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Vert-a-pac cars

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Vert-a-pac cars
Posted by GP-9_Man11786 on Tuesday, September 30, 2008 5:50 PM
Accroding the wikkipedia article on the Chevy Vega, the car was intended to be shiped vertically in special railcars called vert-a-pac cars. Does anybody know anything about them? Were they scrapped when GM stopped making the Vega?

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Posted by CShaveRR on Tuesday, September 30, 2008 7:28 PM

Yes, they were pretty much retired when there was no longer any demand for them.  I should say, the Vert-a-Pak structures were retired, and the flats themselves (Trailer Train's all carried TTVX reporting marks; SP and SSW had cars of their own) were put to other uses.

The sides of these cars were hinged at the deck level, so they could be folded down and the Vegas driven onto them.  Each section (three cars per section) was then lifted upward by forklift and locked in the vertical position, so the Vegas (I think it was 15 per side, 30 per flat car) were transported nose downward.  I believe they had to be fitted with seals before shipment (removed upon arrival) that prevented loss or undesired migration of certain fluids. 

I recall Vert-a-Pak racks lettered for B&O (not C&O), SP and SSW (their own), Rock Island, and Milwaukee Road, and possibly Rio Grande.  I know C&NW had none; don't think Penn Central, N&W, or Southern had any, and also don't recall any for BN or ATSF, or UP.

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Posted by Modelcar on Tuesday, September 30, 2008 7:57 PM

......Yes, 15 per side is what I remember Carl.  Saw lots of them in various places.

Vegas were designed with the vertical transportation in mind....Not sure just why they went to the extra expense to do what they did to ship the vehicles verticle.  But 30 per {RR car}, was quite a few of them.

I was just thinking of where our vent was on our manual 5-speeds that we provided for them and don't think that item needed any different work for that.  The Vega came very close to having a Wankle engine option.  We had several of then in our engineering lab and they totally looked ready for production.  Pretty fast too...

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Posted by GP-9_Man11786 on Wednesday, October 1, 2008 5:52 PM
Thanks for the info:).

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Posted by BaltACD on Wednesday, October 1, 2008 7:13 PM
 CShaveRR wrote:

I recall Vert-a-Pak racks lettered for B&O (not C&O), SP and SSW (their own), Rock Island, and Milwaukee Road, and possibly Rio Grande.  I know C&NW had none; don't think Penn Central, N&W, or Southern had any, and also don't recall any for BN or ATSF, or UP.

The Vega was assembled at the Lordstown, Ohio plant that was constructed, with 24/7 haste, to build the Vega.  Lordstown was serviced by the B&O and PRR (later PC, later still ConRail).  I do believe the 30 automobiles per rail car load was correct for the Vert-A-Pac cars.  As I recall, in 1968 the freight bill for a Vert-A-Pac from Lordstown to the West Coast was approximately $4800.

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Posted by nordique72 on Thursday, October 2, 2008 9:16 AM

The first Vert-A-Pacs were built by ACF and St. Louis Car for Southern Pacific- after the test cars were deemed successful for interline service ACF/St. Louis Car then built in 1970 what is considered the first phase of Vert-A-Pac cars- SP, D&RGW, MILW, RI, and MP were the first railroads to receive them. In 1972 a second phase of Vert-A-Pacs was built, this time by Whitehead  & Kales and Pullman- these cars were delivered to the B&O, BN, D&RGW, FEC, IC,
L&N, MILW, SCL, SOU and SLSF. The Vert-A-Pac cars were phased out and reracked in 1977 after the production of the Vega ended- I recall one of the "bugs" that popped up in the Vert-A-Pac design was when the Vegas were loaded nose down inside the rack, all of the fluids would leak out and make a mess of the cars. To remedy this problem the Vegas were fitted with "diapers" to hold in the fluids that leaked out.

Another similar cousin to the Vert-A-Pac was the Stac-Pac, which experimented with carrying three large model automobiles inside of tri-level containers that rode on TTSX flat cars. That idea too was also short lived.

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Posted by Victrola1 on Thursday, October 2, 2008 12:01 PM

Interesting.

The legends surrounding the Chevy Vega's problems are numerous. Many critics of the American auto industry point to the Chevy Vega as the car that drove baby boomers to foreign competitors.

