1959 Facel Vega HK500 s/n HK J2-0426, Engine no. TY41834 Pale Yellow with Bordeaux Leather Post war Europe saw the emergence of some of the most innovative automotive companies and engineering ideas the modern world had ever seen. Companies had learned so much about mass production, they were eager to meet the opportunities in the growing world market for sporting and luxury cars. When French steel-press manufacturer Facel S.A. decided it was time to build their own car, they approached their project with pride, craftsmanship, and excellence not only in manufacturing but in the finest design and quality for each of their limited production cars. Automobile stamping was not new to Facel. They had already provided bodies for a range of companies including Ford, Panhard, Simca, and Delahaye, so it was not to great a leap for them to assume a car of their own complete design. After a series of developments with luxury brands including Bentley and the handsome Ford Comete, and work in the aviation industry, Facel debuted the “Vega” model in 1954. The design was large and yet sporty, with a low roofline, dramatic wraparound windshield, featuring wire wheels, and a potent V8 engine. Emplo
Jean Daninos, the founder of Facel, believed that even in the 1950's France needed a prestigious, exclusive, fast, comfortable, beautiful, luxurious automobile to carry on the tradition of its great marques like Bugatti, Delahaye, Delage and Talbot-Lago. A successful tool maker and manufacturer with interests in a variety of metal-working enterprises, Daninos created the Facel Vega, the first, and still one of the greatest, European-American hybrids, to express his vision in metal. Daninos and his resident designer, Jacques Brasseur, created a robust but largely conventional chassis with independent front suspension and a live rear axle. To it was welded Brasseur's masterpiece, a low, smooth-sided body -- described by Michael Sedgwick as a 'pavilion' -- on which was placed a thin pillared coupe greenhouse with generous glass area. The interior, particularly the dashboard and instrument panel, was equally simple and eloquent with lever controls, big instruments and generous, comfortable front seats. To propel this beautiful vehicle Facel obtained big, long-legged V-8 engines from Chrysler in America. At introduction at the 1954 Paris Show this was a 276 cubic inch, 180 horsepower DeSoto Firedome, but it was soon supplanted by larger and more powerful Chrysler engines, eventually reaching 383 cubic inches in 1959. Production continued but Facel tried to create a smaller version, the Facellia, with a proprietary 1.6 liter twin cam four that proved to be difficult and drained the company's resources. Even a revised HK500, the Facel II, could not keep the company alive. The HK500 is the best of the Facels, and it was chosen by a litany of wealthy, famed and powerful owners including William A.M. Burden (great-grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt and one-time owner of the Miller V-16 road car), Count Volpi (patron of Scuderia Serenissima), Danny Kaye, Stirling Moss, Tony Curtiss, Richard Starkey (better known as Ringo Starr), the King of Morocco and the first owner of this HK500, Arthur Christopher John Soames. Educated at Eton and Sandhurst, Soames served in World War II with the Coldstream Guards earning the Croix de Guerre in 1942. In 1947 he married Mary Churchill, youngest daughter of Sir Winston and Lady Spencer Churchill, turning to politics in the early 50's after his Army career and serving in a number of important posts including difficult assignments as Ambassador to France 1968-72 during a time of strained relations and in 1979-80 as the last British Governor of Rhodesia, negotiating the colony's transition into the nation of Zimbabwe. He bought this Facel Vega HK500 in 1959 while serving as the UK's Secretary of State for War in the Harold MacMillan government. His accomplishments earned him a lifetime peerage, Baron Soames of Fletching, in 1979. Christopher (as he preferred) Soames' Facel Vega is righthand drive and is marked by its engine, the powerful dual four-barrel carburetor 383 Chrysler of 350 or so horsepower, and 4-speed Pont-a- Mousson manual gearbox, the latter a rare and highly desirable option to the standard Chrysler Torqueflite automatic. The engine is correctly numbered FY7 for its Facel Vega application and has it correct air cleaner assemblies. It is equipped with power windows, power steering, European style headlights, Motorola solid state radio and has a set of new Borrani centerlock wire wheels with 3-ear Facel Vega nuts, another rare and desirable factory option. It was comprehensively restored in every detail in the 90's and comes from its second subsequent owner. The attention to detail in the bodywork, light yellow paint, oxblood leather upholstery and interior trim, engine compartment and trunk is exceptional. Facel Vegas are noted for their extensive use of stainless steel for exterior brightwork, even the bumpers, and the highly polished bright trim on this example is a delight to see. Soames was known as much for his sense of humor as for his size (contemporaries noted when he became ambassador to France that he was taller than Charles deGaulle) and his HK500's license plate proudly proclaims it to be 'Winston'. This is not only one of the best Facel Vega HK500s in existence, it also has the most desirable dual 4-barrel 383 engine, 4-speed manual gearbox and Borrani centerlock wire wheels. Its Christopher Soames provenance is the crowning feature on a singular automobile.