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RM Sotheby’s Auction: Rare 1951 Ford Comète Is a Facel-Bodied, Corvette-Powered Project Car

This example will be sold in September as part of RM Sotheby’s Mitosinka Collection online auction.

Rory JurneckaWriterRM Sotheby'sPhotographer

Before we get to the specific 1951 Ford Comète that's heading to the upcoming RM Sotheby's entirely no-reserve Mitosinka Collection online auction, consider that we not long ago brought you the condensed story of Facel Vega in an article that featured a neglected and forlorn Facel Vega FVS. Didn't read it? Here's the gist.

1951 Ford Comète History

In 1939, Facel was a French subsidiary producing stamped metal parts for the aircraft industry. Eventually, Facel also expanded into making metal panels for automobiles. The final result of this was a new automaker called Facel Vega, which produced expensive Chrysler-powered luxury coupes and convertibles for the world's rich and famous, such as the aforementioned FVS. But in-between Facel and Facel Vega, there were a series of production vehicles in the 1940s to early '50s based on existing chassis for which Facel created custom bodies. These vehicles included special takes on the Simca Sport, a Farina-designed Bentley Cresta, and the Ford Comète. It's the 1951 Ford Comète we're talking about today, with auction house RM Sotheby's featuring a derelict example of one during its upcoming Mitosinka Collection auction next month.

The Ford Comète was produced by Ford Sociètè Anonyme Française (Ford SAF), Ford's French division that built several models primarily for the French population. Launched in 1951, the Comète was the lineup's most expensive model, and it featured elegant, custom coupe bodywork crafted by Facel and designed by Farina, forerunner of the famed Pininfarina styling house that would soon be internationally known. A 2.2-liter V-8 engine was found under the hood, built by Ford SAF in its Poissy plant, just outside of Paris, and paired with a four-speed manual gearbox. This engine was essentially a small-displacement version of the Ford Flathead V-8, and it quickly became incredibly popular with hot rodders.

1951 Ford Comète Specifications

Sporty as the 1951 Ford Comète looked, 2.2-liters of displacement gave just 68 horsepower for a near-3,000-pound vehicle, which didn't result in a very exciting car to drive. That was partially helped when Ford SAF launched a revised Comète at the 1952 Paris auto show with a new, bored-out 2.4-liter version of the V-8. With a higher compression ratio to boot, the new engine produced a solid 80 hp, which gave it a 90-mph top speed. But the biggest change came for the 1954 model year, when a Comète Monte-Carlo borrowed a 3.9-liter V-8 from Ford's range of pickup trucks, which gave the coupe 105 hp. Special touches like wire-spoke wheels and a faux-intake duct on the hood sold the Comète Monte-Carlo as the sportiest variant.

Alas, the Comète wasn't long for the French market. By the end of 1954, Ford had sold its French division to French automaker Simca, which quickly discontinued the model. That event prompted Facel's founder, Jean Daninos, to produce his first car from the ground up, giving the world the very first Facel Vega.

1951 Ford Comète RM Sotheby's Auction Details

This 1951 Ford Comète will be sold to the highest bidder next month at RM Sotheby's Mitosinka Collection auction, and while we're not sure how it ended up in the U.S., it appears to have seen some modifications from its original spec. For example, there's an aftermarket tachometer on the dash that appears to be of at least 1960s vintage, and there's a Chevy V-8, of all engines, under the hood, with Corvette rocker covers. If you're up for a restoration project and want to own a truly rare car, especially in the U.S., take a look at RM Sotheby's auction, running from Sept. 15-25, 2020.