Facel news from Bob

By keeping an eye open on the auction houses, we’re hoping to let you know about every Facel Vega that comes up for sale – at least in right hand drive form or in the UK.

The first of these is this HK500 which is being offered for sale by RM Auctions in London on September 8 (see http://www.rmauctions.com/lots/lot.cfm?lot_id=1068688)

As the blurb explains, this is HK BC2 which was delivered new in December 1959 to Sir Christopher Soames, the son-in-law of Sir Winston Churchill and one time UK Ambassador to Paris. It was originally deep green with beige interior, wire wheels with disc brakes, about the 48th to go through HWM. It has spent much of its life in the USA.

Christopher Soames, as he preferred to be called, was born in 1920 to a brewing family which had married into the landed gentry. He served as the Assistant Military Attaché in Paris during World War II, and after the war, he entered politics as a Conservative Member of Parliament for Bedford. He was Under-Secretary of State for Air from 1955 to 1957 in the Anthony Eden government, and under Harold Macmillan, he was the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty from 1957 to 1958. In the 1955 Birthday Honours, he was invested as Commander of the Order of the British Empire. He married Mary Churchill, the youngest daughter of Winston and Clementine Hozier Churchill, in 1947, and he was made a life peer in 1978.

Baron Soames purchased this HK500 while serving as Harold MacMillan’s Secretary of State for War. It is right-hand-drive and features the twin-carburettor, 6.2-litre engine and a Pont-a-Mousson four-speed manual gearbox, although it was automatic at one stage of its life. It is now equipped with power windows, windscreen washers, power steering, European-style headlamps (it spent much of its life in the USA), and a Motorola solid state radio, and it has a set of new Borrani centre-lock wire wheels with three-ear Facel Vega knock-ons.

Soames’ ownership is confirmed by records of the British, French, and Dutch Facel clubs. He apparently sold the car to the son of another Member of Parliament, who in turn sold it to Mrs Coralie Leighty, of Los Angeles, California, in the late 1970s. She loved the car and kept it until 1989 when it was sold to Mark Hyman, the well-known US car dealer who has a penchant for Facel Vegas.

It was subsequently sold to Russell Steele, a helicopter pilot in Washington State who had it completely restored by Facel specialist Gary Overby, of Seattle. The restoration was comprehensive and meticulous, and it was completed in the 1990s. It was a body-off operation which left no detail untouched. Five new Borrani wheels were fitted at this time, and an extensive file of restoration invoices and details accompanies the car.

It also changed colour: it is now painted in light yellow and has oxblood leather upholstery and interior trim, whilst the carpeting is dark grey. The exterior stainless steel brightwork is highly polished and in excellent condition. The instrument panel is the familiar burl wood pattern with Jaeger gauges and an electric clock. Both the engine and luggage compartments are meticulously detailed and correctly appointed.

The estimate for this HK500 is £145-175,000.

Lot 136

1959 Facel Vega HK500 Coupé

To be auctioned on Monday, September 8, 2014

£145,000 – £175,000

Chassis no. HK BC2

Engine no. TY731567

Production no. 579

360 bhp, 6,279 cc OHV V-8 engine, four-speed manual gearbox, coil-spring independent front suspension, live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel hydraulic disc brakes. Wheelbase: 2,667 mm

Original owner was Lord Soames, the son-in-law of Sir Winston Churchill

Franco-American elegance and British heritage

Meticulous restoration

A grand routier for all continents

1959_Facel_Vega_HK500_Coupé_London_2014_RM_AUCTIONS_-_2014-08-30_18.17.24

One could hardly find a car more cosmopolitan than this Franco-American Coupé, which was delivered new to a British peer. This right-hand-drive 1959 Facel Vega HK500 was delivered new to Arthur Christopher John Soames, a British politician and the son-in-law to Winston Churchill.

The Facel Vega, of course, was the brainchild of Jean Daninos, a Parisian-born engineer of Greek ancestry. He worked for Citroën in body engineering and as the head of special vehicles, but he left after the Michelin takeover. He founded Métallon, a fabricator of kitchen cabinets and sinks, and in 1939, he established Forges et Atéliers de Construction d’Eure-et-Loire, or FACEL for short. The two firms combined and made aero engines during World War II.

