In the first half of the 20th century the French automotive industry was synonymous with style and class. With chassis built by Delage, Delahaye, Bugatti and Talbot (Lago) combined with bodies designed by Figoni & Falaschi, Chapron, Saoutchik and Jean Bugatti, the French reached their peak in the late 1930s. Unfortunately, all of these companies ceased production in the 1950s and it was up to a relatively new company to continue this rich tradition, Jean Daninos' Facel Vega.
First introduced in 1954, 'the Facel Vega' featured a steel tubular chassis, fitted with an elegant two-door body. The first cars were fitted with 4.5 litre DeSoto V8 engines but they were soon replaced by Chrysler engines of various displacements. Throughout the 1950s improvements were made, until the 'FV' models were replaced by the HK 500 in 1958.
Technically the HK 500 was very similar to its predecessors. The 5.4 litre Typhoon V8 engine found in the FV4 models was replaced by a 6.2 litre engine. With over 350 bhp on the tap, the HK 500 was one of the fastest cars of its day. This meant that sufficient braking-power was required, so the drums used on previous models were replaced by Dunlop discs. Both a Pont-a-Mousson 4-speed manual or a Chrysler 3-speed automatic gearbox were available. To help manouvre the HK 500 around town power steering was available as an option. On the outside the HK 500 could be distinguished only by its slightly wider body compared to the FV bodies.
In 1962 the HK 500 was phased out and replaced by the Facel 2. Again the Facel 2 carried over a lot from its predecessors, but for the first time the exterior of the big Facel Vega was redesigned.
This mint HK 500 is seen at the 2003 Interclassics show in Maastricht. It was featured prominently on the Amicale Facel Holland stand.
In 1960 my Dad traded his 1954 Ferrari 250 MM and his freshly restored 1949 MG TC for a 1959 HK 500. We lived in Beckley, West Virginia at the time. Before this trade, Dad had raced the Ferrari at some local SCCA races (Marlboro was one), and he enjoyed it a lot. My also kicked in $500 to boot. He always said he traded even with the Ferrari and paid the Facel owner $500 to take the TC. The Facel was a wonderful touring car. The Chrysler V-8 had plenty of power, and with dual 4-barrel carbs, it never passed a gas station that it didn't like. The push button tourque flight transmission worked well with the car, though I would have preferred the 4-speed Pont de Musson manual. I remember my Dad checking to see how many Facels were in WVa at the time and the answer was one - an Excellence owned by a physician in Charleston. A few years later, I ran across a mostly complete Facel FV in a junk yard in Oak Hill, WVa, but I didn't have the means to buy it.