When you talk about a car called the Vega, a couple of brands come to mind, but Ford isn’t one of them.
The first is the Chevy Vega. It was built between 1971 and 1977. It was Chevy’s subcompact back then. The styling took cues from the early 70’s Camaro and Motor Trend called it the Car of the Year back in 71. By the time it went out of production, nearly two million were built.
The second car is the Facel Vega and was far more exotic. Built in France between 1954 and 1964, the car had a sleek modern look with a distinctive grill. It had a center section that was upright (ala BMW) and two side grills with horizontal lines. Unlike the Chevy Vega, the Facel Vega was pure luxury and was driven by plenty of celebrities in its day.
Few people remember the Ford Vega. That’s because it never actually went into production. It was produced back in 1953 as a concept car. Vince Gardner came up the design for a Motor Trend contest in 1950. He was part of the team that created the Cord 810. The story goes that Gardner didn’t have enough money to build the car, so he talked his way into Henry Ford II’s office and came away with an $8,000 check to start the process. When it was finished, it was shipped back to Dearborn for Ford’s 50th anniversary.
The car had hideaway headlights and looks that rivaled the best looking sports cars of that era. Unfortunately, it was never more than a styling exercise. Ford returned it to Gardner and the car faded into obscurity. Fortunately it was recovered back in the 1990s and restored to award winning standards. It was sold at the Barrett Jackson collector car auction in Scottsdale in 2006 for $378,000. Its sometimes called the Gardner Special because while Ford paid the bills, it was designed and built outside the company.
While the Ford Vega may never have never made production, legend has it that it was the car that partly inspired Henry Ford II to start thinking about a two-seater sports car. Two years later the Thunderbird arrived.