Arguably the prettiest of the big FVs, the Facel Vega II still looks good today.
Facel Vega Facel II
While the small Facellia was busy going nowhere, Jean Daninos treated his rugged “senior” chassis to a second restyle. The result, called Facel II, was too costly to generate the kind of sales that might have saved the company, but it was undeniably the best Facel of all.
Styling wasn’t the new model’s only attraction, just the most noticeable. Glassier and more angular in the contemporary idiom yet unmistakably Facel, it can still turn heads more than a quarter-century later. Compared with the HK500, the Facel II was a tad narrower and lower but rode the same 105-inch wheelbase, so it was just as much a 2 + 2 rather than a full four-seater.
Nevertheless, it looked wider thanks to a lower nose and grille, matched by more neatly integrated Marchal headlamps, still vertically stacked quads. In place of the old wrapped windshield and knee-banging A-posts were simply angled non-dogleg pillars and a taller windshield curved slightly at the top as well as at the sides.
The rear window was similarly contoured, both front and rear glass more steeply raked, the roof flatter, C-pillars slimmer. All this gave the Facel II a much airier appearance than the HK500 despite retention of a fairly high beltline. Lower-body contours were squared up, especially at the rear, but deft use of chrome accents kept the car from looking “fat.”
Beneath the new exterior was basically the same rolling chassis found on late-model HK500s. The Chrysler 383 V-8 was now rated at 355 horsepower with optional TorqueFlite automatic transmission or a smashing 390 bhp with the standard Pont-a-Mousson 4-speed manual. Carburetion made the difference: one and two four-barrel Carter instruments, respectively. Standard disc brakes were also retained, as was power steering, still optional with manual transmission and standard on automatic cars.
Aircraft-style instruments and controls were a hallmark of these Franco-American GTs
With its new styling, the Facel II not only looked more aerodynamic than the HK500 but by all accounts was. And as curb weight was actually reduced by about 400 pounds, its performance was even more formidable. Curiously, 0-60 mph still took a fraction less than 8.5 seconds, but top speed was up to 150 mph, enough to rival the speediest Italian and British supercars of the day.
Unhappily, the Facel II was as much a victim of the Facellia debacle as Facel Vega itself, and only 184 (some sources quote 182) had been built by the time the firm was forced to close its doors in late 1964. Altogether, Facel completed only some 1270 of its Franco-American GTs in 10 years.
Richard M. Langworth, writing in Collectible Automobile® magazine, opined that “it’s probably just as well that Facel died when it did. It’s difficult to imagine what its cars would have been like in the age of emission controls and 5-mph bumpers...As it stands, the Facel record isn’t bad for a firm of its size.”
Langworth then went on to quote writer Bernard Cahier, who provided this fitting epitaph: “[The Facel Vega was part of] that elite group of classic, high-powered touring machines which were immortalized in the prewar days by such as Duesenberg, the Talbot, and the Delahaye...Daninos created a car of which France could be proud, and much credit must be given to his efforts and persistence in creating such a superb machine.”
We can put it more succinctly. A good work is its own reward, and the automotive world is that much better for Jean Daninos and his dream.
To learn more about Facel and other sports cars, see:
- How Sports Cars Work
- Sports Cars of the 60s
- New Sports Car Reviews
- Used Sport Car Reviews
- Muscle Cars
- How Ferrari Works
- How the Ford Mustang Works