After the war, Facel-Métallon produced bodies for the Dyna Panhard, the Simca, and Ford of France’s Cométe Coupé. In 1954, Daninos decided to try his hand at a complete car. He mounted a Chrysler Hemi V-8 engine on a tubular chassis frame with box-section cross-members, and he used either Chrysler’s Powerflite automatic gearbox or the French Pont-a-Mousson fully synchronised four-speed manual unit. Suspension was in the American idiom: coil-spring independent in the front and a live axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs at the rear. The body was Facel’s own, and it was executed in steel with stainless brightwork. A few convertibles were built, but most were four-passenger pillarless coupés.

The first cars were designated FV, and by 1956, a 5,407-cubic centimetre Chrysler Hemi-powered version was introduced as the FV2B. Power-assisted steering became available, and an Excellence four-door pillarless saloon was displayed at the Paris Motor Show late in 1957. In 1958, several engines were offered, with the largest being a 5,801-cubic centimetre Hemi, and the Excellence reached production, with 22 being built.

A modest restyling heralded in 1959, and the coupé was now called the HK500. During the year, the Chrysler 6,279-cubic centimetre “wedge” engine, which was replacing the Hemi in the United States, was made available. With twin four-throat Carter carburettors, it made 360 brake horsepower. Tom McCahill, the loquacious auto critic for Mechanix Illustrated, called it “sexier than the Place Pigalle and throatier than a Russian basso”.

Christopher Soames, as he preferred to be called, was born in 1920 to a brewing family which had married into the landed gentry. He served as the Assistant Military Attaché in Paris during World War II, and after the war, he entered politics as a Conservative Member of Parliament for Bedford. He was Under-Secretary of State for Air from 1955 to 1957 in the Anthony Eden government, and under Harold Macmillan, he was the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty from 1957 to 1958. In the 1955 Birthday Honours, he was invested as Commander of the Order of the British Empire. He married Mary Churchill, the youngest daughter of Winston and Clementine Hozier Churchill, in 1947, and he was made a life peer in 1978.

Baron Soames purchased this 1959 HK500 Coupé whilst serving as Harold MacMillan’s Secretary of State for War. It is of the right-hand-drive configuration and features the twin-carburettor, 6.2-litre engine and a comparatively rare Pont-a-Mousson four-speed manual gearbox. It is equipped with power windows, windscreen washers, power steering, European-style headlamps, and a Motorola solid state radio, and it has a set of new Borrani centre-lock wire wheels with three-ear Facel Vega knock-ons, which is another rare and desirable factory option.

Soames’ ownership is confirmed by records of the British, French, and Dutch Facel clubs. He apparently sold the car to the son of another Member of Parliament, who in turn sold it to Mrs Coralie Leighty, of Los Angeles, California, in the late 1970s. She loved the car and kept it until 1989. It was subsequently sold to Russell Steele, a helicopter pilot in Washington State who had it completely restored by Facel specialist Gary Overby, of Seattle. The restoration was comprehensive and meticulous, and it was completed in the 1990s. It was a body-off operation which left no detail untouched. Five new Borrani wheels were fitted at this time, and an extensive file of restoration invoices and details accompanies the car.

It is painted in light yellow and has oxblood leather upholstery and interior trim, whilst the carpeting is dark grey. Exterior brightwork is stainless steel throughout, and it is highly polished and in excellent condition. The instrument panel is a burl wood pattern with Jaeger gauges and an electric clock. Both the engine and luggage compartments are meticulously detailed and correctly appointed.

As the Facel Vega is a subtle crossbreeding of French flair with American practicality, it is comfortable on all continents. It is fast, cosy, and elegant—a real grand routier in the proper sense. With just 190 built, all by hand, in 1959, it is a worthy legatee to the pre-war, coachbuilt European prestige automobiles. On condition alone, this car is amongst the best extant. As it is equipped with right-hand drive, the dual-carburettor wedge engine, and a rare manual gearbox, it is part of a very select constituency. With its Churchill family and political provenance, it is incomparable.

 

Jon Goodwins Facel

Restoration of 200JPK Part II

Moorland Classic Cars’ long-time customer Jon Goodwin bought 200JPK back in 2002/3 and so began a long journey to rejuvenate a true classic.
Part 1 of the restoration was documented in Facel Letter in November 2003 when my brother and business partner, Martin, chronicled the mechanical restoration of the vehicle.

