Facel Vega Facel II

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Facel Vega Facel II
Facel Vega Coupé.jpg
Overview
Manufacturer Facel Vega S.A. Paris
Also called Facel II
Production 1962–1964
approx. 180 produced [26 r.h.d]
Designer Jean Daninos
Body and chassis
Class Grand Tourer
Body style 2-door 4-seater coupe
Layout FR layout
Powertrain
Engine 6.3L Chrysler V8
6.7L Chrysler V8
Transmission Automatic Chrysler transmission. Manual 4-speed all-synchromesh Pont-a-Mousson transmission offered at extra cost
Dimensions
Wheelbase 2,660 mm (104.7 in)[1]
Length 4,750 mm (187.0 in)[1]
Width 1,760 mm (69.3 in)[1]
Height 1,280 mm (50.4 in)[1]
Curb weight 1,880 kg (4,140 lb)
Chronology
Predecessor Facel Vega HK500

The Facel Vega 'Facel II' was a French Grand Touring car produced by Facel between the years 1962 and 1964.

By 1962 the Paris-based Facel Vega company[2] was facing bankruptcy. The Facel II (pronounced '2') was to be the company's last attempt to create a luxury GT car in the French tradition. Jean Daninos, Facel's founder and president, said of the Facel II, "The HK 500 was the most interesting car we ever made but the Facel II was by far the best. It was totally 'elegant' .[3]

The Facel Vega company advertised the Facel II as "Le Coupé 4-places le plus rapide du Monde" ('The Fastest 4-seater Coupé in the World'). 'Sports Car Graphic' described it as a "luxurious brute".[4] Bernard Cahier, a race-driver who tested the car in 1962, said of an early version (without the later limited-slip differential) that "the huge output of the Chrysler engine made it easy to spin wheels at light throttle pressure."

Rear view, showing the subtle tailfins

It was powered by an American 6.3 litre (383 cu.in.) Chrysler 'Typhoon' engine which produced 355 hp (265 kW) in automatic-gearbox form and 390 hp (291 kW) in manual.[5] Using Chrysler's three-speed Torqueflite automatic gearbox, the 6.3-litre Facel II could reach over 135 mph (225 km/h). With a French Pont-a-Mousson four-speed manual gearbox the full-four-seater 6.3 litre Facel II could attain over 150 mph (247 km/h)[6] and out-accelerate its two-seater rivals, the Aston Martin DB4, Ferrari 250 GT and 'gull-wing' Mercedes-Benz 300SL, to 60 mph (97 km/h) and all except the Ferrari to 100 mph (160 km/h).[7] Dunlop disc brakes were fitted on all four wheels and Hydrosteer power steering, leather seats, electric windows and radio aerial all became standard during the production run, with Armstrong Selecta-Ride shock-absorbers adjustable from the dash while driving fitted to the right-hand-drive British models. The curvaceous wrap-round dash was in fact metal but meticulously painted to look like wood.[5] Many of the controls were airplane inspired.[5] The later manuals were fitted with the even more powerful 6.7 litre (413 cu.in.) Chrysler "RB" wedge engine and were faster still.[8]

Like its predecessor, the Facel Vega HK500, the Facel II was heavier than its two-seater rivals, weighing 1,880 kilograms (4,140 lb) (37 cwt) 'dry' and almost two tons with four passengers and a full petrol tank. There may have been some question about its ride and rear suspension[9] - it used suspension virtually unchanged from the previous HK500 - but certainly none about its speed[10] or glamour.

England's 'Autocar' said of it, "To step down into a Facel II and go motoring must be the ambition of many who can never fulfil it. Such an experience is reserved for the few who can afford to buy one and for their friends and acquaintances".[11] For 'Motor', "There are faster sports cars, although very few, and there are more refined and luxurious saloons, but it is difficult to think of a more remarkable combination of these rather conflicting qualities ..... its unique combination of qualities left the most vivid impression on everyone who drove it. In particular one remembers the smoothness and silence, the effortless gate of a car which does 100 mph (160 km/h) at only 3,650 rpm. and the acceleration which leaves other fast cars far behind on every straight. One can enjoy the latest refinements of American brute force with European standards of control in an environment of British luxury and French elegance".[12]

Famous owners[edit]

The Facel II was very expensive[13] and highly exclusive. Its handsome design[14] led to famous owners, including Pablo Picasso,[15] Lionel Bart, Lord Brabourne, The Chrysler Corporation (and Mrs Carr, Walter Chrysler's daughter), Joan Collins, Tony Curtis, Christian Dior, Stanley Donen, Charlie Drake, Max Factor Jr, Joan Fontaine, Ava Gardner (who bought three), The Marchioness of Huntly (whose car had full-harness seat-belts), Herbert von Karajan, Danny Kaye, Louis Malle, The President of Mexico, Princess Grace of Monaco, Yves Montand, Hassan II King of Morocco, Baroness Sally Oppenheim-Barnes, William S. Paley, Prince Poniatowski, Anthony Quinn, Debbie Reynolds, Frank Sinatra, Ringo Starr, The Marchioness of Tavistock, François Truffaut, Count Giovanni Volpi di Misurata, Robert Wagner, Sir Mortimer Wheeler, The Shah of Persia and Sihanouk (King-Father of Cambodia). Race drivers Sir Stirling Moss, Maurice Trintignant, Tony Vandervell and Rob Walker also had Facels.

