Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Your Car is Waiting







When talk about ultra luxury in cars, no regular Cadillac, Lincoln, Packard or Imperial will do. Mercedes-Benz? Feh! No, we want something with that certain special something that can not be translated into English. We want a car that Albert Camus would literally die over.

The car you are looking at is the Excellence, the sedan built by the Anglo-French automobile company Facel Vega from the late 1950s until 1964. But, Facel is best remembered for mating Pont-a-Mousson gear boxes to Chrysler V-8 Hemi's and dropping that lethal combination into Italian designed lithe coupe bodies at a Paris assembly plant. Those cars obtained blistering performance and get the lions share of the attention.

But the Excellence - offered only as a true pillar-less four-door sedan (no central post at all), was the company's exercise in shear, unadulterated luxury. Interiors were upholstered in custom dyed hand matched leather, sew so precisely that the grains matched. Real burled elm adorned the dash boards. Their only flaw was that the body flexed - something was taken care of by reinforcing the chassis. These cars are not daily drivers - they were yesterday what the Maybach is today.  They are meant to be driven by a man in a uniiform, with you riding in the backseat, relaxing while watching the world pass by.

And - as a side note - the Excellence almost became the basis for a revived Packard in 1959. The deal was almost done when the heads at Daimler Benz got wind and put an end to it. Studebaker Packard Corporation had the exclusive US distribution rights to Mercedes Benz and Benz wanted no challengers to its potential markets, crying "conflict of interest" and threatening Studebaker with yanking its contract. Thus MB not only killed Packard for good, but it wounded Studebaker by limiting its ability to spawn off a new car with almost no overhead. Just like Benz has blood on its hands for the Chrysler affair, it also has some Studebaker blood on them as well.

But things didn't end well for Camus (who killed while riding in Facel Vega coupe in 1960), nor did it end well for the Facel Vega. As with most French automotive endeavors, Facel bit the dust in 1964.

If you find one - about 60 were imported to the US, be prepared to pay in the 50-100k range. A maroon one was sold on eBay just last year. There's hope for us all.

Just Sign Me,

Ask The Cool Cookie
Doing Hard Time in Shaker Heights

3 comments:

  1. okay, but does it come in a wagon? if so,i'd like the faux woodgrain side panels...thank you!

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  2. Knowing about what a hellcat it had under the hood, all I can think about is: lift the rear end, throw a set of Cragars all around, slap on a couple glass packs and paint flames up the sides!

    I know, I know, you can take the boy out of redneckville, but....

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