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Rare French Classic: 1960 Facel Vega HK500

Facel was a French company that initially provided steel components and coachbuilding services for other vehicle manufacturers. It began producing its own vehicles in 1954, rolling out its first handbuild Vega HK500 in 1959. Our feature car rolled out of the Facel factory in 1960 and is 1-of-202 produced in that year. It has been sitting dismantled for years but appears to be a largely complete and solid candidate begging for restoration. It is listed here on eBay in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. The seller’s BIN is $30,000, although they leave the option to make an offer.

The HK500 represented an evolution of the company’s FVS model, retaining its predecessor’s wrap-around windshield and other design features. Being a vehicle built to order, there are no Facel paint charts. The buyer selected a color that appealed, and the company would mix it to match. That means determining this classic’s original paint shade is difficult, but there’s evidence it may have been a non-metallic shade of Deep Blue. The panels have dings and dents, and I can see evidence of Bondo in some panels. The buyer will probably elect to strip the shell to bare metal, which would be worth the effort considering the potential value of this car. The best news for potential buyers is that the Facel is structurally sound. The frame is solid, and most of the steel is reasonable, but the buyer may need to fabricate a few parts and patches to complete the bodyshell restoration. The only thing that concerns me is that while there are supplied photos showing a collection of parts, I can’t see a windshield or back window. The buyer must hope they are present because locating replacements could prove a long and expensive process.

The seller indicates this Facel is numbers-matching, although someone dismantled the engine. The components are all present, meaning performing a rebuild may not prove challenging. It’s also worth noting that the powerplant in an HK500 is not some exotic motor made from pure unobtainium. Facel filled the engine bay with Chrysler’s legendary 383ci V8 which produced 355hp. In keeping with its luxury leanings, they bolted a three-speed automatic transmission behind the V8, while power steering and power brakes were standard features. The company created the HK500 as a Grand Tourer that could still cover the ¼ mile in 15 seconds before winding its way to 135mph. The other unknown with this classic is its interior. I can’t see evidence of seat frames or upholstered components. Potential buyers may need to approach the seller to ascertain what needs to go onto their shopping list. Returning the interior to its former glory may not be cheap, but doing a high-quality and accurate job is essential to maximize the buyer’s potential return on their investment.

The rarity of the 1960 Facel Vega HK500 means that this car’s new owner is unlikely to park beside a similar example at a Cars & Coffee. Returning it to its former glory will be a long process, but it appears most of the vital components required to achieve that goal are present. The seller quotes a potential value of $250,000 – $300,000 by the time the new owner finishes waving their magic wand, and recent sales support that figure. It may seem overwhelming, but it is worth remembering that the lack of penetrating rust means that whipping the body into shape should be no more difficult than for any classic from this era. Facel’s decision to utilize drivetrain components from Chrysler helps the cause because its dismantled motor should hold no mysteries for a competent mechanic. It doesn’t represent a cheap starting point for a project build, but if done correctly, the rarity and potential return on the investment could make it worth the effort. Have I convinced you?

Comments

  1. Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

    As a former Facel-Vega owner, I can state this is probably the cheapest HK500 available today. But it’s gonna take another $150k or more to make it a $250K vehicle. The only cheap part of this restoration is the Chrysler drive train. Facels are notorious for soaking up lots of cash.

    Like 7
    • BlondeUXB Member

      From the looks of the parts pile you’ll be looking for that cheap Chrysler drive train…

  2. Will Fox

    The seller’s guesstimate of what this is worth restored is fairly low. `57-`59 examples have gone for over $450K! No question as to the worth of restoring this. This is a guaranteed investment a buyer won’t lose any money on.$30K to buy? You’d make that up more than 10 times! Mind you, Facel Vegas of this caliber will need probably over $150K to restore, but guaranteed it will be in a class all it’s own when finished, and worthy of entry in ANY “Concours” high-tea car show!

    Like 1
  3. Kim in Lanark

    Actually, that’s kind of my dream. I would do it as a restomod, drop a 5.7 hemi and modern drivetrain in, with a modern interior. You know, multi speakers, a/c, GPS on a 10 inch screen, etc.

    I’ll let myself out.

    Like 1
    • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

      Kim,

      Go for it, If you’ve got the $150k to do it right as a restomod, and don’t mind losing a potential of $250+k in resell value.

      But keep in mind that the purists will cringe, while the majority of guys who do like restomods will look at it and say “A what? What kind of Vega?”

      Like 2
  4. Greg Millard

    May the buyer be young with many years available to search/fabricate the butter-soft interior leather furniture, Veglia concave face instruments in a hand painted faux-wood dashboard, and miscellaneous hand made trim. Jean Daninos made a statement 70 years +/- ago which, starting with this will be extremely tough to realize. Good luck.

    • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

      Greg,
      On putting my Facel-Vega Excellence into the shop for the first time, as I began to look closely at the instrument panel many years ago, and having owned and restored multiple British cars with genuine wood facia panels, I was astounded to realize the beautiful wood facia panel was in fact hand painted sheet aluminum!

      Based on the square inches alone, that hand painted set of panels can be one of the most expensive assemblies on the car, as it takes a special painter who has an understanding of what Burr [burl] walnut grain looks like up close.