Demise[edit]

In August 1961 Jean Daninos was obliged to offer his resignation[16] and in 1964 the Facel company went into receivership, largely due to warranty claims against Facel Vega's smaller Facellia with its troublesome 'in-house' engine. As a result, Facel II production had to be discontinued with only 180[17] Facel IIs ever built.

The remaining Facel IIs are now amongst the most sought-after of all 1960s Grand Tourers. On 1 December 2013 Bonhams in London auctioned a partially restored right-hand-drive Facel II for £337,500 [= approx €407,000/$552,500 at the time].[18] On 6 February 2014 Bonhams in Paris auctioned a rusty and derelict 'barn-find' left-hand-drive Facel II in need of a total-rebuild restoration for €155,250 [= approx £129,000/$211,000 at the time]. On 27 June 2014 Bonhams in London auctioned a right-hand-drive 2-owner 'garage-find' non-runner Facel II, also in need of total-rebuild restoration, for £122,460 [= approx €154,000/$210,000 at the time].

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "Automobilia". Toutes les voitures françaises 1962 (salon Paris oct 1961) (Paris: Histoire & collections). Nr. 19: Page 15. 1200. 
  2. ^ Automobiles Facel Vega S.A. 19 Avenue George V, Paris 8me, France
  3. ^ 'Autocar' 6 July 1981 p 36
  4. ^ Sports Car Graphic road test 7-62
  5. ^ a b c Willson, Quentin (1995). The Ultimate Classic Car Book. DK Publishing, Inc. ISBN 0-7894-0159-2. 
  6. ^ Sports Car Graphic's Road Test [7-62] of the smaller-engined 6.3 litre by Bernard Cahier recorded a top speed of 149 mph (240 km/h) averaged over a two-way run and acceleration to 100 mph in 17.0 seconds
  7. ^ 'Facel Vega' by Jean Daninos: Editions E.P.A Paris 1981, p. 130
  8. ^ Including the one belonging to Ringo Starr: Autocar 6 June 1981 p 36.
  9. ^ See 'Autocar' & 'Motor' road tests as below. But Bernard Cahier, the racing driver who tested the Facel II for Sports Car Graphic, wrote [Test no 7-62], "When driving really fast, our Facel seemed particularly at home on the fast-bend-and-esses type of curves on which the car was rock steady with practically no lean or rolling. In this respect the Facel II is about the finest automobile that I can think of for sheer stability".
  10. ^ The English-language Owner's Manual advised (p.9):- "Hold the steering wheel with both hands except when changing gear - Stay as close as possible to the centre of the road - Do not look at anything else but the road - Do not smoke - Do not change stations on the radio - Do not talk".
  11. ^ 'Autocar' Road Test 3 August 1962 p175
  12. ^ 'Motor' Road Test 36/62 p 81
  13. ^ See Autocar Road Test 3 Aug 1962: £5,570 basic in Britain: 73,500 Fr francs, over $12,000 US: considerably more expensive than an Aston Martin DB4[£4,084: Autocar 13 Oct 1961] and approaching three times the price of an E-type Jaguar [£2,196: Autocar March 24, 1961]. A substantial London house could then be bought for what a Facel II then cost.
  14. ^ In 2008 the Facel II was voted by The British Daily Telegraph readers as one of the "Most Beautiful Cars of All Time"[13/3/2008]
  15. ^ For whose car a US car dealer was asking $400,000 in 1991: there has been dispute over whether it was ever in fact owned by Picasso
  16. ^ Automobilia: Toutes les voitures françaises 1962 (salon Paris oct 1961) (Paris: Histoire & collections) Nr. 19: Page 15. 1200
  17. ^ 'Facel Vega' by Jean Daninos: Editions E.P.A Paris 1981 p.132 but other sources suggest, possibly more accurately, that 182-184 Facel IIs were completed
  18. ^ In August 2009, and, during the biggest recession since World War II, Goodings & Company auctioned a 1962 Facel II [lot 50] for $203,500 [= approx. 142,218€/£124,092]. In October 2011 Artcurial of Paris auctioned a somewhat modified 1963 Facel II [lot 136] for 204,445€ [= approx $280,000/£176,000]. ln November 2011, Godin Banks Ltd of Mereworth in Kent, UK, were asking £225,000 [= approx 260,000€/$360,00] for one of the 23 remaining RHD Facel IIs