Based on its baroque styling, one could easily mistake today’s Nice Price or No Dice Facel Vega for a contemporary Cadillac. There’s no mistaking its party trick pillar-less doors, however. Let’s see if this flamboyant cruiser’s price does the trick too.
In today’s market, any seemingly clean and mechanically sound car or truck that carries a $3,995 price tag is going to be lauded. yesterday’s 1998 Mercedes-Benz ML 320 presented well and carried that elusive sub-$4K asking. The vast majority of you found that combination a worthwhile exchange, awarding the classic Benz with a solid 80 percent Nice Price win.
As luxurious as any Mercedes might be, few of them will get you the looks today’s 1958 Facel Vega Excellence will get you when rolling into Arby’s or arriving at your reform school class reunion.
The Hemmings ad for the car goes into great detail as to the history of both the model and make, so I won’t regurgitate it here. Suffice it to say that FACEL (Forges et Ateliers de Construction dEure-et-Loir) was sort of like the French Aston Martin, making its founder, Jean Danino, the Gallic David Brown.
The Excellence was the company’s only four-door model and was built on a modified HK500 chassis with producction running between 1958 and 1964. Production ended with parent Facel’s demise that same year. Only 152 cars, over three models, were built during the run. That makes this Excellence a rare opportunity for anyone with a good bit of change jingling in the couch cushions.
The styling of the Excellence is audacious, carrying many of the design tropes—dog-leg A-pillar, substantial tail fins, and a ton of chrome—that were legion among its American contemporaries. The overall style, however, is distinctly Continental (meaning European, not Lincoln) and actually rather muted in certain of its details like the handsome nose and those knock-off style steel wheels. Apparently, this car was returned to the factory for a few updates over the years, including the switch to a later Wedge 331 engine and the addition of front disc brakes from the HK500.
The whole thing is painted in a subtle Isetta White to which a black roof has been added for an extra bit of elegance. Aside from some worn weatherstripping, it looks like it needs nothing.
The Excellence’s most notable feature is its pillar-less door opening. Now, lots of American manufacturers offered pillar-less sedans at the time, but all of those still demanded a half-height pillar where the doors meet, thus making the name a lie. In the Excellence’s case, the door catch is at the rocker and when both the standard front and suicide rear doors are opened, there’s nothing but a huge space for egress. It’s quite amazing.
Also amazing is the car’s drivetrain. That starts with the aforementioned 361 cubic inch (5.4-liter) “Wedge” V8 sourced from Chrysler. As a first series model, the car originally came with a 6.4-liter Hemi. The Mopar mill makes 360 gross horsepower and is backed up by the standard Pont-à-Mousson four-speed manual. Yep, this two-ton beast rocks a stick.
That transmission is shifted via a short tunnel-mounted lever that is canted towards the driver. That sits center in a cabin awash in black Vaumol leather upholstery that extends to the doors and dash surround. The black leather is paired with some elegant burlwood across the dash. Showing just how low this car really is, the steering column sprouts from the center of that dashboard, not from beneath. A full set of Jaeger gauges accompany it, as does a period-correct stereo. Everything in the cabin looks to be in terrific shape with only minor flaws observable in the welting and leather substrate.
According to the ad, the car underwent a restoration starting in 2007 but retains its factory-retrofitted engine and transmission after the fact. It wears age-appropriate Michelin X tires and Marchel Equilux headlights and, as you might expect, carries a clean title. The picture of the Speedo shows 61,148 miles on the odometer, but on a car like this, does mileage even matter?
If you click through from the Hemmings ad to the seller’s Website, you’ll find that the St. Louis, Missouri-based dealer has a number of jaw-dropping cars on offer. Amazingly, the Facel Vega isn’t even the most elegant of those.
Still, it’s pretty-damn amazing and a rare opportunity for some Richy-Rich to buy it. The question, of course, is whether it will make for a good bargain at its not insubstantial $185,000 asking price. I know, it’s like asking you to price a Gulfstream.
What do you think, is this amazing bit of French aristocracy in automobile form worth that $185,000 as it sits? Or, is that just too much to get so boushie?
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