Facel Vega II – 1961

This magnificent French car was boldly advertised as ‘the fastest four-seater coupe in the world’, and was Facel Vega’s last throw of the dice —the company was facing bankruptcy and hoped the Facel II would be a big winner. It was certainly an imposing hand-built car, and the use of American V8 engines ensured that European refinement was complemented by brute power to create the ultimate luxury grand tourer.

The choice of engines lay between the Chrysler Typhoon and larger Chrysler Hemi-V8, whilst the transmission was three-speed automatic or four-speed manual. Despite the weight of its stylish four-seater body, the Facel II could match two-seater lightweights from Ferrari, Mercedes Benz and Aston Martin for pace.

This head-turning car was impressive, and so was the price. But that only increased the allure for status-conscious purchasers. Included on the glittering owner’s roll of honour were Royalty (including the Shah of Persia and Princess Grace of Monaco), aristocracy (among them Prince Poniatowski, Lord Brabourne and the Marchionesses of Tavistock and Huntly), Hollywood stars (Tony Curtis, Frank Sinatra, Anthony Quinn, Debbie Reynolds, Joan Fontaine, Ava Gardner, Joan Collins), racing drivers (Stirling Moss, Tony Vandervell, Rob Walker and Maurice Trintignant) and assorted luminaries like Pablo Picasso, Christian Dior, Lionel Bart, Francois Truffaut, Ringo Starr, Sir Mortimer Wheeler and Herbert von Karajan. In short, the Facel II was the car that influential movers and shakers of the early 1960s most wanted to be seen in.

So did that final gamble pay off? Sadly, it didn’t, with Facel Vega collapsing in 1964; though the Facel II was a great way to go – as anyone lucky enough to own one of these elegant automobiles will testify. Not many are so blessed – only 180 were built, making them the most desirable of 1960s grand tourers.

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

France

FIRST MANUFACTURED:

1961 (until 1964)

ENGINE:

6,286 cc or 6,767 cc Chrysler OHV V8

PERFORMANCE:

With 6.3 litre engine – top speed of 133 mph (214 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 7.8 secs

YOU SHOULD KNOW:

Playboy industrialist Jean Daninos created Facel Vega in 1954 and lit up the world of custom-built luxury cars like a shooting star, but it was his rash move into volume-car production with the small and troubled Facellia sports car that finished the company.

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