Sporting Intentions: 1961 Facel Facellia

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?

Comments

  1. Forrest

    ‘Busa

  2. Ron Southan

    That sure looks like a Lotus Ford twin Cam. I wonder where Weslake screwed up?

  3. Anonymous

    an actual live Pont au Mouson engine, actually live?!

  4. jumpinjimmy

    the engine is a sure fail, just a question of when. they also had defective steering wheels which I notice has been changed on this model. Neat and extrememly rare but not a great car.

  5. jumpinjimmy

    Apparently the crank shaft was supported in two places rather than five and also the cooling tubes in the block were too small and hence the reason it would burn pistons. I’ve got a line on a 61 convertible that needs restoring if anyone is interested. Still has the original engine as well and is pretty rough but all there. Located in France.

  6. Mark E

    Everyone loves to say how these are so awful, unreliable, etc etc but I want one. Mainly ’cause I’ll never be able to afford an HK500 unless I win the lottery! ^_^

  7. Bob

    This is probably heresy, but wonder if a BOP (AKA Rover) V8 would fit?

  8. Dolphin

    Bob:
    Given the failure of the Facellia engine and the Volvo engine they used as a “fix”, I don’t think any engine transplant is heresy. I have seen a BOP successfully transplanted into a series II A-H Sprite that worked well, and then there’s the MGB GT V8.

    My guess is that if it fits into a Sprite, the little V8 might fit into this car, altho you might not have room for an engine-driven fan. Just put an electric one in front of the rad instead.

  9. 6.3

    From another dealer, who’s making a living flipping cars or butchering them, amongst others: Ferraris, for a bigger profit.
    He’s had an Alfa basket case last week, which did not meet reserve @ $60k.
    “could have the car able to drive, we didn’t go that far” wow, wow, wow.
    That has nothing to do with passion for cars anymore, it’s pure greed.
    Doesn’t anybody WORK anymore ?, like fix the cars etc. ?, everybody wants to make quick buck and others oblige.
    I don’t get it.
    I would not buy a car unless I know the owner’s had it for 5+ years and has maintained or improved it.
    Then I am willing to pay a premium.
    But a flipper like this ? I would only buy from for rock bottom price or let him sit on it.
    Period.

  10. 6.3

    Now,when he says 2 owners from new ??
    DOES THAT INCLUDE HIM ??
    Probably not, so he is misrepresenting the car history?
    You’re not buying from the SECOND owner !!!

  11. Dolphin

    Bid to $40,100 but failed to make the reserve so did not sell.

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