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1954-1964 Facel Vega

1956, 1957, 1958, 1959 Facel Vega Road Test

Now let's try a Facel Vega road test. If the Facel Vega performed well, the Facel Vega FVS was a stormer. Typical examples ran 0-60 mph in 10.5 seconds and could reach two miles per minute with the 2.93:1 rear axle ratio. Production cards indicate that 227 of these cars were built for 1956-1957. Over three-fourths were exported, mostly to America.

Unhappily, the FVS suffered from one serious flaw: poor front-end geometry. Perhaps because of America's rough secondary roads, wheel alignment was a much-too-frequent necessity, and suspension overhauls required after as few as 20,000 miles were not uncommon.

1956-1957 Facel Vega FVS
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
Vega's successor was the 1956-1957 FVS, with wrapped windshield and more hemi power but the same 103.5-inch wheelbase. Just 227 were built. Most came to America.

But Daninos sold the FVS as fast as he could build it -- and at a modest profit. Another 130 were completed for 1958, now on a wheelbase lengthened 1.5 inches to an even 105 and powered by the 325-bhp Chrysler 354 hemi.

This mighty engine was continued on the HK-500, the little-changed FVS successor announced in 1959, and was good for that 140-mph maximum.

Daninos had obviously latched on to a good thing: the American horsepower race. Every time Chrysler produced a hairier V-8, Facel happily bought a small batch for its Parisian flyers. After Chrysler switched to the 383-cid wedge-head for some of its 1959 models, Facel followed suit.

The presence of automatic on most HK-500s didn't seem to make much difference. Motor Life magazine timed the standing quarter-mile in 17.3 seconds at 78 mph, while The Motor in England scored a second less and about 8 mph more with the Pont-à-Mousson four-speed.

"One of the world's fastest and most controllable luxury sports saloons," was the British magazine's verdict. The American publication was more enthusiastic, giving the HK-500 "a full quota of gold stars as one of the world's finest automobiles."

Another Facel Vega fan was Mechanix Illustrated magazine's Tom McCahill, who boasted the largest following of any road test writer in America.

In typical fashion, he called the HK-500 "sexier than the Place Pigalle and throatier than a Russian basso ... a sporting piece of equipment that looks like money, which is exactly what it costs ... a car to be appreciated as a remarkable and wonderfully satisfying road companion."

Next came the four-door. We cover it on the next page.

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