Facel Vega Automobiles 1939-1964 Paris, France

Facel Vega car logo

Facel SA
Industry Automotive
Founded Facel SA 1939
Defunct 1964
Headquarters Paris, France
Key people
Jean Daninos
Products Automobiles from 1954
Website www.facel.de

Facel S.A. was a French manufacturer of steel furniture and pressed steel components, later complete automobiles to their own design, founded in 1939 to make components for Bronzavia’s military aircraft. In 1945 in conjunction with Metallon Facel began to make short-run special bodies, coupés or cabriolets, for Simca, Ford, Panhard and Delahaye.

Monocoque bodies without a chassis became general for mass-produced cars and Facel lost their big customers. French niche manufacturers ended production. Metallon left the partnership in 1953. Facel set about designing and making their own complete cars using engines made by Chrysler, Volvo and Austin. Their first design named Vega was shown to the public in 1954.

Though initially successful Facel closed its factory in October 1964. Their Facellia model introduced in 1959 was under-developed and losses brought about by its warranty problems became impossible to recoup. Prior to closure Facel had been placed under the control of Sud Aviation subsidiary SFERMA.

Business history

Facel, Forges et Ateliers de Constructions d’Eure-et-Loir, was founded 20 December 1939 by Bronzavia, a French manufacturer of military aircraft to make special components. Jean Daninos, technical director of Bronzavia, had begun his career with Citroen where he assisted in the design of the Traction coupés and cabriolets. He moved to Morane-Saulnier then to Bronzavia. During WW II he worked with General Aircraft in USA who were using Bronzavia patents but he returned in 1945 and took charge of Facel. Facel merged with Metallon, a tie maintained until January 1953.

Daninos put Facel to the manufacture of short-run and special complete finished bodies for the major French brands. In conjunction with l’Aluminium Français Facel designed the all-aluminium alloy Panhard Dyna X and then built around 45,000 examples for Panhard.

Luxury cars

A luxury car division was established in 1948. It made various models of Simca Sport and drew publicity by designing with Farina and then building a special body on a Bentley Mark VI chassis. The car was named Bentley Cresta. The exercise was repeated in 1951 and named Cresta II. September 1951 saw the introduction of their Ford Comète. Production of the Comète ended in 1955 when Simca took over Ford France. The styling of the Crestas and Comètes was developed into the shape of the first Vega.

Scooter bodies, truck bodies, tractor bodies, jeeps and smaller components

During the same period Facel-Metallon pressed out body panels for: Delahaye’s army jeeps (painted and upholstered) ; Simca, Delahaye and Somua’s trucks (painted and upholstered); scooters by Vespa, Piaggio and Motobécane; tractors by Massey-Ferguson and stainless-steel bumpers, hubcaps and grilles for Simca and Ford and for Renault.


In conjunction with Hispano-Suiza Facel-Metallon and Facel also turned out for Rolls-Royce combustion chambers in special metals for their jet engines.

Facel Vega

1951 Facel-Metallon bodied Bentley Mark VI

 Facel-Metallon bodied 1951 Bentley Mark VI

The marque Facel Vega was created in 1954 by Jean Daninos (brother of the humorist Pierre Daninos, who wrote Les Carnets du Major Thompson), although the Facel company had been established by the Bronzavia Company in 1939 as a subcontracting company for the aviation industry. FACEL (Forges et Ateliers de Construction d’Eure-et-Loir, in English: forge and construction workshop of the department of Eure-et-Loir) was initially a metal-stamping company but decided to expand into car manufacturing in the early 1950s. Facel entered the automobile business as a supplier of special bodies for Panhard, Delahaye and Simca.

Facel Vega FV, HK500 and Facel Vega II
Main article: Facel Vega FVS
Main article: Facel Vega Excellence
Main article: Facel Vega Facel II
1961 Facel Vega HK500 Castle Hedingham

 Facel Vega HK500 1961

The Vega production cars (FV, later and more famously the HK500) appeared in 1954 using Chrysler V8 engines, at first a 4.5-litre (275 cu in) DeSoto Hemi engine; the overall engineering was straightforward, with a tubular chassis, double wishbone suspension at the front and a live axle at the back, as in standard American practice. They were also as heavy as American cars, at about 1,800 kg (3,968 lb). Performance was brisk, with an approx 190 km/h (118 mph) top speed and 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in just under ten seconds.

