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.
Two more Facels for sale
No sooner had I written about the HK500 coming up for auction on September 8 than Silverstone Auctions’ 150-page catalogue came crashing through the letterbox giving details of its sale at the Salon Privé at Syon Park to the West of London on September 4, including the details of two more Facels.
This, I would suggest, is Silverstone’s biggest and most prestigious auction, including some pretty high profile cars such as Lamborghini Miura, a couple of important Bentleys, several high value Ferraris, three E-type Jaguars, a Lagonda Rapide and both a left-hand drive HK500 and a right-hand drive Facel II.
The Facel II is chassis number HK2 – A122, originally owned by government stock exchange jobber and sometime power boat racer R. S. (Dick) Wilkins, delivered new to him in March 1962. It was finished in Iridescent blue with a blue interior and had an automatic gearbox, radio and Borrani disc wheels. It was variously registered 957 XPE, then 1 NPC in 1963, and PPP22 in the 1970s, 870HYL.
Wilkins didn’t own it long, and it moved on to a Mr Marriott less than a year later and then to a Mr Cowley in 1966. John Elvins of Leatherhead owned it for 20 years or more, registering it PPP22 from 1973, and it was later owned by James Radley and John Barton.
It was exported to Malaysia in 1997 where it was registered WGE8263 and was fitted with a tan interior, before being sent to Germany. It was then put up for sale by restorers Diemer and Dahlheimer for around €120,000 but you had to have the car restored by them.
That strategy didn’t work, so, having covered some 100,000 miles, it came up for auction by Artcurial at Retromobile in Paris in 2013 with an estimate of €90-130,000 and sold for just under top estimate to Justin Banks who of course has owned several other Facels, including the ex-Ringo Starr Facel II. Like that car, this car has been restored by Orchard View Classics near Maidstone. Its engine didn’t turn over when bought and it had been black at one time.
It is once again Iridescent blue now with beige interior and the engine has been rebuilt by John Pearson, as has the gearbox. However, it doesn’t currently feature power steering, according to the catalogue which says some £50,000 has been spent on the restoration. It has a current MoT, its estimate is £250-£300,000 and it is now registered VSY666.
The HK500 for sale has come from the States and is therefore a left-hand drive car. It is recorded in the catalogue as being chassis number HKB E5X, the X was for some reason added to some cars for the US market. This would make it number 600 in Facel’s production run, delivered in December 1959 to Satori, one of the US Facel agents. It was automatic in metallic silver, with a red interior and wearing Borrani disc wheels, disc brakes and tinted windows.
There is little history given by the auctioneers but it has been restored by the Byrnes Motor Trust Restoration Inc which is a massive restoration company at Clark Field in the Philippines, run by one James Byrnes. You can see a picture of the car in the blog at this site: http://www.vintagerollsroycecars.com/blog/?p=262
It is still silver but now with black leather seats and it now has a four speed manual gearbox, maybe not a PàM – cars in the US have been known to be fitted with a GM box. The car certainly looks good in the pics, although there are none of the interior apart from the dashboard. Interestingly, its estimate is £145-£165,000. Both cars come up for auction on September 4.