Facel Vegas were elegant French cars with large American V8 engines up front. They were typically purchased by well-to-do famous people. Pablo Picasso even had one. When the firm decided to compete in the budding sports car market they had a four cylinder engine designed, and fitted into a smaller body with styling cues from big brother. Find the resulting Facellia here on eBay in Gaylordsville, Connecticut.
The V8 powered Facel Vegas (FV, HK500) were successful because they were well-built and utilized driveline components from outside suppliers. As a result, they were fast and reliable enough to make people of means take notice. Stirling Moss even preferred to drive his HK500 to races all over Europe rather than fly. The trouble started when Facel decided to create their own engine for their sports car, the Facellia.
The Facellia’s four cylinder twin-cam engine is said to have been designed by Weslake Engineering in the UK. It displaced 1647 cc and produced about 114 HP, which was quite good for the early 1960s. The engine suffered from a number of serious problems including poor camshaft design and a tendency to burn pistons, and it was so unreliable that the resulting warranty repairs and replacements ultimately brought the company down in 1962. The receivers attempted to save the company by producing Facellias with 1800 cc Volvo engines installed, which kept production going for another year, but irreparable damage had been done to the company’s reputation and it was soon liquidated.
This car is claimed to be one of only 42 Facellia Coupes produced. It shows 24,000 miles on the odometer and is said to have had only two owners from new. It has received new brakes and a cosmetic restoration that looks good, although there are a few problems with chipped paintwork and body gaps. The interior seems quite nice, and the presence of the original short wave radio is a plus. Although the engine has not been rebuilt, the seller claims that it has been “checked over and found to have excellent compression” and that it “runs strongly”.
Any time a car-maker is brought down by a bad engine design, caution is advised. The engine in this car may run, but history says that it’s best to expect problems in the near future. On the other hand, it could be argued that resorting to Volvo power if the engine does fail, would actually be a “factory fix”, as more than one Facellia has been rescued this way. The Facellia is certainly rare and elegant, but is it worth the potential for problems down the road?