The advertising slogan for the Facel Vega HK500 put it in a nutshell: “For the Few Who Own the Finest”. The few included Pablo Picasso, Ringo Starr, Tony Curtis, Ava Gardner, Joan Fontaine and Maurice Trintignant. Stirling Moss spurned air travel in favour of driving his HK500 from race to race and Albert Camus famously met his end in one, crashing at 112mph while returning from a book launch with his publisher at the wheel. Costing more than a Mercedes Gullwing and three times as rare, the HK500 exuded opulent exclusivity from every stunningly handsome pore.
The brainchild of French industrialist and designer Jean Daninos, the Facel Vega marque was born in 1954 in a bid to keep Paris on the map as a centre of automotive excellence at a time when great French marques like Delahaye, Delage, Talbot Lago and Panhard were being driven to the wall by punitive government taxes on high performance vehicles.
Aimed squarely at the export market and launched in 1958, the HK500 was the most powerful Facel yet, initially fitted with a 5.9-litre Chrysler V8 that was soon supplanted by an even bigger 6.3-litre unit that pumped out a colossal 360bhp and 425 lbs-ft of torque.
Tested by Motor magazine, the car topped out at 145mph, hit 60mph in 8.4 seconds and ran the quarter mile in 16.3 seconds.
Styled by Daninos, engineered by Jacques Brasseur and with a chassis developed by Lance Macklin of HWM racing fame, the HK500 went as well as it looked with a fit and finish that was second to none. Rust-resistant stainless steel was used for brightwork, while a lavish passenger cabin was trimmed in the finest leathers with a fabulous aircraft-like dashboard that looked like wood but was in fact painted stainless steel. Only 490 examples were made before production was phased out in 1961 to make way for the Facel II.
This particular car is especially rare, being one of just 105 HK500s that were factory made in RHD. An automatic model with power steering, Dunlop disc brakes, 3.31 rear axle, a black leather interior with red piping and Peony Red paintwork.
One of the few UK Facels never to have changed its registration number, 891 AYF was first registered on 26th July 1960 and was sold new by Jack Barclay to T&A Collins Ltd of Dudley, thought to be shoe manufacturers with factories in Northampton. In late 1964 the car was sold to EE Jones of Birmingham and then passed through several other owners (including one who ran it at Santa Pod raceway where it clocked a 15 second quarter mile, outclassing a manual HK500) until it was acquired by the previous vendor in 1980.