In today’s car industry, the term, “hybrid,” marks a vehicle that comes with a gasoline and electric motor. It could be a Prius-esque green car that is environmentally friendly and gets impressive gas mileage. In most cases, hybrid relates to uninteresting, dull cars for suburban drivers with a strong sense of ecology, but it wasn’t always like this.
Before electric cars revolutionized the car industry, the word, “hybrid,” described European cars with American engines. Back in the days and even during the ’90s, installing an American V8 in a sleek, elegant European body was a winning combination for most manufacturers. The logic was simple. European car brands mostly produced smaller, four-cylinder engines. And if you wanted to independently build a fast, sports car, you needed a big, powerful and affordable American engine.
So, for decades, various European brands manufactured many U.S.-powered models, which were often better and faster than Ferraris or Porsches. American-built engines from GM, Ford and Chrysler with European designs seemed to be a durable and powerful combination. They won many races, proving that U.S. power can make any car great. This list includes the 16 best EU-USA hybrids that are sought-after classics, as well as interesting collector cars.
1. Facel -Vega
Just after the Second World War, France was left without luxury manufacturers. All of their car industry concentrated on economy cars with small engine displacement. The Facel founder, Jean Daninos, realized that there was a gap in the market. So, in 1954 he started producing the Facel Vega FVS. It was a big luxury coupe that came with a 275 V8 from Chrysler’s De Soto brand.
Although postwar Europe wasn’t ready for such an expensive vehicle, Daninos managed to sell enough of them to fund more models and expand the lineup. In just a few years, the Facel Vega presented the gorgeous HK500, as well as the Facel Vega II. However, their real gem was the exclusive and over-luxurious Facel Vega Excellence. It was a big, four-door hardtop sedan and they produced around 100 of them. All those cars used big Chrysler V8s.
They closed the company in 1964 and for 10 short years, the Facel Vega was the best example of EU-American hybrids. The unique combination of continental style and U.S. power made it a favorite with the celebrities of the era. Dean Martin and Ava Gardner owned several examples.