Many classic cars have been associated with luxury, especially during the 1950s and ‘60s. French company Facel-Vega wanted to be mentioned in the same sentence as brands like Rolls-Royce and Aston Martin, so they created an extravagant vehicle called the Facel-Vega Excellence that became an instant classic. The Excellence emulated the prestigious cars of the day, making it one of the most attractive motors of its era.
What made the Excellence so memorable was the price. At around 4,000,000 francs, it cost as much as four Citroen DS saloons, which weren’t cheap either. Optional add ons like electric windows and power steering made the Excellence even pricier, which explained why only a small number were made. We’re looking into the history of the model to see what made it so appealing.
The Art of Excellence
The first Excellence appeared at the Paris Auto Show in October 1956 and stood out immediately for its grand design. Based on the elongated chassis of the Facel-Vega FV Coupe, the car incorporated an American style design. It featured tailfins, a wraparound windscreen, ‘hardtop’ roof and rear-hinged ‘suicide doors.’ It also had European stacked quad-headlights and an elegant body. The interior featured aromatic leather seats, a fake walnut dashboard and a makeup kit that was common for luxury cars of the 1950s.
Full production began in 1958 and the first models were equipped with a powerful 392 CID Chrysler V8 engine. Due to the French road tax system being based on engine displacement, it’s speculated that Facel-Vega didn’t opt for the top-of-the-line 413 engine. The Excellence performed well on the road and it could stand up to many other European luxury cars.
In 1961, the Excellence received an upgrade. It came with a 383 CID engine that could output 390 hp, which was incredible for a saloon car. The exterior lost some of its opulence in favour of a more streamlined design. The ‘EX2’ lost the wraparound windscreen and the tailfins were clipped to make it look less flamboyant. A total redesign would have been too expensive for a vehicle that had been produced in a low volume. Only eight EX2 models were completed.
Production of the Excellence lasted up until 1964, with a total of 156 versions being created. Although only a small amount were made, the Excellence remains one of the most beautiful French cars of all time.