1954 Facel Vega FV
Year of manufacture1954
Chassis n° FV-54-002
- The first Facel Vega ever produced
- Important vehicle in the history of French coachbuilding
- Belonging to Jean Daninos for many years
Jean Daninos, who founded the company Facel (Forges et Ateliers de Constructions d'Eure et Loire) in 1939, specialised throughout the 1940s in the pressing and processing of stainless steel for the industrial production of auto and aviation parts. During the war he forged strong links with American industrialists, producing parts for bombers. He brought methods of production and machines from the US uncommon in France after the war. His experience enabled him to set up the company Facel Metallon in 1946, producing coachwork for Panhard and Delahaye, as well as highly desirable cars for Ford S.A.F. and Simca. From 1949 through to the end of the 1950s Jean Daninos continued to work on designs for cars while building up the experience needed to construct an automobile in its entirety. A great enthusiast of sports and luxury cars, Daninos drove a Bentley and his special relationship with the management of the Crewe-based firm enabled him to use several Mark VI chassis, which were bodied by Pininfarina using one of his designs. Thirteen examples of this Bentley Cresta were produced. In January 1950, he ordered a final chassis from Bentley which was given a completely different body, based again on one of his designs. This became the unique " Cresta II ", giving the first glimpse of the styling of his future creations.
From 1951 Daninos started thinking about producing his own motor car. The first attempt comprised a roadster-style body powered by a six-cylinder Hotchkiss engine, and mounted on an Allard chassis. However, the results were disappointing so production was halted and the various parts returned to suppliers. He decided to work on a " genuine Facel " (sic) and having approached Bugatti, Delahaye, Talbot and Alfa Romeo for an engine, he turned to his American contacts to put him in touch with C.B. Thomas, Vice President of the Chrysler Corporation and in charge of exports, who gave the go-ahead to supply him with a V8 engine.
His brother Pierre Daninos, the well-known writer, suggested he use the name Vega, the fourth brightest star in the solar system, to follow on from the previous Ford Comète. In a letter written in 1976, Jean Daninos explained that the vehicle on offer, built in 1952 in the workshop used for the Facel prototypes, underwent a series of tests and trials supervised by himself, and was the car that was sent to Detroit to be used for various engine tests at Chrysler. In the same letter, Daninos also wrote that the car served as a base for the elaboration of all Facel Vega models and was his personal property for several years. The club Amicale Facel Vega informed us that this first prototype, discreetly called " prototype V " was referenced as " Proto 1 " in Facel production books and has the number FV-54-002.
It is this unique and historic vehicle that we are presenting for sale, with its original chassis and body, whose stylistic features fixed for ever the appearance of future Face Vega cars. It was fitted with the equipment seen on later Facels and given additional features too ! The level of finish is exceptional and the assembly of this prototype was carried out with the greatest attention to detail. Even by today's standards, the quality of work, carried out by hand, is exemplary. The car was given a unique body and even though we can distinguish the general style of Facel Vega cars to follow, it has many extra details. Notable features include:
- A short wheelbase chassis (2510 mm rather than 2630 mm) adding a racy and dynamic aspect to the profile.
- A lid to the rear trunk that descends to the bumper, and a particular opening mechanism in which the joints in the body are hidden under the rear windscreen.
- The interior featured a line of wood-effect painted metal around the inside, as on the Bentley Cresta, and years later on the Facel FV2 too.
- An area for cosmetic items and a perfume bottle in the arm rest of each door, and two small tool kits behind the front seats.
- A side-facing rear seat (being a short wheelbase) can be arranged to accommodate extra luggage.
The car has its original engine, Salisbury rigid axle and gearbox. The engine was delivered in period by the Chrysler group (V8 DeSoto Firedome 276 ci (4528 cc) with hemispherical cylinder head, approximately 180 bhp). The fully synchronised 4-speed gearbox was from Pont-à-Mousson. Apparently finished at Facel on the 1 October 1953, approved by the regulatory body (Service des Mines) on 10 August 1954 and registered on 12 August 1954, the car was initially given a two-tone livery : 'clair de lune' body (light blue-grey) and Brunswick blue roof. The car appeared in a number of magazines at the time, sporting the number plate Vega 54. It was exhibited at the Paris Motor Show in October 1954 with the name Vega 55, painted grey with a black roof. As Jean Daninos explained, the car served as a base for the development of future models of the marque taking the Vega name, with this prototype being called " le Proto Facel " by the Amicale Facel Vega and marque aficionados. It is the only car to bear a Facel logo on the air intake of the engine bonnet. During its various evolutions, belonging in the meantime personally to Jean Daninos, the car was given a face-lift, and had the characteristic Facel styling added at the front, namely a pair of superimposed round headlamps and fine-meshed grille, replacing the round headlights above the rectangular lights and large-meshed grille. At the start of the 1960s, the car was repainted black and given a black interior, the preferred colour of Jean Daninos. These modifications were carried out at the factory as requested by Daninos.
1st registration : 9 DD 75 from 12 August 1954 to 8 June 1962
The vehicle was used as a factory test car and as a promotional vehicle.
2nd registration : 4653 EF 78 from 8 June 1962 to 20 July 1962
Provisional registration probably due to changes in management at Facel
3rd registration : 101 MS 75 from 20 July 1962 to 5 July 1976
Personal property of Jean Daninos.
4th registration : 1954 RP 54 from 5 July 1976 to 4 May 1998
New owner - former president of Amicale Facel Vega
5th registration : 11 RM 58 from 4 May 1998 to today
Current owner - co-founder of the Amicale Facel Vega in 1975
In addition to being owned by those in charge at Facel, this prototype has had two additional fastidious owners, and is presented today in exceptionally well-preserved condition. The current owner, an enthusiast with exacting standards, has attended to the minutest details while conserving the original character of this outstanding automobile. The interior, lined with the finest Connolly leather has been preserved in original condition, as have the carpets, and all the accessories are intact. The hexagonal key in aluminium needed to remove the hubcaps of the bolted Robergel wheels the car was fitted with originally is still in the trunk. The factory opted to change these wheels for centrally-fixed Borrani wheels with three-eared spinners. The engine has been carefully maintained by Facel Vega specialists, including the excellent Pierre Brandin, founder of Vega Passion in Samoreau, Seine et Marne, who has continued to lavish great attention on this car. During the last few years major work has been carried out which has included fitting a made-to-measure stainless steel exhaust, servicing the steering box, fitting a new clutch, new gearbox mountings, overhauled heating radiator, re-built carburettors, new universal joints in the transmission and new shock absorbers front and rear. In December 2014, the fluids were changed and the brakes completely overhauled. The car was previously given a servo brake system, not included in the design of the original model, which runs on silicone to ensure the highest levels of safety and provide peace of mind in all circumstances. The Facel prototype has a current MOT and is ready to drive immediately.
Today, Facel Vega is generally considered to be the last French luxury car manufacturer and the final descendant of a tradition and expertise that disappeared when Facel closed in 1964. This prototype, presented in original condition and in excellent working order, therefore provides an exceptional opportunity to buy a unique and historic automobile, with known history. It is the first Facel built and the last to belong to Jean Daninos in 1976, the founder of Facel Vega and the creator of some of the most beautiful French cars of the 1950s and 1960s.