The glory days of French luxury automobiles were over by the 1950s, but industrialist Jean Daninos hoped to change that. His Paris company, Facel, began producing no-expense-spared grand-touring automobiles powered by Chrysler V-8s in 1954, and, by 1958, the sportiest model was the Facel Vega FV4 Typhoon. Just 36 were built with Chrysler’s dual four-barrel carburetor Hemi V-8, and, last weekend, a recently restored example sold for $214,500, landing in the top-10 at Mecum’s Los Angeles sale.
Facel was an acronym for Forges et Ateliers de Construction de Eure de Loire, and the metalworking company, founded in 1939, produced everything from kitchen sinks to jet aircraft parts. In 1946, the Paris factory began stamping car bodies for the French automotive industry, which gave owner Daninos the inspiration to reclaim the glory once enjoyed by home-market automakers such as Bugatti, Delahaye, and Delage.
Such luxury goods were heavily taxed in postwar France, and Daninos understood that much of his production would be exported. Choosing an off-the-shelf engine from a proven “foreign” manufacturer made more sense that incurring the expense of developing one on his own, so Daninos turned to industry-leader Chrysler. A range of Chrysler V-8s sat between the front fenders of Facel automobiles over the years, but in 1958 none was more powerful than the 354-cu.in. FirePower Hemi V-8, which, when topped by a pair of four-barrel carburetors, was rated at 355 horsepower. Equipped as such, and even saddled with a curb weight over two tons, the Typhoon was said to be capable of running from 0-60 mph in around nine seconds, on the way to a top speed of 130 mph.
The Facel Vega used a braced tubular chassis designed by British racing driver Lance Macklin, and its body was styled by Daninos. Inside, premium touches included leather upholstery, stainless-steel switchgear, and wool carpeting, and fit and finish was said to be exceptional by period standards. So, too, was the price, with export versions priced from $5,515 to $12,800 in the United States market in 1958, enough to buy roughly two-and-a-half Chrysler 300D hardtops (on the high side).
The car sold in Los Angeles was said to be a three-owner example, restored over a seven-year period ending in spring 2014. In the interest of safety, the four-wheel drum brakes were updated with a modern power-assist two circuit master cylinder, and a custom air-conditioning system designed by Vintage Air was installed. Modern power windows were fitted, likely because original parts were non-existent and the components could no longer be repaired. Finished in Pomegranate over tan Connolly leather, this example may not have satisfied absolute marque purists, but will hopefully be enjoyed on the open road by its new owner.
The rest of the top-10 was an interesting mix of new and old, with other lots including a 2006 Ford GT, which sold for $327,250; a 2016 Lamborghini Huracan, which sold for $236,500; a 1959 Porsche 356, which sold for $200,200; a 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish, which sold for $140,250; a 1959 Volkswagen 23-window bus, which sold for $137,500; a 2010 Ferrari California Spyder, which sold for $115,500; a 2012 Ferrari California Spyder, which sold for $112,750; a 1968 Shelby G.T. 350 fastback, which sold for $99,000; and a 2006 Lamborghini Gallardo SE, which sold for $99,000.
More affordable lots of interest included a 1972 Jaguar XJ6, which sold for $3,300; a 1985 Buick Grand National, which sold for $9.900; a 1967 Ford Ranch Wagon, which sold for $11,000; a 1978 Mercury Grand Marquis, which sold for $7,700; a 1968 Ford Galaxie 500 convertible, which sold for $9,900; a 1928 Oakland Landau sedan, which sold for $6,600; a 1970 Volkswagen Beetle, which sold for $7,150; a 1951 Ford Custom, which sold for $11,550; a 1996 Chevrolet Corvette convertible, which sold for $7,150; and a 1965 Rambler 770 convertible, which sold for $7,700.
For complete results from last weekend’s Los Angeles sale, visit Mecum.com.