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Lot 112: Facel Vega HK500 Coupé

Goodwood Revival Sale, Bonhams (15 September 2012)

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, of course, necessarily very expensive – the Facel II was priced in Rolls-Royce territory – and were 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 Grand Routier, 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, 180bhp V8, while there was a choice of push-button automatic or manual transmission. Improvements to the first FV model were not long in coming, the FV1, introduced in March 1955, featuring a lengthened wheelbase for increased rear seat room and a 4.8-litre, 200bhp Chrysler V8. A few FV1 cabriolets were built, but Daninos was not keen on soft-tops and production concentrated on fixed-head coupés, although there was also the Excellence, a limited-edition four-door saloon on an extended wheelbase. An improved model, the HK500, appeared in 1957. Maximum power was now around 360bhp courtesy of the latest, 5.9-litre (later 6.3-litre) version of Chrysler's 'Hemi' V8 and top speed rose to around 140mph, making the HK500 one of the fastest cars of its era. Power steering became an option and Dunlop disc brakes were adopted as standard equipment in 1960. Capable of effortless and virtually silent 120mph cruising, the HK500 possessed, according to The Motor magazine, 'a brilliant combination of good comfort and quite exceptional roadholding.' HK 500 production amounted to just 500-or-so units between 1958 and 1961, with circa 98 delivered to the UK, and today this rare Franco-American Grand Routier is highly sought after. Chassis number 'HK1 BY6' represents the HK500 in its ultimate, high-performance incarnation, being fitted with the 6.3-litre engine equipped with twin four-barrel Holley carburettors and the Pont-à-Mousson four-speed manual gearbox. Finished in silver with sumptuous red leather interior, this rare right-hand drive HK500 was supplied new in the UK to HWM, spending the next two years in customs bond before being registered to its first private owner on 19th April 1962. Purchased as a non-running project in 2006 and presented fresh from a five-year restoration, '3 XPK' is offered with restoration invoices, current MoT/tax and Swansea V5 document. A rare opportunity to acquire a matching-numbers example of this supremely stylish Franco-American Grand Routier.

Lot Details
Auction Goodwood Revival Sale
Bonhams, Chichester, Goodwood
Lot Number112
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price£40000
Hammer Price (inc premium)£40833
Condition rating
Registration number3 XPK
Chassis numberHK1 BY6
Engine numberTY7 1-29-37
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors2