The Facel Vega was a luxury car produced in France between 1954 and 1964. The FACEL company (Forges et Ateliers de Construction d'Eure et Loire) was a Paris based steel-pressing and metalworking company that had already been producing pressed steel bodywork for several small-volume French car makers. Its owner, Jean Daninos, wanted to produce his own brand of car rather than just produce them for others, and he particularly desired to make a GT in the grand style, a big-engined continental tourer like the Bugattis, Delahayes and Delages that epitomised French luxury cars of the pre-war period. No suitable French engine existed in the postwar world, so Facel had to look elsewhere. That elsewhere turned out to be America, unravaged by war, and Chrysler in particular. Chrysler's V8 engines were possibly the most sophisticated powerplants available at the time.
The first Facel Vega production cars appeared in 1954 using at first a 4.5 litre DeSoto Hemi powerplant (DeSoto being a division of Chrysler). The overall engineering was rather straightforward, with a tubular frame, dual-wishbone suspension at the front and a solid axle at the back as in standard American practice. They were also as heavy as an American car, at about 4000 lbs (close to 2 metric tonnes). Performance was reasonably brisk for the time, with an approx 120 mph top speed and 0-60 mph in just under ten seconds.
The bodywork was beautifully styled, making the Facel Vega an enduring classic. Most cars were 2-door hardtops with no center pillar, but some convertibles were built.
The 1956 model was updated with a bigger (5.4 litre) Chrysler engine and updated transmission and other mechanicals; in the same year, a 4-door model with rear suicide doors and no center pillar was also produced. Its pillarless design unfortunately made it less rigid and worse handling than the 2-door, and they are rare.
1959's model had even bigger engines, a 5.8 litre and later a 6.3 litre Chrysler V8, and was quite a bit faster even though the car was by now quite a bit heavier.
The final evolution came in 1962 with the Facel II; lighter, sleeker and more modern lines, and substantially faster still.
Facel were at the same time trying to expand downmarket with the smaller Facel Facellia, but this met with little success, and the losses from this, allied to strong competition at the luxury end of the market, killed off the company. Facel got out of the car market completely in 1964.
Being an expensive luxury car, many Facel cars survive, and they are by now quite desirable, and given the solid American mechanicals, easier to maintain than many.
Sources on the Web include the web site at http://www.facel-vega.com/.