I never realized there was an unsuccessful rail transportation tie in as well.

 

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Posted by AltonFan on Friday, October 3, 2008 5:17 PM
Didn't some of those vert-a-pac cars end up with Autotrain?

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Posted by CShaveRR on Friday, October 3, 2008 7:10 PM

 AltonFan wrote:
Didn't some of those vert-a-pac cars end up with Autotrain?

No.  Can you imagine up-ending someone's car without all of the proper sealing devices?

Carl

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Posted by Modelcar on Friday, October 3, 2008 9:00 PM

.....And all the stuff inside the car since it was traveling down to Florida along with all the upended luggage in the trunk....Wow....!

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Posted by nordique72 on Saturday, October 4, 2008 2:36 PM
The cars that Auto Train originally acquired were second hand cars from the Canadian National that were some of the first prototype bilevels built by Canadian Car & Foundry in 1957. In 1976 Auto Train bought some brand new tri-level autoracks to replace the older CN cars. The Vert-A-Pacs were only used to transport the Chevy Vega from 1970-77.
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Posted by Murphy Siding on Saturday, October 4, 2008 6:32 PM
 Victrola1 wrote:

Interesting.

The legends surrounding the Chevy Vega's problems are numerous. Many critics of the American auto industry point to the Chevy Vega as the car that drove baby boomers to foreign competitors.

I never realized there was an unsuccessful rail transportation tie in as well.

 

I think you'd have to give credit to some of the Vega's contemporaries as well: Ford Pintos, AMC Gremlins, etc...Dead [xx(]

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Posted by Modelcar on Saturday, October 4, 2008 9:01 PM

...I once owned a Vega GT station wagon and began to sense a little oil usage.  This was when the vehicle had about 40,000 miles on it.  Sold it, and some years later noticed it sitting at a restaurant and peeked in and the odo was wound out to 93,000 miles.

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Posted by garyla on Sunday, October 5, 2008 3:34 PM

Modelcar, did you get to talk to the new owner?   If that Vega was still on an original aluminum-block engine at 93,000 miles, it was one of the best ones made.

 

By the way (regarding the diapers), the Chevy Vegas and Pontiac Astres hauled on Vert-a-Pacs were supposed to be fitted with some extra little plugs to prevent fluids from running out in the first place.  Maybe that part of the program didn't work out too well either.  When things go bad, they really go bad.

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Posted by SALfan on Thursday, October 23, 2008 11:13 AM

Vegas had more than their share of problems.  One account I read said that the Vega was designed by GM corporate management and crammed down Chevrolet's throat.  When the Vega was dropped it was replaced by the Chevette; the same account said the Chevette was the car Chevrolet had wanted to build instead of the Vega.  From what I heard and read, the Chevette was a huge improvement quality-wise.

One of the Vega's problems was the plant at Lordstown.  At the time it was GM's most heavily automated plant, and labor relations were awful.  One customer had an intermittent bumping/thumping noise in one of the rear quarter panels, which was more noticeable when the car was turned one way or the other.  The customer finally got fed up enough that he took it to the dealer and raised enough he** that the mechanics tore the car apart enough to find and fix the noise.  A glass bottle had been hung from a wire in the void in the quarter panel, arranged so that the bottle could swing freely.  The bottle contained a note saying something like "We wondered how long it would take you to figure this out."

One poster said the Ford Pinto and AMC Gremlin, along with the Vega, drove Americans to buy foreign cars.  My brother had a Pinto, as did the first Gov't agency I worked for.  They were pretty dependable little roller skates, much better than the Vega . . . . as long as no one rear-ended you.  The gas tank was immediately forward (IIRC) of the rear axle, so that with a rear impact the axle acted like a can opener on the gas tank, sloshing fuel on the hot exhaust pipe and the ground and frequently barbecuing the occupants.  Ford's fix was a quarter-circle of sheet metal to deflect leaking fuel out from under the car.  Don't know how well it worked.

One poster said the Vega was designed for the Wankel (rotary) engine.  So was the AMC Pacer.  AMC barely left enough front-to-back room in the engine bay for their inline 6-cylinder, but there sure was ample room on either side of the engine.

