Rare manual transmission example, complete with factory luggage and tools
1956 Facel Vega FV2B Coupé
Chassis no. FV2B-56 106
In its relatively short life, the French firm of Facel produced approximately 2,900 cars, all of which were stylish, luxurious and fast. Hand built, they were, of course, necessarily very expensive the Facel II was priced in Rolls-Royce territory and were bought by the rich and famous seeking something exclusive and distinctive. The roll call of owners includes royalty, politicians, diplomats and entertainers; Tony Curtis, Danny Kaye, Ringo Starr, Joan Fontaine and Ava Gardner being counted among the latter. Confirming that there was high-performance substance behind Facel's unquestionable style, they were owned and driven by great motor racing figures such as Sir Stirling Moss, Maurice Trintignant and Rob Walker.
Founded by Jean Daninos in 1939, Forges et Ateliers de Construction d'Eure-et-Loir (FACEL) specialised in the construction of aircraft components and metal furniture. After the war the company engaged in the supply of car bodies to Panhard, Simca and Ford France, before branching out into automobile manufacture in its own right with the launch of the Vega at the 1954 Paris Salon. Government legislation had effectively killed off France's few surviving luxury car manufacturers after WW2, but that did not deter Jean Daninos in his bold attempt to revive what had once been a great French motoring tradition. A luxurious Grand Routier, the Vega took its name from the brightest star in the
A luxurious Grand Routier, the Vega took its name from the brightest star in the Lyra constellation and featured supremely elegant coupé bodywork welded to a tubular-steel chassis. There being no suitable French-built power unit, Daninos turned to the USA for the Vegas, that chosen initially being Chrysler's 4.5-litre, 180bhp V8, while there was a choice of push-button automatic or manual transmission.
Improvements to the first FV model were not long in coming, the FV1, introduced in March 1955, featuring a lengthened wheelbase for increased rear seat room and a 4.8-litre Chrysler V8 producing 200bhp. In September 1955 the FV2 arrived boasting a new wraparound windshield, a 250 horsepower Chrysler motor and for the first time Facel's famous faux burr walnut dashboard, which was actually painted steel. Six months later Facel introduced the Vega FV2B, which was identical to the preceding FV2 apart from its 5.4-litre, 285bhp Chrysler V8.
Among this rare breed, this car is a rarity itself as it is one of few to have been fitted with manual/stick shift transmission, a factory option that was supplied by Paul Cavallier's Pont-à-Mousson company and allowed the more sporting owner to take full advantage of the Chrysler 330 Hemi motor.
It is understood from information supplied by Richard Stevens, the British authority on these automobiles that '56106' was originally designated to be sold new in Paris to American Banker, Ted Bassett. As supplied it wore two tone paintwork of a metallic hue with a black roof and a black interior. Whether Mr. Bassett was responsible for bringing the Franco-American hybrid to these shores is not known, but by 1984 the car had migrated to the U.S. and became the property of known Facel collector Irma Nichols. Nichols would retain the car well into the 1990s and is thought to have been responsible for putting the car into the very fine condition in which it is found today.
In one of the more common guises for these cars, the FV2B sports silver metallic paint, with a secondary color for its roof, in this case it is the same choice of black it was sold with when new. Complementing its presentation is a luxurious oxblood red leather interior, which offsets the archetypal painted dash well.
Few examples can be as well appointed as this car, factors which have no doubt appealed to the succession of appreciative Facel custodians that have owned the car. In addition to its aforementioned manual transmission, it is shod with Robergel wire wheels, is complete with rarely found four piece set of factory luggage and still retains its original tool kit.
A Facel Vega symbolizes its era beautifully, a time when a car was tailored for its owner in the same way a suit was, when cars looked different from each other and people wanted to stand out from the crowd, and when a car's performance could truly be exercised. Today, perhaps the best thing about these cars is that all these qualities can be enjoyed for what is proportionately a fraction of some of its peers, yet still participate on the same rallies and tours, arguably in more luxurious conditions and for that reason they represent good value.
- Please note that this vehicle is titled under its serial number, 56106.