Most cars were two-door hardtops with no centre pillar, but a few convertibles were built. Fully 77% of production was exported, due to the punitive Tax horsepower system in France.

The 1956 model was improved with a bigger 5.4-litre (330 cu in) Chrysler engine and updated transmission and other mechanicals. In the same year production began of a four-door model, the Excellence, with rear-hinged doors (suicide doors) at the back and no centre pillar. The pillarless design unfortunately made it less rigid and the handling was thus poorer than that of the two-door cars, and surviving examples are rare.

1959 models had even bigger engines, a 5.8-litre (354 cu in) and later a 6.28-litre (383 cu in) Chrysler V8, and were quite a bit faster despite their extra weight. The final evolution of the V8 models came in 1962 with the Facel Vega II, which was lighter, with sleeker, more modern lines, substantially faster still, and famously elegant.

Facel III av

 Facel III
1959-63 Facel Vega, french sportscar, made by Facel from 1954 to 1964 in different evolution steps, this model is one of the later cars (Facellia F-2)

 Facellia F-2, 1959 to 1963

In 1960, Facel entered the sports car market with the Facellia, a small car similar in size to the then popular Mercedes 190SL. Facellias were advertised in three body styles: cabriolet, 2+2 coupé and 4-seat coupé — all with the same mechanical parts and a 2,450 mm (96.5 in) wheelbase. Styling was similar to the Facel HK500, but with rather elegant (though fingernail-breaking) flush door handles. Following Facel Vega’s demise several of M Daninos’s styling cues were “borrowed” by Mercedes-Benz. Prices were roughly US$4,000 for the Facellia, US$5,500 for the Facel III and US$6,000 for the Facel 6.

With the idea of creating a mass-produced all-French sports car competing with the Alfa Romeos, Facel moved away from American engines. The Facellia had a 4-cylinder 1.6 L DOHC engine built in France by Paul Cavallier of the Pont-à-Mousson company (which already provided manual gear boxes for the company’s larger models). The engine had only two bearings supporting each camshaft, using special steels, as opposed to the usual four or five. Despite the metallurgical experience of Pont-à-Mousson, this resulted in excessive flex, timing problems and frequent failures. Famed engineers Charles Deutsch and Jean Bertin were called in to solve the issues, but it was not enough and the engine was pronounced a disaster and the Facellia with it. Company president, Jean Daninos having been obliged to resign in August 1961 in response to the company’s financial problems, the new boss, a former oil company executive called André Belin, gave strict instructions to the after-sales department to respond to customer complaints about broken Facellia engines by replacing the units free of charge without creating “difficulties”. The strategy was intended to restore confidence among the company’s customer base. It would certainly have created a large hole in the income statement under the “warranty costs” heading, but it may have been too late for customer confidence.

Volvo engine

The troublesome engine was replaced with a Volvo B18 powerplant in the Facel III, but the damage was done. Production was stopped in 1963 and despite the vision of it being a “volume” car only 1100 were produced – still enough to make this Facel’s highest production number. Facel lost money on every car they built, the luxury car side of the company being supported entirely by the other work done by Facel Metallon, Jean Daninos’s obsession being very similar to that of David Brown of Aston Martin.

The small Facellia met with little success and the losses from this, due to strong competition at the luxury end of the market, killed off the business which closed its doors at the end of October 1964. What was, according to some, the best small Facel, the Facel 6, which used an Austin-Healey 2.8-litre engine, came too late to save the company with fewer than 30 having been produced when the financial guarantors withdrew their support.


Prominent owners of Facel Vegas (mainly of Facel IIs) included Pablo Picasso, Ava Gardner, Christian Dior, Herb Alpert, Joan Collins, Ringo Starr, Max Factor Jr, Joan Fontaine, Stirling Moss, Tony Curtis, several Saudi princes, Dean Martin, Fred Astaire, Danny Kaye, Louis Malle, The President of Mexico, François Truffaut, Robert Wagner, Anthony Quinn, Hassan II, King of Morocco, Debbie Reynolds, the Shah of Persia, Frank Sinatra, Maurice Trintignant, Brian Rix and French Embassies around the world. Race-car driver Stirling Moss would drive his HK500 from event to event rather than fly.

