1962 Facel Vega Facel II
Year of manufacture1962
Chassis numberHK2 B 148
Number of seats2
The ex-Earls Court Motor Show
1962 Facel Vega II Coupé
Registration no. 3 GXK
Chassis no. HK2 B 148
Engine no. TY8-613270
'The HK500 was the most interesting car we ever made but the Facel II was the best. It was totally elegant.' Jean Daninos.
In its relatively short life, the French firm of Facel produced approximately 2,900 cars, all of which were stylish, luxurious and fast. Hand built, they were necessarily very expensive the Facel II was priced in Rolls-Royce territory and bought by the rich and famous seeking something exclusive and distinctive. The roll call of owners includes royalty, politicians, diplomats and entertainers: Tony Curtis, Danny Kaye, Ringo Starr, Joan Fontaine and Ava Gardner being counted among the latter. Confirming that there was high-performance substance behind Facel's unquestionable style, they were owned and driven by great motor racing figures such as Sir Stirling Moss, Maurice Trintignant and Rob Walker.
Founded by Jean Daninos in 1939, Forges et Ateliers de Construction d'Eure-et-Loir (FACEL) specialised in the construction of aircraft components and metal furniture. After the war the company engaged in the supply of car bodies to Panhard, Simca and Ford France, before branching out into automobile manufacture in its own right with the launch of the Vega at the 1954 Paris Salon. Government legislation had effectively killed off France's few surviving luxury car manufacturers after WW2, but that did not deter Jean Daninos in his bold attempt to revive what had once been a great French motoring tradition. A luxurious Grande Routière, the Vega took its name from the brightest star in the Lyra constellation and featured supremely elegant coupé bodywork welded to a tubular-steel chassis. There being no suitable French-built power unit, Daninos turned to the USA for the Vega's, that chosen initially being Chrysler's 4.5-litre V8, while there was a choice of push-button automatic or manual transmission.
Launched in 1961, the Facel II was destined to be the last of the V8-engined models, production ceasing in 1964 after an unsuccessful venture into engine manufacture effectively bankrupted the company. Production of the preceding HK500 amounted to only 500-or-so units between 1958 and 1961 and that of the Facel II to a mere 182. Today these rare Franco-American classics are highly sought after.
From the late 1960s into the 1980s, this car's owner was one of Britain's foremost television producers/directors, working on a diverse selection of programmes including 'World-in-Action', 'Disappearing World', 'Coronation Street', 'Bergerac', etc. He had always loved Facel IIs and in his teens had often seen a silver example parked outside the Écurie Écosse Garage in Merchiston Mews, Edinburgh, with its famous mud-spattered 1956 Le Mans Jaguar D-type in the window, which his brother eventually bought.
In 1971 the vendor was in the process of finishing the first of Granada Television's 'Disappearing World' films and was walking down Beauchamp Place in Knightsbridge when a chauffeur-driven blue Facel II drew up. He talked to its chauffeur while the man waited for its owner, Mrs Kleeman, to emerge from San Lorenzo's and was still in conversation with him when she reappeared. The vendor told her that the Facel was the one car he'd always loved. 'Would you like it?' she said. 'We absolutely love it too but my husband now wants something easier to get into the back of.' So he bought '3 GXK' in April 1971. Preparing to drive off in it, he remembers the chauffeur, Mr Hobday, saying: 'You know sir, that wasn't a car, that was a way of life.'
Chassis number 'HK2 B 148' had been one of two displayed at the 1963 Earls Court Motor Show and was first registered to W L Lewis, Mr Kleeman's company/office manager. For six years the Facel was the vendor's only car, often in Scotland, often in France, and was totally reliable, never letting him down once. Passengers he recalls include psychiatrist R D Laing, singer Johnny Cash, politician Benazir Bhutto, jazz musicians Earl 'Fatha' Hines and Jay McShann, and many famous actors familiar to Granada Television viewers during the 1970s and '80s.
Then he got married and purchased an estate car, and with a career that involved ever more extended periods abroad, found less and less time for the Facel which sat, still loved but rarely used, in his garage in London. Around 1990, after the car had sat un-driven for a year or so, the vendor had the time to take it out once more. To circulate the oil, he removed the sparkplugs and turned the engine over by hand - not an easy thing to do with no starting-handle provision. All seemed fine so the plugs were refitted. The engine started immediately and ran for around 30 seconds before a nasty noise prompted a hasty switch-off. For the last 20-plus years the vendor has been meaning to 'get round to the Facel' but never has, and the car has remained garaged ever since.
Offered for restoration and sold strictly as viewed, '3 GXK' comes with its original logbook, expired MoT (1972-73), an AA pre-purchase condition report, Mr Hobday's notebook (kept up by the vendor) and various Jack Barclay and other service invoices dating from the Kleemans' period of ownership. The car also comes with an original owner's handbook (in French and English). An exciting restoration project which, once completed, will reward the fortunate new owner with the satisfaction of having resurrected 'not so much a car, more a way of life'.