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Vehicle to be offered for Auction sale WITHOUT RESERVE and SOLD to the highest bidder August 18th – 20th, 2016 at Russo and Steele’s 16th Annual Monterey, California Auction. Please contact us for more information.
While many of the world’s most exciting and stylish luxury cars were produced in France before WW II, extreme postwar taxation nearly eliminated the high-end French automobile industry. Boldly, French industrialist Jean Daninos, who established FACEL (Forges et Ateliers de Construction d’Eure et de Loire) in 1939, bucked the trend. A successful manufacturer of car bodies for Bentley, Delahaye, Ford of France, Panhard, and Simca, Daninos seized opportunity when Panhard cancelled its manufacturing plans and he decided to keep his workforce occupied by building luxurious and fast new French Grand Touring cars, even if conditions dictated most would be exported.
Astutely, Daninos selected Chrysler’s advanced line of powerful V-8 engines to power his new cars. Lance Macklin of British racing constructor HWM designed the steel chassis, while M. Brasseur and Mr. Daninos himself penned the sexy and lightweight alloy bodywork. Main stylistic features included an imposing multi-element egg-crate grille up front and fender lines extending straight back across the smooth body sides to a pair of neat rearward-facing tailfins. The prototype was ready for road testing by October 1952 and completed some 130,000 kilometers before being sent to the United States for continued development work by Chrysler. Named “Vega” after the brightest star in the Lyra constellation, the cars exuded sheer opulence with fit and finish second to none. Rust-resistant stainless-steel brightwork, lavish leather-trimmed passenger cabins, and fine detailing throughout the cars recalled France’s glorious prewar era.
The Facel Vega’s press introduction was held at the company’s Colombes works on July 29, 1954, followed by the Paris Salon that October. Three prototypes, including one later converted to FV-4 spec, were followed by 10 or 11 first-series “FV” models and then the updated FV-1, which debuted in March 1955 and continued to feature the raked windscreen and gently sloping roofline of the earlier cars. Other updates included a wheelbase extension and fitment of Chrysler’s 291 cubic-inch “Fire Dome” ‘Hemi’ V-8, good for 200 rated horsepower. Both the 4-speed Pont-a-Mousson manual transmission and two-speed Chrysler PowerFlite automatic transmissions were available. As few as 26 and “as many” as 32 FV-1s were built in all, with the FV series continuing through several more variants and 352-354 examples in all, depending upon the source. Truly, these potent and stylish cars marked a new era of bespoke French Grand Routiers.
According to its known history, this FV-1 is one of just three sold new to the United States, delivered in California on July 12, 1955 to one Mr. Milestone. As these cars were only within the reach of the rich and famous when new, it is quite likely that Mr. Milestone was in fact Lewis Milestone, the Oscar-winning director of All Quiet on the Western Front, Two Arabian Nights, and Ocean’s Eleven. Originally finished in Silver-Gray Metallic with a black roof, this FV-1 was equipped with a radio, twin antennae, and Chrysler’s newly available PowerFlite automatic transmission. The FV-1 subsequently passed through B. Rutan and Martin Button, who commissioned its restoration by the Alan Taylor Company in Escondido, California during 1994. The restoration work included a color change to its striking current livery, which highlights the vehicle’s many outstanding details to great effect, which include the overlapping side windows and Robergel wire wheels. Following completion, the FV-1 was shown at the 1996 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and it participated in the California Mille rally, where its prodigious performance was a decided asset. The FV-1 was acquired by its next owner in 2010 and in addition to forming part of a sizable collection, it was driven regularly around Southern California and earned two Second in Class awards at the Palos Verdes Concours d’Elegance in 2011 and 2012. Further restoration work and sorting under the current owner’s tenure has elevated the rare FV-1 even further, rendering it a wonderful find at Monterey and a truly significant offering at auction.