      And while Dynoc vinyl covering on the outside body panels of a 1960s American station wagon looks kinda like wood from 10 feet away, it looks terribly cheap when it’s about 18″ in front of you as you sit in the front seat! I know this from servicing a Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud that the owner had installed Dynoc on his facia panels himself [and was very proud of the job!].

      Like 1
  5. George Birth

    Price on this one in the condition it’s in plus the cost to restore this on is a bit steep. probably turn out to be a real beauty if somebody had $130K-180K to finish it.

    Like 1
  6. Lowell Peterson

    Two fabulously valid resto projects on the same saturday? I love this dite today. Wow. C’mon flippers! Get this right and you can make some cash and cache’!

  7. Luigi

    Zees ees an outrage!

  8. Jack Leary

    Back in 1981 in Towson Maryland there was a Facel Vega sitting in a parking garage of a condo building. Covered in dust, 4 flats and apparently left to rot away. It looked like a cast of ex cop Gran Marquis on any street corner of today. Crazy what money was left to rot.

    • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

      Jack,

      Growing up in the close-in wealthy suburbs of Washington DC in the late 1960s, my best friend and I used to prowl the underground parking garages of the large upscale apartment complexes, looking for rare cars.

      1600 Massachusetts Avenue NW Washington, DC was one of our favorite haunts. Built in the late 1950s, it had several levels of indoor protected garages. Because so many of the elderly residents didn’t have a car, or at best a single car, there were plenty of extra parking spaces, so the management would rent out spaces for long-term storage.

      But one car that always fascinated us was parked in one of the better parking spaces reserved for residents. It was a 1959 Imperial Southampton 2-door hardtop, maroon with the stainless steel roof sections. It was always covered in dust, the tires flat, the whitewalls turned brown from years of neglect. This big car was loaded with options including A/C, and the odometer always listed the same mileage: 00007.2. Yeah, 7.2 miles.

      About 1976 I wrote a letter to the management company about the car, and their reply simply amazed me. The letter said that the car was not for sale, the owner of the car was a wealthy resident who leased one of the top floor penthouses. He lived in Europe, but in 1959 he visited Washington, DC, and decided he wanted to have a home in the city so he leased the fully decorated penthouse. He bought the car and parked it in the garage. He never returned, but continued to pay the lease on the penthouse. Someone would inspect the residence yearly, but it remained as it was in 1959.

      In the mid 1980s the car vanished, and on checking further I found the owner had died and everything had been “removed”, including the Imperial. To this day I have never seen the car again, nor has a similar “brand new” 1959 Imperial come to light. I suspect it was simply scrapped.

      Over the years I’ve fantasized about not just a NEW 1959 Imperial, but how that penthouse must have appeared, fully furnished in what would certainly have been the best products available in 1959, and never used.

      Like 5
  9. Kim in Lanark

    Bill, I don’t have the 150k to fix it up, nor do I have the 30k to buy what in any other vehicle would be considered a parts donor. However, assuming someoe buys it and spends the dough for a 98 point restoration, that car will spend its days sitting in a heated garage with a drip pan under the engine, and maybe hauled to Pebble Beach etc. This would be a driver in the hills and turns of the Driftless Region, and definitely attending local Cruise Nights.

    Like 1
    • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

      Kim, I fully understand and approve of what you would like to do if you had the opportunity, I just want people who are contemplating what path to take, to be fully cognizant of the realities of how much less the car might be worth after pouring so much cash into it’s build.

      I remember meeting a man who owned a 1964 Rolls-Royce Cloud III drophead coupe. He was told by a shop that if he did a full restoration it would be worth less than if he did a full custom rod, so he spent about $100k on turning it into a high-quality custom, and he learned on it’s completion it was worth less than HALF of what it would be worth if it had been fully restored.

      I found out about the car because I bought all the mechanical Rolls-Royce parts from the shop doing the work, and when the owner called me about getting a Rolls-Royce trim part, we got together and I learned the shop had told him the parts had been sent for scrap.

      So I have always tried to explain all the consequences involved in spending money on major work for an older vehicle.

      Like 3
  10. Kim in Lanark

    Bill, I agree. It seems actually that this would be one of the few times you could fully restore a rust pile like the Facel and actually make money doing it.

    Like 1
  11. chrlsful

    “…no more difficult than for any classic from this era…”
    “…involved in spending money on major work for an older vehicle….”

    Love the make, model (& the FV Excellence) and yr. But will say
    1). finding the missing pieces too overburdening and 2). expensive for this
    lill shop. Sure love to tackle it tho.

    Like 1
  12. Manny Motashaw

    If this is a numbers matching car, then finding out the original specifications is an easy task. All one has to do is join the French Club, The Amicale Facel who hold most, if not all, of the surviving factory records. They will be able to tell exterior and interior colours as well as the first owner.

    Like 1
  13. Mitchell

    What to complain about restoration cost and later value?
    Because by their low number production Facel are always
    a solid ‘investment’. Here in Europe well-known restoration
    companies make the missing parts from scratch. And
    specialists for interior parts exist.
    With such an exuberant car, everything that is oxidised in
    any way must be replaced with new parts.
    Because otherwise the quality of the work done is not
    reflected in the current value.
    That’s just something different than just drop a “new”
    engine and “refit” the rusty sheet metal with rust converter.
    I have seen many “restored” cars like this.
    All the previously rusty sheet metal parts that have been
    repainted can be 10 years later knocked out with a hammer.

    Like 1

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