The French writer Albert Camus died in a Facel Vega FV3B driven by his publisher, Michel Gallimard. At the time of his death, Camus had planned to travel by train, with his wife and children, but at the last minute accepted his publisher’s proposal to travel with him.

In the 1989 film “Dealers”, Paul McGann, as Daniel Pascoe, drove a Facel ll.

A Facel Vega HK500 appears in computer-animated form in the film Ratatouille (Pixar, 2007), driven by one of the main characters.

A Facel Vega Facellia appeared in the music video for Caravan Palace‘s Dramophone.

A 1958 Facel Vega HK500 appeared in the 1961 Movie Goodbye Again starring Ingrid Bergman, Yves Montand and Anthony Perkins.


Facel Vega FVVega FV1956 Early Facel Vega FVS (1956 FV2B), combining the first front design with panoramic windshieldFacel Vega FVSFacel Vega HK500 HK KidFacel Vega HK500Facel Vega Facel II Coupé 89Facel Vega IIFacel-Vega Excellence front 14

1959 Facel Vega Excellence

Facel Vega Excellence EX2 Berline 2xFacel Vega ExcellenceFacel Vega Facellia                     Facel Vega Facellia


1954-1964-facel-vega-6a - kopie1964 Facel Vega Facel 6 - kopie1964 Facel Vega Facel 6 a - kopie1964 Facel Vega Facel 6 facel 6 - kopie1964 Facel Vega Facel 6, Paris Motor Show - kopieFACEL 6 Brochure - kopieFacel VI Pub2 - kopieFacel 6

1950 Simca 8 Sport Cabriolet 0011951 Facel-Metallon bodied Bentley Mark VI1954 facel vega paris1954-1964-facel-vega-6a1955 facel vega fv 1 cabrio1955 Facel Vega FV21955 Facel Vega1956 Early Facel Vega FVS (1956 FV2B), combining the first front design with panoramic windshield1956 facel excellence paris1956 facel fv-56 coupe1956 facel vega 1956 coupe1956 facel vega fvb2 convertible1957 facel excellence1957 facel vega fv31957 Facel Vega FV4 Typhoon1957 Facel Vega FVS Coupe Factory Photo1957-58 facel vega1958 facel coupe1958 facel excellence1958 Facel Vega Excellence!1958 Facel Vega Excellence1958 Facel Vega Hardtop Sedan1958-61 Facel Vega HK 500, french sportscar, made by Facel1959 facel AAI176 facel vega1959 facel excellence ad1959 facel hk 5001959 Facel Vega Excellence1959-63 Facel Vega, french sportscar, made by Facel from 1954 to 1964 in different evolution steps, this model is one of the later cars (Facellia F-2)1960 facel excellence1960 facel facellia 1600 ad1960 Facel Vega Excellence gr1960 facel vega facellia paris1960 facel vega hk 500 adv1960 Facel Vega HK500 ana 45a1960 Facel Vega HK500 Saloon b1961 facel vega facel 21961 Facel Vega Facellia F21961 Facel Vega HK500 Castle Hedingham1962 facel 1962 facel II1962 facel 1962 facellia f21962 facel 1962 facellia1962 Facel Vega 21962 facel vega facellia cabrio1962 facel vega facellia tyl1963 facel vega 1963 facel III1963 facel vega facellia 2+21963 Facel Vega, Facel II

