By the end of the 1950s, Facel Vega had gained international acclaim and an enviable reputation for their grand, elegant Chrysler V-8-powered gran turismos, but company boss Jean Daninos also wanted to enter the small sports car market with an all-French design. Taking some inspiration from Alfa Romeo, the appropriately named Facelia housed a 1647 cc twin-cam four. Like the Mercedes-Benz 190SL, its styling borrowed heavily and effectively from the company’s more expensive products. The square central grille with flanking sub-grilles, vertical lamp clusters and long, straight body lines came from the coachwork of the HK500. Available as a coupe, cabriolet or 2+2 and intended as a volume sports car that would bring financial stability and less reliance on high-end products, the Facellia actually facilitated the demise of Facel Vega thanks to the spectacular failure of its Pont-a-Mousson-built engine. Endless problems and warranty claims drained resources and ruined the company’s reputation, forcing it into receivership.
Rescued by the government, an encouraging change came with the Facel III, a Facelia powered by the bulletproof Volvo P1800 4-cylinder, but financially it could not save Facel Vega. Only around 1,000 Facelias were built. Many of those have been abandoned, but this car has had a much better fate.
Imported to the United States from Switzerland about ten years ago and used by its previous owner in Florida as a weekend hobby car, it is an early 1959 2+2 example but at some point in its life the troublesome Facel Vega unit was replaced by a dead-reliable Volvo one from the later Facel III. It has been incredibly well preserved ever since. Repainted in Burgundy Metallic, it wears steel wheels with blackwall radial tires, has stainless steel front and rear bumpers, and features Marchal headlamps. The sound and attractive black leather interior shows some patina, as does the original woodgrain dash, and it has not received a full restoration because it has simply never needed one.
After cosmetic and mechanical freshening upon coming to the United States, it has remained a very good looking classic French sports car, perfect for weekend drives with its reliable Volvo engine and four-speed gearbox. An unusual and beautiful machine, it could be enjoyed as it is or easily be restored for show.
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