A Chevrolet Vega variant for Canadian markets

Pontiac Astre SJ Safari

Wagon - 75

The Pontiac Astre is a subcompact automobile that was

marketed by the Pontiac division of General Motors as a

rebadged variant of the Chevrolet Vega. Initially

marketed in Canada for model years 1973-1974, the Astre

debuted in the U.S. for the 1975 model year, competing

with other domestic and foreign subcompacts that

included the Mercury Bobcat and Toyota Corolla.

Built   on   the   H-body   platform,   the   car   was   available   in   hatchback,   notchback,   wagon,   and   panel delivery   body   styles.   The   Astre   shared   the   aluminum-block   2.3   liter   inline-four   engine   with   the Vega   through   1976,   while   the   final   1977   models   used   Pontiac's   all-iron   2.5   liter   inline-four engine.   The Astre   was   cancelled   with   the   Vega   at   the   end   of   the   1977   model   year,   although   the wagon continued for 1978 and 1979, rebadged as part of the Pontiac Sunbird line.


In   1968   GM   chairman   James   Roche   announced   that   General   Motors   would   produce   a   new   mini- car   in   the   U.S.   in   two   years.   Pontiac's   own   small   car   program   had   been   rejected.   Not   only   did corporate   management   make   the   decision   to   enter   the   mini-car   market,   it   also   decided   to develop   the   car   itself.   It   was   a   corporate   car,   not   a   divisional   one.   Ed   Cole   formed   a   GM corporate   design   team   exclusively   for   the   Chevrolet   Vega   headed   by   William   Munser,   who   had worked   on   the   Camaro.   The   Pontiac   Division   was   given   its   own   version   of   the   Vega   for   the Canadian   market,   named   Astre   for   the   1973   model   year.   U.S.   Pontiac   dealers   finally   had   a subcompact to sell when the Astre made its U.S. debut for the 1975 model year. The   Astre   used   the   Vega   140   cu   in   (2.3-liter)   inline-four   engine   through   1976.   The   engine features   an   aluminum-alloy   cylinder   block   and   cast-iron   cylinder   head   with   a   single   overhead camshaft   (OHC).   1977   models   featured   Pontiac's   151   cu   in   (2.5-liter)   inline-four   engine   with   a cast-iron   block   and   head   with   overhead   valves   (OHV).   Transmissions   are   the   three-   and   four- speed    manual,    five-speed    manual    with    overdrive    (1976–1977    option)    and    the    three-speed automatic. The   Astre   has   a   97.0-inch   (2,460   mm)   wheelbase   and   a   65.4-inch   (1,660   mm)   width.   The   front suspension   is   short   and   long   control   arms   with   coil   springs;   the   rear   suspension   is   a   four-link design   with   coil   springs.   A   torque-arm   design   rear   suspension   replaced   the   four-link   design starting   with   the   1976   models.   The   Astre   is   a   rear   wheel   drive   vehicle   with   a   live   rear   axle. Steering   is   of   a   recirculating   ball   type   with   a   power   assist   option.   The   brake   system   features front   disc   brakes   with   solid   rotors,   and   rear   drum   brakes.   Power   assist   was   optional   starting   in the 1975 model year.