 

test

After running 200JPK for six or seven years and entering it into numerous events, Jon decided the Facel was starting to show too many signs of a mediocre body restoration and respray which had been carried out several years before he bought the car. So early in 2010 he commissioned us to begin the restoration.
We agreed that we would dismantle the entire car, except for the running gear, to carry out the task.
Before we started we decided it would be sensible to tackle the problem of ‘raining in’ around the door and rear quarter windows, as they didn’t actually have a seal as such. New seal retainers were fabricated and fitted, as the originals which simply didn’t seal, were just not fit for purpose. However, by chance we discovered that Ford Escort MK1 rear quarter window seals were the perfect profile to do the job on the rear quarter windows of 200JPK. Once we were happy they were leak tested and found to be watertight – a great result.
Now the car was ready to be dismantled. Everything was photographed, labelled and packed away.
The paint and layers of ‘body filler’ were removed to reveal a multitude of previous repairs to sills, doors, wheel arches and so on… At this point we also decided to scrape off a thick layer of underseal on the underside and in the boot which revealed even more dodgy repairs.
Every panel and part of the car needed a repair or re-repair – even the roof! This had rotted, as had the bottom of the pillars and the joints along both gutter seams. These had previously been repaired (a term I use quite loosely in this case) with body lead. The two front screen pillars were no longer actually attached to the rest of the car, apart from with half a kilo of lead which had cracked through!
We hand-formed new sections and welded them in. In addition, all of the glass and trims needed to be refitted once more. At the same time we fabricated new sills, lower sections of all four wings, rear arches (inners and outers) and welded them into place. As you can imagine, this is a massive task and took months of painstaking work.
Next, the bonnet and bootlid skins were removed. The bootlid outerskin had a section ‘wheeled’ up and welded in, while the inner was repaired and blasted, then fitted back together. We could see that the bonnet skin was just too bad to re-use so a new skin for this was also ‘wheeled’ up and the original centre scoop spot welded back in. The two skins were then bonded back together using a modern panel adhesive – a compound which is used by many vehicle manufacturers today, thus avoiding any distortion.
Many areas of the complicated chassis were found to be severely corroded, so we hand formed new sections and welded them into place.
Both doors had previously been repaired, but not to the high standard the car now merited, so these sections were cut out and replaced with new ‘shaped’ sections which we welded in (edge to edge).
During the many months of the restoration, Jon had various ideas on a colour change which he felt would enhance the finished look. From the start he felt a blue –an elegant ‘French’ blue, would be ideal but couldn’t decide on an exact shade. We agreed the best way to trial the colour was on a model, so Jon purchased several HK500 1:18 diecast models, and we masked and painted them up in various colours from metallic green to gloss black. Eventually, we formulated a colour in-house which fitted the ‘French Blue’ theme; the model was painted and the decision made.
Once all of the steelwork was finished and all the trim and bumpers fitted up, the painting process began. Many hours of priming and flatting by hand followed to gain the shape and finish required.
Finally, the topcoat in Base and Clear was applied and then ‘colour sanded’ with 2000 grit sandpaper. This was then buffed to a ‘glass flat’ concours finish.
The colour was a perfect complement to the lines of the car. It looked stunning!
The next job was to prepare and paint the boot area in satin black.
All of the original trim and carpets were refitted and it has to be said that the original patina of the seats – that unique aged look and irreplaceable lustre – is one of the car’s greatest assets.
All of the brightwork and bumpers, being made from stainless steel were ‘machine polished’ back to their former glory, with any small dents being knocked out and flatted prior to polishing.
We agreed that the aluminium outer sill covers had really seen better days and so decided to fabricate new ones in mirror polished stainless steel to match the bumper lines and both ends.
Jon decided that the ‘Frog’ mascot previously fitted needed to go back on as part of the car’s history, and I have to say that drilling a hole in the bonnet skin I had spent so many hours making and fitting was not a pleasant experience. But I must admit, once the frog was in place it did look perfectly at home.
To complement the stunning presence of the grill and light arrangement at the front of the car, a motorcycle-sized number plate was created and fitted. While not strictly legal it really does keep the look tidy at the front.
200JPK was almost finished and the last decision to be made was on the style of the wheels. Jon felt that chrome wires were in order, so we tried several spoke styles and rim widths before agreeing upon the ‘centre laced’ rims.
The final ‘spit and polish’ was applied and the car delivered back to Jon’s stable, amid snowy weather, on Christmas Eve, 2010 enabling Jon to unveil it to his family during the Christmas festivities. It was almost 12 months since we had begun this mammoth task and a huge sigh of relief was breathed by all involved. A rare classic given a stunning new lease of life, hopefully for generations to enjoy.

Tony Hine, Moorland Classic Cars.