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The List

 

Facel Vega Facel II

 

The unusual combination of French styling, large American engines and price tags high enough to guarantee the kind of exclusive clientele that included Stirling Moss and Pablo Picasso, enabled Facel Vega to carve out a unique niche in the car market in the 1950s and 1960s.

 

The Facel II is widely regarded as the best Facel Vega, albeit one that was unable to save the company from closure following the disastrous move downmarket with the Facellia, and has earned its place on The List by combining the rare qualities of beauty, rarity and above all, sheer joie de vivre.

 

Built on a revised version of the HK500 chassis, and utilising a Chrysler 383 V8, which, in manual gearbox form developed around 390 BHP, the Facel II had both film star looks and the performance to match. Despite a fairly hefty kerb weight, it is capable of matching the top speeds of contemporary Ferraris and can do so whilst transporting its occupants in complete comfort. Indeed, evidence of the car’s ability to traverse continents at speed is provided by Stirling Moss’ preference to use his Facel, rather than planes, to travel between Formula 1 races in the 1960s.

 

The aesthetics of the Facel II are somewhere between Aston Martin and the large V8 machines of post-war America, albeit shorn of the excessive appendages and addenda of the American dream. There is also a hint of Mercedes in there, especially around the headlights, but the overall impression is more mid-Atlantic than Mid-European. Unlike most US cars of this era, though, it possesses a very purposeful stance, appearing lower and more obviously sporting than the be-winged and domed cruisers from Ford, Chrysler et al.

 

Inside, the seats are deeply padded, yet reasonably supportive for a car from this era, and feel like they would enable long journeys to be dispatched in comfort. The dash is reminiscent of a contemporary Bentley - although closer inspection reveals painted metal rather than actual walnut – and the plethora of dials and switches provide the feel of an aeroplane, albeit one that is far removed from today’s cattle class transporters.

 

In many ways Facel Vega can be seen as a France’s answer to the solidly British Bristol marque: large, unstressed but powerful American V8s, tubular chassis and swooping bodywork. The Facel II, however, is, arguably, more handsome than any of Bristol’s offerings, and its French origins imbue it with a certain allure that is difficult to quantify. Perhaps the best analogy is to view the Bristol as a Huntsman suit and the Facel as a creation of Yves Saint Laurent.





 
 

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