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Posted by Modelcar on Thursday, October 23, 2008 11:50 AM

JOdom

Vegas had more than their share of problems.  One account I read said that the Vega was designed by GM corporate management and crammed down Chevrolet's throat.  When the Vega was dropped it was replaced by the Chevette; the same account said the Chevette was the car Chevrolet had wanted to build instead of the Vega.  From what I heard and read, the Chevette was a huge improvement quality-wise.

One of the Vega's problems was the plant at Lordstown.  At the time it was GM's most heavily automated plant, and labor relations were awful.  One customer had an intermittent bumping/thumping noise in one of the rear quarter panels, which was more noticeable when the car was turned one way or the other.  The customer finally got fed up enough that he took it to the dealer and raised enough he** that the mechanics tore the car apart enough to find and fix the noise.  A glass bottle had been hung from a wire in the void in the quarter panel, arranged so that the bottle could swing freely.  The bottle contained a note saying something like "We wondered how long it would take you to figure this out."

One poster said the Ford Pinto and AMC Gremlin, along with the Vega, drove Americans to buy foreign cars.  My brother had a Pinto, as did the first Gov't agency I worked for.  They were pretty dependable little roller skates, much better than the Vega . . . . as long as no one rear-ended you.  The gas tank was immediately forward (IIRC) of the rear axle, so that with a rear impact the axle acted like a can opener on the gas tank, sloshing fuel on the hot exhaust pipe and the ground and frequently barbecuing the occupants.  Ford's fix was a quarter-circle of sheet metal to deflect leaking fuel out from under the car.  Don't know how well it worked.

One poster said the Vega was designed for the Wankel (rotary) engine.  So was the AMC Pacer.  AMC barely left enough front-to-back room in the engine bay for their inline 6-cylinder, but there sure was ample room on either side of the engine.

....I agree with just about all you relate in your post.  Too bad, in that era we {American builders}, didn't do a bit better job with them....Believe it did give some US builders a questionable name thru some shoddy designed and built small cars of the time.

One can tell the cars that were designed with the Wankel design in mind as the drive shaft tunnel had to be a bit highter as the drive shaft did exit the Wankel engine concentric with it's main shaft.  {As opposed to conventional designs lower to the engine crankshaft level.

The Wankel would have certainly been an improvement over the production Vega engine {That is, if the oil seals in the rotary would have improved}......Some Vega engines did make it to high mileage, but probably not the norm.  They {GM}, did increase the warranty on them to promote sales late in the build.

I rode {and drove}, in some proto Vegas with the Wankel engine and it certainly was a performer.  But we'll never know just what would have been the success outcome for the car.  Supposedly, it used quite a bit of better {anti rust steel}, in it's construction but still rust seemed to be a problem with them after a little age on them.

Does anyone remember the Cosworth Vega.....We still have one or two around Muncie here that show up at local antique car shows.  It was a 4 cyl with 4-valves / cyl. and overhead cams.....A performance engine.  Actually a little smaller then the standard Vega 4-cyl.  Believe it was about 122 ci's.

A part of the automotive history from GM.

Edit:  GM's Chevrolet Monza was considered for Wankel power at that time too.  But the Vega was one tick away from production....We had several of the latest protos in our Lab and they even looked production.

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Posted by Modelcar on Thursday, October 23, 2008 11:59 AM

garyla

Modelcar, did you get to talk to the new owner?   If that Vega was still on an original aluminum-block engine at 93,000 miles, it was one of the best ones made.

Sorry....I just today noted your post and question. No, didn't see the owner at that time and never saw the car again.

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Posted by SALfan on Friday, October 24, 2008 3:30 PM

GM eventually started putting cast-iron cylinder sleeves into the Vega's aluminum engine block, and AFAIK cured the excessive oil use problem.  However, the cars still had a bunch of other quality shortcomings.

The post about the Cosworth Vega reminded me of a friend of one of my brother-in-laws.  This guy was absolutely insane, and shoehorned a Chevy small-block V-8 in a Vega.  That thing would SCREAM down the road; after seeing what it would do, I absolutely refused to ride in it.  Even in my early 20's I wasn't that dumb.

