Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Facel Vega

The Facel Vega was a luxury car produced by Facel Vega of Paris, France, from 1954 until the company ceased production in 1964.

The car was named after the original metal stamping company FACEL, and the company's first model, the Vega, named after the star, and introduced a the 1954 Paris Auto Show to rave reviews by the motoring press. Facel Vega's were advertised with the slogan For the Few Who Own the Finest.

The Vega production cars appeared in 1954 using Chrysler V8 engines, at first a 4.5-litre (270 cu in) DeSoto Hemi engine; the overall engineering was straightforward, with a tubular chassis, double wishbone suspension at the front and a solid driven axle at the back, as in standard American practice. They were also as heavy as American cars, at about 1,800 kg (3,968 lb) . Performance was brisk, with an approx 190 km/h (118 mph) top speed and 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in just under ten seconds.

Most cars were 2-door hardtops with no centre pillar, but a few convertibles were built.

The 1956 model was improved with a bigger 5.4-litre (330 cu in) Chrysler engine and updated transmission and other mechanicals. In the same year production began of a 4-door model, the Excellence, with rear-hinged doors (suicide doors) at the back and no centre pillar. The pillarless design unfortunately made it less rigid and the handling was thus poorer than the 2-door cars, and examples are rare.

1959 models had even bigger engines, a 5.9-litre (360 cu in) and later a 6.3L (383 cu in) Chrysler V8, and were quite a bit faster despite their extra weight. The final evolution of the V8 models came in 1962 with the Facel II: lighter, with sleeker, more modern lines, substantially faster still and famously elegant.

Facel left the car market completely in 1964 when the French government scuttled the endeavour.

Prominent owners of Facel Vegas included Pablo Picasso, Ava Gardner, Ringo Starr, Joan Fontaine, Stirling Moss, Tony Curtis, Dean Martin, Fred Astaire, Maurice Trintignant and several Saudi princes. Race-car driver Stirling Moss would drive his HK500 from event to event rather than fly.

The French writer Albert Camus died in a Facel Vega driven by his publisher, Michel Gallimard. At the time of his death, Camus had planned to travel by train, with his wife and children, but at the last minute accepted his publisher's proposal to travel with him.

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