A Rare Gem at Auction
If you have ever been in the market for a used car, then you may very well have considered a car auction. Car auctions have a great reputation among those looking to pick up a bargain, but lot number 132 at Brightwells auction in Herefordshire on November 26 may stretch that definition just a little.
Lot 132 is a Facel Vega HK500. Motoring enthusiasts will be aware of the famous Gullwing Mercedes sports car. Well, the Facel Vega HK500 costs even more and there are far fewer models left in existence. The car dates from 1960 and was renowned for its unmatched standards of luxury. It was the perfect grand tourer car and could cruise across countries at speeds in excess of 100mph. Back in its 1950s heyday, the Facel Vega HK500 was the motor car of choice for the elite. With a huge engine, lots of internal space and an opulent finish, the Facel Vega HK500 exuded French style and sophistication.
The car going under the hammer at the Brightwells auction is a 1960 model with the registration plate 935 BLX. It is estimated that it will fetch up to £125,000. The Facel Vega HK500 had some illustrious owners, including royalty in the shape of Prince Mashoor of Saudi Arabia, the Shah of Iran and the King of Morocco. It also attracted directors such as Francois Truffaut and stars of film and music such as Tony Curtis and Ringo Starr. The performance of the Facel Vega HK500 also ensured that it had a healthy fan base amongst the motor-sport fraternity. Racing drivers Stirling Moss, Rob Walker and Maurice Trintignant all owned one.
The car was the invention of the French designer and industrial magnate Jacques Brasseur. He commissioned HWM racing star Lance Macklin to develop the chassis and was obsessed with build quality to the extent that the car performed as well as it looked, with an outstanding standard of fit and finish. The car's brightwork used rust-free stainless steel, and the cabin boasted generous amounts of leather and more stainless steel painted to look like wood. The dashboard and cockpit were reminiscent of a fighter aircraft.
In total, only 490 Facel Vega HK500 cars were made before they made way for the Facel II in 1961. 935 BLX is even rarer because it is one of only 105 right-hand-drive versions that were made, which will make it an even greater attraction at a UK auction. It boasts a three-speed automatic gearbox, silver bodywork and a green leather interior.
As you might expect of such a fine car, it has an extensive service history. This shows that it was built in 1960 and first registered in London in 1961. In its early life it was driven regularly and covered an average of 12,000 miles annually before being stored for around 15 years. It was then completely restored in the late 1980s by a respected specialist, Nigel Cooper, in a project that cost in excess of £40,000. Cooper himself then bought the car and it was he who sold it to the current owner in 1991. At that time, concourse experts considered 935 BLX to be the finest example of a Facel Vega HK500 in the UK.
During its time in the care of its last owner, which stretches back 23 years, the car has been garaged and used only in good weather. Perhaps a reflection of the UK's poor weather, this means that it has covered only 2,000 miles in this time. 935 BLX currently has just 74,600 miles on the clock and this is backed by the service and MOT records and is believed to be genuine. The MOT for 1982 showed a mileage of 70,300.
The Facel Vega HK500 perhaps represents the pick of the bunch at the auction, but there are also more affordable gems to be had. These include a superbly restored example of the much-derided Austin Allegro Equipe and some attractive Morris Minors, Minis, Austin Maxis and Mini Metros.