Sleeping beauty: Facel Vega HK500 wakes up after 50-year slumber

by Gavin Braithwaite-Smith
17 March 2023 2 min read
Sleeping beauty: Facel Vega HK500 wakes up after 50-year slumber
Photos: H&H

Launched in 1959, the HK500 version of the Facel Vega was, at the time, one of Europe’s fastest and most glamorous grand tourers. The company called it ‘the fastest four-seater sports coupé in the world’, pointing to its 150mph top speed.

Owners included Ava Gardner, Ringo Starr, Joan Fontaine, Tony Curtis, Pablo Picasso, Maurice Trintignant and a certain Stirling Moss, who preferred his HK500 to flying.

The Chrysler 5.7-litre V8 which powered the earliest cars was upgraded to a 6.3-litre V8, developing 330bhp with the Chrysler three-speed automatic transmission, or 360bhp with the Pont-A-Mousson four-speed manual gearbox.

Either way, there were few more pleasant ways for an international jetsetter to hotfoot from a West End show to breakfast in Saint-Tropez. Even flying was second to the HK500.

On the subject of acceleration, Autocar said: “Perhaps the greatest fun is when some zombie tries to carve you up while getting away from traffic lights; find a gap, snatch into second, and you simply rocket away from him – 40 to 60mph in 3.8sec!”

Officially, the HK500 could hit 60mph in seven seconds, but few Facel Vega owners would lower themselves to discuss such vulgar matters.

It’s been a while since this 1960 Facel Vega HK500 rocketed away from anyone, but it is in a zombified state. H&H says it has been garaged for the past five decades, taken for its last MOT in 1972 at a recorded 55,000 miles.

Of all the Facel Vega models, the HK500 was built in the greatest numbers, with 490 leaving the factory on the outskirts of Paris. Just 98 were supplied new to the UK, which makes this an incredibly rare opportunity to acquire one – and, no doubt, an enthralling long-term restoration project for those who like to rise to a challenge.

H&H says the sleeping beauty was woken from its slumber in February 2023 but it “has the makings of a very rewarding project”.

There’s no reserve, but it’s worth noting from the Hagerty Price Guide that it’s likely to be worth anything from £57,400 to £207,000 when complete. Breakfast in Saint-Tropez will have to wait.

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  • Don Manning says:

    When do you think MG-R’s will be recognized in the US car world? I have mine insured agreed value with Hagerty, but this car does not show up at all in the Hagerty Price guide.

    • James Mills says:

      Good question, Don. I will pass it to our team behind the Hagerty Price Guide, and come back to you with feedback. Thank you. James Mills, Editor.

    • James Mills says:

      Don, the Hagerty Valuation team in the UK ask whether you mean the MG RV8 or the R-Type. We don’t list the MG R-Type (or Q-Type) as they were built for racing. We avoid ‘purebred’ racing cars in the Hagerty Price Guide for all except the most prominent models because the value is so reliant on the history of the car and driver that a Guide price will be too wide to be useful. If you mean the MG RV8, then it is included, here:

      Hope that’s helpful.

      James Mills, Editor

  • Alex Phillips says:

    The facel vega, another one of those cars I could have afforded. Always loved the concept.
    Simple mechanical engineering with a special body.HWM in Surrey was the UK importer. Some good stories about those early days in the book about the garage.

  • Patrick Mullee says:

    As a teenager my uncle Cyril whom I worked for on a Saturday morning one of my duties was to clean the car. He sold his Jaguar and bought a Facel Vega reg FSO 1. A butcher by trade but he was also a rugby league player. When the shop closed we would drive through the town like Batman and Robin to the rugby club. I was around 14 years of age then and he would buy me a pint of Tetley Bitter. Amazingly there was 3 Facel Vegas in Warrington at that point in time. The other two were owned by the late Jack Hakenhall. Happy Happy days.

  • Stephen Easton says:

    I was lucky enough as a trainee car salesman working in Chelsea in 1966 where we took in PX Ringo Starr Metallic Red Facel from memory at the time it had 10,000 miles on the clock & had the pleasure of driving it .

  • Julian Cook says:

    Remember as an apprentice mechanic in the mid 1970s my boss doing some work on one of these, thought it was an absolute beast would have loved to own one but sadly not seen one since.

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