daily driver, I was ecstatic.


On arriving at the Chevrolet dealer, Flumerfelt-Stair in Williamston, Michigan, I discovered not one, but two, Cosworths – a 1976 with about 7,000 miles, black/black and a 4-speed, and a 1975 with (about) 3 miles, sticker still in place in the window. As I recall, the '76 belonged to one of the dealership owners and had been garaged since new.


I was interested in the '76. Once it was somewhat apparent that I would likely be buying the car, the sales people began in earnest to sell both the '75 and the '76 to me as a 'package.' Insisting that the dealership was very interested in getting both cars off of their inventory and that the combined price would be one I couldn't turn down, negotiations began. Ultimately they were right – the price for both cars was one I could not refuse.


The '75 was driven home, and never driven again. It had 48 miles when I got it home. In 1983 the car was picked up by the Gilmore Car Museum, a prestigious museum located at Hickory Corners, Michigan – near Kalamazoo. The Cosworth languished there, on loan, for many years.


The '76 was taken on fun drives periodically for several years. Eventually it was stored.


Later in summer of 1978 I was contacted by a young man from Bay City, Michigan. He was the owner of a 1976 Cosworth Vega, white/white and 5-speed, and was most anxious to sell it, needing the funds to meet a pressing obligation. Even though I informed him I had recently purchased two Cosworths and was not interested in adding a third one to my collection, he persisted -- for days. Each phone call brought a lower asking price. Eventually the price became so low that, once again, I could not refuse to purchase it.


I don't recall the mileage on this white Cosworth at the time of purchase, but I believe it was less than 10,000. I drove this Cosworth extensively - several thousand miles. Eventually it was stored along with the other '76.


In 1992 some young boys broke into the storage building and vandalized about 6-8 collector cars stored there, including both '76 Cosworths. The damage was largely limited to broken glass, dented roofs, and scratched paint. The cars were restored, the wheels were redone, and new tires mounted. The cars were then stored near Charlotte, Michigan.


At the time the '75 was returned from the museum, it was stored with the '76s. The mileage had grown to 214, apparently largely the result of the car being towed with the speedometer cable connected – contrary to my specific instructions to museum personnel.


Skip ahead to August 24, 2007. A devastating tornado touched down about one-half mile west of the barn where the Cosworths were stored. In it's first three miles on the ground it totally destroyed thirteen homes, a number of barns and out-buildings, and damaged many more buildings. The barn the Vegas were stored in collapsed on top of the cars. (According to Mike, the second floor wooden support beams that hit the cars were 12" x 12's". On the second floor when the tornado hit were a heavy load of straw bales, an ammonia tank, a sprayer, a crumbler, a boat, a wagon, and a drag. Ed.)


And so came the end of three beautiful, pristine Cosworth Vegas…


      1975   #1469         214 miles

      1976   #2649  11,000 miles   Black/Black   4-speed

      1976   #3371  17,000 miles   White/White 5-speed  (numerous options)


May their parts live forever in other Cosworth Vegas…


Epilogue by Ed.:

All three cars were saved from the insurance company that totalled them, and are currently in the hands of Cosworth Vega enthusiasts.

  • #1469 has been determined to be a total loss. It was just too pancaked to be worth restoring. The owner is searching for a good body into which to transfer all salvageable parts, including the drivetain and much of the interior.

  • #2649 is on the bubble. The new owner has obtained a quote on cutting off the existing roof and grafting on a flawless roof from another Cosworth. In light of the cost ($$$$), no final decision has been made.

  • #3371, aka the White Tornado Cosworth, is being parted out. Photos of the dismantling, taken to document the condition of the parts removed and also to document the details of the car for future restorers, are available here.