1963 Facel Vega1964 facel vega 1964 f6 coupe1964 Facel Vega Facel 6 - kopie1964 Facel Vega Facel 6 a1964 Facel Vega Facel 6 facel 61964 Facel Vega Facel 6, Paris Motor Show1964 facel vega facel II1964 Facel Vega Facel III de 1964, avant.1965 Facel Vega FX112322651_1244391632254206_2265457341616462859_o12339496_1244391968920839_1742041421457936550_o12356685_1244392115587491_226191231649501934_o12356704_1244392168920819_6115796892618100695_oFACEL 6 BrochureFacel III avFacel IIIFacel Vega 6.3 l Chrysler Typhoon engineFacel Vega ArtcuralFacel vega ArtcurialFacel Vega ArteriorFacel Vega backFacel Vega car logoFacel Vega club meeting. Impressive!Facel Vega concept.Facel Vega Excellence EX2 Berline 2xFacel Vega Excellence EX2, in front of earlier Excellence with more pronounced tailfinsFacel Vega Excellence IF-67-04 €165000Facel Vega Facel II Coupé 89Facel Vega Facel II in front of the Facel-Metallon factoryFacel Vega Facel II rearFacel Vega FacelliaFacel Vega french sportscar FFacel Vega FVFacel vega FV2B €225000Facel Vega GK-82-97 NLFacel Vega HeaderFacel Vega HF-95-YJFACEL VEGA HK500 - coachwork by Carrozzeria Zagato of MilanFacel Vega HK500 adfacel vega hk500 extFacel Vega HK500 HK KidFacel Vega HK700Facel Vega InteriorFacel Vega LogoFacel Vega SymboolFacel VegaFacel VI Pub2FacelFacel-Vega Excellence front 14Facel-Vega FV Rear-viewFord CometeIntroductie HK500Logo



  1. ^ Jump up to:a b c d e L’Histoire Facel-Vega accessed 25 August 2015
  2. ^ Jump up to:a b Sedgwick, Michael. “The Facel Vega 1954 – 1964”.
  3. Jump up^ “New Car Prices and Used Car Book Values”. NADAguides. Retrieved 2016-05-15.
  4. Jump up^ Björklund, Bengt, ed. (March 1962). “Från skilda fronter” [From different fronts]. Illustrerad Motor Sport (in Swedish). No. 3 (Lerum, Sweden). p. 28.
  5. ^ Jump up to:a b “Automobilia”. Toutes les voitures françaises 1962 (salon Paris oct 1961) (Paris: Histoire & collections). Nr. 19: Page 34. 1200.
  6. Jump up^ Hervé Alphand, the French Ambassador to the United States, used theirs, an Excellence, from 1956 to 1965. It was sold @ Bonhams in Philadelphia 8 Oct 2012 for $159,000.
  7. Jump up^ “Top Gear Facel Vega HK500”. YouTube. 2009-07-26. Retrieved 2016-05-15.
  8. Jump up^ Tegler, Eric (March 1, 2007). “1959 Facel Vega HK500: For the Few Who Own the Finest”. Autoweek.
  9. Jump up^ de Gaudemar, Antoine (1994-04-16), This one’s had a good start born in the middle of a move, Guardian, retrieved 2008-12-21
  10. Jump up^ “KIAD MA in Fine Art: a student run seminar”. Raimes.com. Archived from the original on May 13, 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-17.
  11. Jump up^ “Caravan Palace – Dramophone”. YouTube. 2012-10-23. Retrieved 2016-05-15.
  12. Jump up^ “”Goodbye Again, 1961″: cars, bikes, trucks and other vehicles”. IMCDb.org. Retrieved 2016-05-15.

External links

Facel Vega car logo

JOWETT Motor Cars Idle, Bradford, West Yorkshire, England, UK 1906 – 1954


1906-1954 Jowett Motor Cars

Jowett Cars Ltd
Industry Motor cars
Fate Ceased operating 1955
Founded 1906
Defunct 1955 Voluntary Liquidation
all liabilities paid in full
ample capital surplus returned to shareholders
Headquarters Idle, Bradford, England, UK
Key people
Benjamin and William Jowett
Gerald Palmer

Jowett was a manufacturer of light cars and light commercial vehicles in Bradford, West Yorkshire, England from 1906 to 1954.

Early history

Jowett was founded in 1901 by brothers Benjamin (1877–1963) and William (1880–1965) Jowett with Arthur V Lamb. They started in the cycle business and went on to make V-twin engines for driving machinery. Some early engines found their way locally into other makes of cars as replacements. In 1904 they became the Jowett Motor Manufacturing Company based in Back Burlington Street, Bradford. Their first Jowett light car was produced in February 1906 but as their little workshop was fully occupied in general engineering activities, experiments with different engine configurations, and making the first six Scott motorcycles, it did not go into production until 1910 and then after more than 25,000 miles of exhaustive trials.

