When someone like Pablo Picasso chooses a car, it is going to look good. In its day, the Facel II was a poem in steel and easily as beautiful as anything turned out by the Italian styling houses. Small wonder then that Facels were synonymous with the Sixties’ jet set. Driven by Ringo Starr, Ava Gardner, Danny Kaye, Tony Curtis, François Truffaut, and Joan Fontaine, Facels were one of the most charismatic cars of the day.
Even death gave them glamour; the novelist Albert Camus died while being passengered in his publisher’s FVS in January 1960. In 1961, the HK 500 was reskinned and given cleaner lines, an extra 6 in (15 cm) in length, and dubbed the Facel II. At 1.5 tons, the II was lighter than the 500 and could storm to 140 mph (225 km/h). Costing more than the contemporary Aston Martin DB4 and Maserati 3500, the Facel II was as immortal as a Duesenberg, Hispano Suiza, or Delahaye. We will never see its like again.
In terms of finish, image, and quality, Facel Vegas were one of the most successful handmade supercars. Body joints were perfectly flush, doors closed like heavy vaults, brightwork was stainless steel, and even the roof line was fabricated from five seamlessly joined sections.
The leather backseat folded down to make a luggage platform.
Bumper is not chrome but rust-resistant stainless steel.
Manual Pont-a-Mousson gearbox began life in a truck.
Driven fast, the Facel II would drink one gallon of fuel every 10 miles.
Knockoff wheel spinners.
Facel II used the same wheelbase and engine as the HK 500, but the shape was refined to make it look more modern, losing such cliches as the dated wraparound windshield.
Fabric, roll-back, full-length sunroof was a period aftermarket accessory.
Prodigious hood bulge cleared air cleaners and twin carbs.
At 1.5 tons (30 cwt), 15 ft (4.57 m) long, 6 ft (1.83 m) wide, and only 4 ft 3 in (1.3 m) high, the Facel II aped the girth and bulk of contemporary American iron.
The enlarged rear window gave a much greater glass area than the HK 500 and almost 90 percent visibility, helped by slimmer pillars.
In the ’50s, Facel made motor scooters, jet engines, office furniture, and kitchen cabinets.
The intimidating frontage is all grille, because the hot-running V8 engine needed all the cooling air it could get. HK 500 had four round headlights, but the Facel II’s voguish stacked lights were shamelessly culled from contemporary Mercedes sedans.
Selectaride shock absorbers provided a comfortable ride.
Rakish body was artistically similar to the Facellia Coupe.
By far the rarest Facel with only 184 made, IIs are still fiercely admired by Facel fanciers.
Hood lid was huge, but then so was the engine.
Disc brakes all-around countered the Facel’s immense power.
Steering wheel points straight to the driver’s heart. Note the unmistakable aircraft-type panel layout with center gauges and heater controls like hand throttles.
Brake-indicator lights are cut out of the rear fenders and help to enhance the Facel’s seamless lines. To achieve this stunning one-piece look, the car’s light alloy body panels were hand finished and mated to each other.
S P E C I F I C A T I O N S
MODEL Facel Vega Facel II (1962–64)
BODY STYLE Two-door, four-seater Grand Tourer.
CONSTRUCTION Steel chassis, steel/light alloy body.
ENGINE 6286cc cast-iron V8.
POWER OUTPUT 390 bhp at 5400 rpm (manual), 355 bhp at 4800 rpm (auto).
TRANSMISSION Three-speed TorqueFlite auto or four-speed Pont-a-Mousson manual.
SUSPENSION Independent front coil springs, rear live axle leaf springs.
BRAKES Four-wheel Dunlop discs.
MAXIMUM SPEED 149 mph (240 km/h)
0–60 MPH (0–96 KM/H) 8.3 sec
0–100 MPH (0–161 KM/H) 17.0 sec
A.F.C. 15 mpg (5.4 km/l)