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Posted by Modelcar on Friday, October 24, 2008 4:36 PM

.....Some Vegas are still being run on drag strips with big horspower V8's.

I remember one of the "crude" first Vega prototypes we had in our BWA lab was powerd by a 3 rotor Wankel.....It even had some weights at various locations in it's structure  to "hold it down somewhat" as that car was a wild performer with that engine.  But it would smoke because of semi sealing oil seals on the rotors.

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Posted by chutton01 on Saturday, October 25, 2008 10:16 AM

JOdom
From what I heard and read, the Chevette was a huge improvement quality-wise.

I owned a second hand Pontiac T1000 (a rebadged Chevette) in college, and it was actually a pretty decent vehicle - really no major hiccups I can recall.  And it's styling was loads better (to mine mind) than other of it's contemporary peers.

One customer had an intermittent bumping/thumping noise in one of the rear quarter panels, which was more noticeable when the car was turned one way or the other.  The customer finally got fed up enough that he took it to the dealer and raised enough he** that the mechanics tore the car apart enough to find and fix the noise.  A glass bottle had been hung from a wire in the void in the quarter panel, arranged so that the bottle could swing freely.  The bottle contained a note saying something like "We wondered how long it would take you to figure this out."


Not saying that didn't happen, but snopes claims that is a general urban legend, as early as 1969 (before the 1971 Vega introduction, and more for luxury cars than cheapies) : http://www.snopes.com/autos/grace/rattle.asp 
Snopes does allow the much more common workers writing messages in inaccessible areas, but that's certainly not confined to Vegas.

One poster said the Ford Pinto and AMC Gremlin, along with the Vega, drove Americans to buy foreign cars


I knew the Pinto was sold for longer than the Vega (1970-1980), but I didn't realize the AMC Gremlin beat the Pinto to market by several months (April 1970...that's almost still in the Groovy, Baby era!)
The only really good thing about the Pinto, Vega, Gremlin's even, is that they were designed duriung the height of the muscle car era, and their curved, clean styling (yes, even the gremlin - it's NOT a Pacer) reflects that as opposed to their boxy, plug-ugly mid-70s successors such as the Dodge Omni...oddly, the Chevette/T1000 seemed to have avoided that boxy styling hex)

And they were all shipped via Auto-Racks (probably not fully enclosed by that time), so we tie back to Railroading!

 

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Posted by Modelcar on Saturday, October 25, 2008 3:12 PM

chutton01
knew the Pinto was sold for longer than the Vega (1970-1980), but I didn't realize the AMC Gremlin beat the Pinto to market by several months (April 1970...that's almost still in the Groovy, Baby era!)
The only really good thing about the Pinto, Vega, Gremlin's even, is that they were designed duriung the height of the muscle car era, and their curved, clean styling (yes, even the gremlin - it's NOT a Pacer) reflects that as opposed to their boxy, plug-ugly mid-70s successors such as the Dodge Omni...oddly, the Chevette/T1000 seemed to have avoided that boxy styling hex)

 

We supplied the 5 sp. manual transmissions for several small cars back in the era....I reflect back on some thoughts....Going to lunch we'd grab a Chevette 5-sp. car and it was kinda fun driving it around locally.

Item:  Another test car:  Surprising as it may be to some....The Pacer {of all cars}, had one of the most comfortable "driving, seating position" of many cars....It had another weird design.....The left and right hand doors were of different size.  Believe the curb side door was longer to achieve an easier entry / exit to / from the back seat in the car.

I'm really reaching back in memory but I actually believe the figures showed the Chevette as the best selling car in one of those years back in the 70's......I haven't tried to pull up any specs. on that now so if anyone has any thoughts on that.....?

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Posted by kenneo on Monday, October 27, 2008 2:44 PM

I have a residual intrest in the Vert-A-Pac cars.

Does anyone have a copy of the destination service instructions for removing/servicing the seals and stuff prior to their being delivered to the dealer?  I know that there was a GM service document on the subject because I saw a copy, but now I would like to get an electronic of photo-copy of that item.

Also, does anyone here know anything else then the diapers that were placed in the Vert-A-Pac's?  I also have an intrest in the OS&D angle.

 

Eric

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