Face to face with a Facel

So I was perusing some of my favourite forums this afternoon when I came across a picture that made me appreciate some real old school cool…without having the foggiest what it was I was looking at. Enter the Facel Vega HK500!

Wait, a what?

A Facel Vega!

Here’s the pic that got me wanting some more info:

HK500

Seriously, how could you not consider this pretty high up on the awesome scale?

Why do I like the look of this thing based on one pic? It was the scoop that garnered my attention first and then the menacing looking front with the big grill. The three point wheel cap? Yeah I’m sure if I had one it’d grow on me..

And thankfully Wikipedia filled in the blanks pretty quick: The Facel Vega FV/FVS was a car produced by French car maker Facel Vega from 1954 to 1959. It continued until 1962 as the HK500.

Facel gave you plenty of choice too back in the day with the options of the Facel Vega FVS, Facel Vega Excellence, the Facel Vega Facel II, the HK500 and then the sports car division which included the Facel Vega Fecellia, the Facel III and Facel 6.

Starting with a 4.5 Litre DeSoto Fire Dome (what a great name for an engine!) V8 and going right up to a stonking 6.3 Litre Chrysler Typhoon V8, the Facel Vega was popular with celebrities (including Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra) but the company itself had one major flaw – a terrible business model. As wikipedia states:  Facel lost money on every car they built, the luxury car side of the company being supported entirely by the other work done by Facel Metallon, Jean Daninos’s obsession being very similar to that of David Brown of Aston Martin. 

Now while I didn’t finish business school (or go to business school in the first place) I’m fairly certain that if you’re losing money with every sale of your product, your product really needs to be looked at. And probably not bandaged with the ‘Just give them a new engine!’ scenario which came from up on high: Company president, Jean Daninos having been obliged to resign in August 1961 in response to the company’s financial problems, the new boss, a former oil company executive called André Belin, gave strict instructions to the after-sales department to respond to customer complaints about broken Facellia engines by replacing the units free of charge without creating “difficulties”. The strategy was intended to restore confidence among the company’s customer base. It would certainly have created a large hole in the income statement under the “warranty costs” heading, but it may have been too late for customer confidence.

Still, bad decisions aside the Facel Vega HK500 did and still does look the business! It was French, fast and sexy…but according to an early episode of Top Gear, not really that nice to drive…

Still, driving the actual car aside, it still looks incredible!

Facel 2 Facel 3

So if I wanted one in my garage, how much would I be looking at?

Erm…drug dealer money. In my quick Googling I discovered there’s only 13 Facel Vega’s here in Australia and three years ago a restored one (a HK500) sold through Shannon’s auctions for a staggering $150,000. So it’s highly unlikely that you’re going to trip over one in your next jaunt through Gumtree any time soon..

(In fact this might be my closest opportunity – Facel Vega)

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