Historic Car Brands
Facel SA was a subsidiary of Bronzavia, a military aircraft manufacturer. Bronzavia’s technical director, Jean Daninos, had begun his career with Citroen and, after the War, headed up the Facel division that produced car bodies for French chassis.
Facel-bodied Simca 9 Sport Coupe – Alf van Beem
Facel made some 45,000 car bodies for Panhard alone, along with Simca Sport variants and Ford Comete cars. A notable body was the Cresta, fitted to a Bentley Mark VI chassis.
Bentley Facel Coupe – Rex Gray
However, car makers post-War were moving into unit construction, rather than chassis plus body construction. Facel could see its body-making business ending, so the company embarked on a project to build its own cars.
The first Facel Vega was launched in 1954. The FV two-door hardtop and convertible models were powered by Chrysler (De Soto) 4.5-litre ‘Hemi’ V8 engines, mounted in a tubular chassis with double wishbone front suspension and leaf-sprung live rear axles.
Facel Vega 1961 – Charles01
The Facel Vega FV was no lightweight, tipping the scales at around 1800kg, but ample grunt gave it a claimed top speed of 190km/h.
The 1958 HK500 model was essentially an upgraded FV, with even more grunt from a 5.8-litre Hemi engine. It could manage 235km/h.
Facel Vega Excellence hardtop EX1 – Motohide Miwa
That obviously wasn’t enough, so the Facel II was released in 1962, with 6.7-litre Hemi power that pushed it to 247km/h.
Facel Vega was definitely onto a good idea, combining European style and handling with North American raw power. The cars were also much simpler to maintain than OHC exotica from Italy, Germany and the UK.
Facel Vega Facel II Coupe – WolfgangS
Many celebrities bought Facel Vegas and Stirling Moss preferred to drive his HK500 to European race meetings rather than fly. (Having been in a BEA Vickers Viscount, many years ago, we don’t blame him.)
Facel Vega Facellia F2 – Alexander Z
However, Facel SA’s fatal error was a decision to make a smaller, four-cylinder vehicle, the Facellia, using an in-house twin-cam engine. (Had they chosen a proved sub-two-litre engine, things may have turned out differently.
The Facellia’s in-line four featured twin overhead camshafts, running in only two bearings each. The shafts and bearings were specially designed, but the valve train suffered from frequent failures. Warranty costs were crippling.
The engine was swapped for a Volvo B18 engine, but the model was ‘damaged goods’ by then.
The Facellia’s true successor, the Facel 6, powered by an Austin Healey 2.8-litre engine, arrived too late to save the company, which shut the doors in October, 1964.