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1954-1964 Facel Vega

1954, 1955 Facel Vega

The 1954-1955 Facel Vega's raison d'être was cost: Bentley chassis weren't cheap, and Facel had the ability to make its own. A key figure here was Lance Macklin.

A former member of the HWM racing team with Stirling Moss and Mike Collins, and son of Sir Noel Macklin of Railton fame, he designed the Vega's strong cruciform chassis, which dropped well below the drive-shaft centerline between front and rear wheels. It employed two 31/2-inch forward side tubes, to the insides of which were welded channel-section steel with flanges that widened toward the front.

The tubes also curved upward and inward toward the front, which increased rigidity. Two smaller tubular members curved back over the rear axle. Cross-bracing was a combination of tubular- and channel-steel members, some placed diagonally.

A second collaborator was M. Brasseur, who helped with the body styling. But, as The Autocar commented, Daninos was "the project engineer, designer and, indeed, the driving force behind the whole enterprise."

As for power, Facel selected what was technically the best V-8 in the world at the time: Chrysler Corporation's hemi, specifically the 276-cubic-inch DeSoto version, rated here at 175 bhp in 1954-1955.

Suspension was conventional: independent with coil springs up front and a live axle on semi-elliptic leafs at the rear. Steering was cam-and-roller, the hypoid final drive was supplied by Salisbury, and Robergel wire wheels ventilated 11-inch-diameter aluminum drum brakes all-round.

Although it weighed over 4000 pounds, the Facel Vega could easily exceed 100 mph with either the standard Pont-à-Mousson four-speed gearbox or the optional two-speed PowerFlite automatic, also from Chrysler.

Later, the American company brought out its more advanced three-speed Torque-Flite, and the French firm quickly adopted it.

The new car appeared in Paris on July 29, 1954, with the Vega model name. Confusingly, this was combined with Facel in 1956 to create the Facel Vega marque. Whatever you called it, this was one helluva automobile.

Coachwork was impeccable: the doors closed like bank vaults and the body panels were faultlessly joined (restorers stripping F-V bodies have found no fewer than five perfectly mated panels forming the roof). Attention to detail was evident in the use of corrosion-resistant stainless steel for brightwork, and in the top-grade cowhide and thick carpet that lined the interior.

With all that, the Vega sold for a price you might expect: a lofty $7,000, about as much as the concurrent Rolls-Royce Silver Dawn. It's hardly surprising then that only 46 of the 1954-1955 Vegas were built.

We move ahead with the 1956 Facel Vega on the next page.

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