1914 Jowett UK

Jowett Eight prewar example

Their intention was to provide a low weight vehicle at a low price and with low running costs. The prototype could be described as England’s first real light car. Engine and gearbox were specifically designed for a light car and made largely of aluminum. Its low speed torque and gear ratios were ideally suited to the hills about Bradford and Yorkshire’s terrain where poor roads provided little use for a high top speed or quick acceleration. Construction of the engine and the rest of the car was robust. Benjamin Jowett held that their light car class was suffering from engines either from cyclecars with sufficient power but subject to rapid deterioration because of inadequate bearing surfaces, or engines from larger cars too heavy for the rest of the car’s structure leading to a different set of troubles. The Jowett engine was designed and built for a light car.

The production car “quickly became popular”. It used an 816 cc flat twin water-cooled engine of 6.4 hp and three-speed gearbox with tiller steering. The body was a lightweight open two-seater. Learning popular opinion was that 10 hp was a minimum Jowett advertised their third car as being 8 hp without changing the specification. Twelve vehicles were made before an improved version with wheel steering was launched in 1913 and a further 36 were made before the outbreak of the First World War when the factory was turned over to munitions manufacture. Two tiller steerers still survive.

Inter war years

Jowett Cars Limited was a new private company formed in June 1919 to make and sell motorcars and it purchased the car manufacturing portion of the business carried on by the Jowett Motor Manufacturing Company. It became a Public Company listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1935.

1926 Jowett

Jowett Seven Chummy short chassis tourer (1926)—Shuttleworth Collection

Jowett 7hp Long Tourer

Jowett Seven Long Tourer 1929 example

1935 Jowett Eight head

Jowett Eight 1937

That year, 1919, a new works site was bought at Springfield, Bradford Road, Idle, outside Bradford, the site of a disused quarry. Car making started in the new factory in 1920. The first vehicle was the Jowett Seven using an enlarged version of the pre-war flat twin. First it was enlarged to 831 cc then to 907 cc in 1921 when the claim to 8 hp was dropped from advertising. Thereafter all Jowetts were Sevens until the introduction of the four-cylinder engine in 1936. The engine developed its maximum torque at low revs and was soon famed for its pulling power, reliability and economy.

Commercial vehicles based on the car chassis were also built from 1922 and became an increasingly important part of the company’s output. Jowett first exhibited at the London Motor Show in 1921 and gradually broke out of their previous local market. In 1923 coil ignition and electric starting were added and the four-seater “Long Four” was introduced in tourer form priced from £245 followed in 1925 by a closed saloon model, the previous short-chassis two-seater continuing in production. In 1929, the engine received removable cylinder heads to ease maintenance and braking was on all four wheels. Production was briefly suspended in September 1931 when fire swept through the works.


1934 saw the launch of the Jowett Kestrel with four-speed gearbox and in 1935 there was the oddly named Jowett Weasel sports tourer. The first four-cylinder (flat four) car arrived in 1936 with the 1166 cc twin carburettorJowett Ten which continued until the outbreak of war alongside the traditional twin-cylinder models which grew to 946 cc in 1937. In 1935 the company went public and in 1936 Benjamin Jowett retired. Brother William carried on until 1940.

World War II

Production of cars stopped in 1940 but engine production for motor-generator sets continued alongside aircraft components and other military hardware. The engine was (besides being used as a generator set) also used in the Jowett engine powered Fire Pump. The company was bought by property developer Charles Clore in 1945 and he sold it in 1947 to the bankers Lazard Brothers.

Post War

1948 jowett javelin

Jowett Javelin saloon in original (metallic) finish, 1949 example

1952 Jowett Javelin Fastback Saloon

Jowett Javelin saloon

1953 Jowett Jupiter F.Grounds, Monte Carlo

Jowett Jupiter Tourer (monte carlo 1953)

When production restarted after the Second World War, the twin-cylinder engine was dropped from the range of new cars, but continued in 1005 cc form to the end of production in the commercials, now comprising a light lorry, the Bradford van, two versions of an estate car called the Utility, and chassis front-ends and kits for outside coachbuilders, many abroad. The new cars were a complete change from what had gone before with the streamlined Jowett Javelin designed by a team led by Gerald Palmer. This had such advanced features as a flat four push-rod engine, independent front suspension with torsion bars front and rear and unitary body construction. The car was good for 80 mph (130 km/h) and had excellent handling. In 1950 the Javelin was joined by the Jowett Jupiter sports with a chassis designed by Eberan von Eberhorst who had worked for Auto Union. Javelins were designed for production levels never before attempted by Jowett with Javelin and Bradford body production out-sourced to Briggs Motor Bodies who built a new plant at Doncaster. Briggs supplied the bodies fully trimmed and ready to be applied to the mechanicals. The Jupiters were always built in-house at Idle. The new mechanicals had teething troubles but Javelin bodies were still being mass-produced to the original schedule leading to them being stockpiled. Export sales collapsed by 75% in 1952 followed by sluggish domestic sales while the nation waited for the removal of a “temporarily” increased purchase tax, finally eased in April 1953 with disastrous long-term consequences for Jowett.