Models and changes

The Astre   features   Pontiac's   trademark   split   grill,   emblems   and   steering   wheel   with   an   upgraded interior   trim   to   help   differentiate   itself   from   the   Chevrolet   Vega.   Other   styling   differences compared   to   the   Vega   include   —   1973   model   Astres   have   a   black-finish   grill   and   clear   parking lamp   lenses   on   all   models,   and   chrome   headlight   bezels   on   non-GTs. Taillight   lenses   (same   as   the Vega)   had   a   chrome   trim   piece   surround.   1974-1977   models   have   first   generation   Firebird-styled taillights (also shared with the 1973/74 Ventura) on the Notchback and Hatchback. The   Hatchback   Coupe   featured   a   lower   roofline   and   a   fold-down   rear   seat. The   Notchback   Sedan had   the   lowest   price   and   is   the   only   Vega   model   with   an   enclosed   trunk.   The   Safari   Wagon   has fixed   rear-side   glass   and   a   swing-up   liftgate.   A   Panel   delivery   based   on   the   wagon   was   sold through   the   1975   model   year.   It   has   steel   panels   in   place   of   the   rear-side   glass,   and   an additional enclosed storage area. An auxiliary front passenger seat was optional. The   SJ   Hatchback   and   SJ   Safari   Wagon   models   feature   soft   nylon   upholstery,   cut   pile   carpeting, padded   and   cloth   covered   door   panels,   and   a   fabric   headliner,   plus   rally   instruments,   the   higher- output   two   barrel   engine,   four-speed   or   automatic   (over   a   three-speed   manual)   gearbox   and radial   tires.   A   GT   package   option   for   the   hatchback   and   Safari   wagon   combined   the   lower-line interior with the SJ's performance and handling features. The   1974   model   year   brought   the   only   major   body   design   changes,   due   to   revised   front   and   rear 5   mph   (8.0   km/h)   bumper   standards-A   slanted   header   panel   with   a   new   split   grill   and   recessed headlamp   bezels   complement   the   larger,   front   5   mph   aluminum   bumper.   Front   and   rear   license plate   brackets   were   relocated   and   a   larger   rear   5   mph   aluminum   bumper   was   used   increasing the   overall   length   three   inches   compared   to   the   1973   models. A   revised   rear   panel   on   notchback and   hatchback   models   had   new   Firebird-styled   taillights   and   ventilation   extractor   grills   were eliminated on trunk and hatch lids. The   1975   Astre,   introduced   in   the   United   States   September   1974,   gave   U.S.   Pontiac   dealers   a needed   fuel   efficient   subcompact.   A   budget   "S"   series   was   added   during   1975.   More   than   267 changes    were    made    including    new    High-energy    electronic    ignition    system    and    a    catalytic converter.   Power   brakes   and   a   tilt   steering   wheel   were   new   options.   The   Astre   Panel   delivery was discontinued the end of the model year. A   unique   Astre   package   was   offered   in   1975.   Dubbed   the   'Lil   Wide   Track,   it   was   the   creation   of Jerry   Juska   of   Dymar   to   help   with   lackluster Astre   sales.   Juska   took   his   ideas   to   Dave   Landrith   of Motortown   Corporation   specializing   in   custom   auto   work.   The   package   includes   a   front   air   dam, rear   spoiler,   appliance   wire   mag   rims,   window   louvers,   a   chrome   exhaust   tip,   and   bright   stripe decals   for   the   hood,   body   sides,   rear   spoiler,   door   handles,   and   wheel   centers. They   assembled   a couple   of   cars   in   Jan.   and   Feb.   1975   and   took   pictures   to   local   Detroit   dealers   where   the package   gained   acceptance.   It   added   a   little   over   $400   to   the   price   of   the Astre   but   dealers   felt the    difference    in    looks    was    worth    the    price.    Production    was    later    switched    from    an    old warehouse   in   suburban   Detroit   to   a   factory   beside   the   Lordstown Assembly   Vega/Astre   plant. An estimated   3,000   Lil   Wide   Track   Astres   were   ordered   by   dealerships.   The   package   components were later offered as a dealer installed kit. Astres   were   confined   to   a   single   series   for   1976,   but   they   were   refined   with   extensive   engine, chassis,   and   body   integrity   improvements.   A   modest   facelift   included   a   revised   grill.   The   2.3   L engine,   named   Dura-built   140,   received   improved   cooling   and   durability   refinements,   and   a   five years/60,000    mile    warranty.    The    chassis    received    the    new    Pontiac    Sunbird's    upgraded components   including   the   box-section   front   cross-member,   larger   rear   brakes   and   torque-arm rear   suspension,   replacing   the   four-link   design,   and   effectively   eliminating   wheel-hop   on   rough roads. The body received extensive anti-rust improvements. The   last-of-the-line   1977s   were   treated   to   Pontiac's   new   151   cu   in   "Iron   Duke"   inline-four   engine. Both   the   cylinder   block   and   cylinder   head   are   cast-iron.   Standard   in   the Astre   and   Sunbird,   they were   the   first   GM   vehicles   to   utilize   the   engine   which   was   widely   used   into   the   1990s.   1977 Astre models   also   featured   a   new   vertical   design   grill   and   aluminum   wheels   (13-inch)   were   a   new option.   The   "Formula"   option   was   also   introduced   for   the   Astre's   final   year,   which   included   the handling   package,   chrome   valve   cover,   three-piece   spoiler,   Formula   T/A   steering   wheel   and special decals. The   1978   and   '79   Pontiac   Sunbird   wagon   was   a   rebranded   continuation   of   the   Astre   wagon, continuing   with   a   modified   1977   Astre   grille   rather   than   taking   on   the   Sunbird   coupes'   square headlights and flat hood.


Car   and   Driver   in   a   1975   Astre   road   test,   said,   "For   $180   over   the   price   of   a   Vega,   the   Astre features   upgraded   interior   trim-primarily   the   items   for   which   Chevrolet   charges   $134   in   their custom   interior.   You   also   have   the   opportunity   to   go   one   big   step   up   in   luxury   if   you   choose   the SJ line which is available in hatchback and wagon body styles." Car   and   Driver   in   a   1977   Astre   road   test,   said,   "The   Astre   is   the   Vega-polished   and   refined   and significantly   improved,   but   still   a   Vega   in   perhaps   its   ultimate   state   of   development..It   remained for   Pontiac   to   do   what   Chevrolet   probably   should   have   done   in   the   first   place:   the   substitution of    the    marvelous    old    Chevy    II    cast-iron    four-cylinder    econo-motor    for    the    much-troubled aluminum-block   Vega   engine.   Sliding   in   and   starting   the   engine   was   a   revelation   because   its   so quiet   and   smooth   compared   to   the   Vega.   Also   the   Astre's   interior   trim   was   judged   more   plush than Vega's. Car   and   Driver   in   its   35th   anniversary   issue   in   1990,   amusingly   recalled   the   Astre   U.S.   debut: "Detroit Fights Back - The Pontiac Astre is introduced. It's a Vega with better decals."


Engine 2,3 litres 4 cylinders Lenght 4,48 m Widht 1,66 m The collections Astre was bought new with all available options.
Photos mainly by Matti Kreivilä. Historical facts and technical details of the vehicles provided by Wikipedia. Movies YouTube.