For a brief moment during the Rat Pack 1950s, a French vehicle was the “It” car for celebrities, artists and other members of the wealthy class. Facel Vega, a brand that existed only for 10 years, produced Bentley-style elegance with a French accent. The marque is most famous for its coupes, but the company also built a four-door hardtop Berline for several years.
FACEL (Forges et Ateliers de Construction d’Eure-et-Loir) was a manufacturing company that evolved into building bodies for small-batch vehicles, then developed its own luxury cars starting in 1954. The FV coupe was the initial model, with the Excellence four-door hardtop debuting in October 1956 at the Paris Auto Show. Production started in 1958, with 11 being built with Chrysler’s 392 Hemi before Chrysler phased in a new series of “Wedge” engines. Though 1961, 137 featured Chrysler’s 361ci engine, then an additional eight were built with the 383 through 1964. That’s a total of 156 cars built. Those final eight were also shorn of their fins.
Despite the Facel Vega being distinctly French, its styling showed a great amount of Detroit influence, most notably the curved windshield and shark-like fins. Suicide doors were another distinctive feature. Chrysler’s TorqueFlite automatic was the transmission most often chosen, but a Pont-à-Mousson 4-speed manual was also available. Few four-doors of the era were capable of 140 mph, but few cars cost over $12,0000 as well.
This 1958 Facel Vega Excellence is number eight of the 11 first-series cars. Over time, it’s had some pedigreed updates that distinguish it from the rest. This Excellence was originally delivered with a 375-horse 392 Hemi and TorqueFlite to the parent company of Pont-à-Mousson but eventually upgraded to a 4-speed. Through 1961, it made several visits to the Facel facilities for more updates, including a dual-quad 383 transplant, disc brakes and squared-off wheel arches.
According to the seller, “In 1983, Mr. Etienne Marquant purchased [this particular Excellence], intending to restore it, though the project never got off the ground. He, in turn, sold it to an American enthusiast named Peter Phillips in 2007, who finally began the process of restoring the Excellence.”
Today is looks like it did in its prime, including the Isetta White with black leather interior, Michelin X tires and Marchal Equilux headlights. This 1958 Facel Vega Excellence is available for purchase for $185,000, which is beaucoup dollar bills, but the cost of distinction has never been cheap.