Poor business strategy and direction, and over-confidence, were the financially sound company’s downfall and, even after the engine and gearbox problems were solved, the Idle plant was never able to build, nor – during 1952 – was the distribution network able to sell, the expected volume. Collapse of the arrangements for the supply of bodies led to suspension of Javelin production in 1953, together with the by now outdated Bradford, though tooling had been completed for new models. Jupiters remained in demand and were built up to the end of 1954. The company did not go broke, but sold their factory to International Harvester who made tractors at the site until the early 1980s. The factory was demolished in 1983.

1951 Jowett Bradfords brochure

Jowett switched to manufacturing aircraft parts for the Blackburn & General Aircraft Company in a former woollen mill at Howden Clough, Birstall, near Batley. Jowett, just the “shell” of the company, was later taken over by Blackburn in 1956, although spares for the postwar cars were kept available until 1963, when the remainder of the Jowett company was closed due to the rationalisation of the aircraft industry.

Crisis and closure

Purchase tax on new cars was reduced by 25% on 15 April 1953 (from 66⅔% to 50%): this triggered a surge in demand for new cars on the UK market. In the resulting scramble for production facilities Ford bought Briggs whose new Doncaster, Yorkshire plant built the unitary construction bodies and fully trimmed them for Jowett Javelin cars and Bradford vans. In April 1953, Ford Motor Company Limited purchased from the US shareholders majority control of Briggs Motor Bodies Limited whose main factory was adjacent to the Ford plant at Dagenham. Remaining minority shareholders were bought out, and Ford quickly acquired full ownership of the Briggs business. Briggs factory at Doncaster  was surplus to Ford’s requirements and it was sold to Fisher and Ludlow. Fisher and Ludlow itself was quickly swallowed up by the newly created British Motor Corporation, .


At the beginning of July, the Chairman of Jowett Cars Limited, AF Jopling (who at the time was also a senior employee with Blackburn Aircraft), informed Jowett shareholders at their Annual General Meeting that difficulties had arisen over the future supply of car bodies. Negotiations were proceeding, but an interruption in delivery of completed vehicles appeared likely to occur in the closing months of that year. He also reported that exports for 1952 were almost 75% down on 1951. On the home market, during the six month run up to tax changes in April 1953, the anticipated success of an organised campaign for a reduction in purchase tax had sharply reduced previously buoyant UK new car demand. Home market sales in the last quarter of 1952 were only 15% of the sales in the three preceding quarters.

In mid September the board advised shareholders that the forecast break in production could not be avoided and that it might prove to be of considerable duration. Having regard to this possibility negotiations extended to suitable alternative work which would keep the factory reasonably employed. He also advised that the difficulty in arranging supplies of new bodies would unfortunately postpone the production of the new range of commercial vehicles and the estate car which were fully tooled-up.

The business appears to have been running out of working capital. Car production ceased.

In July 1954 it was announced that Jowett Cars Limited would sell their main factory at Idle to International Harvester excluding plant and equipment needed for the service and spares departments.

A note was added by The Times that Jowett Cars had run into difficulties last year (1953) after the acquisition of the motor body suppliers Fisher and Ludlow by BMC completed in September 1953. “It is now stated that since the company ceased manufacturing Javelin and Bradford vehicles it has not been found possible to keep the main factory operating at an economic level.” However Jowett Cars Limited reported a (small) profit for the financial year.

At the 35th Annual General Meeting in August 1954 the chairman advised the profound regret of the board and all associated with the company, including the users of the some 65,000 vehicles which had been made since 1946, for their joint circumstances.

Ultimately shareholders received back rather more than the nominal value of their shares. This process was completed in mid 1955.

Jowett 1930s Gallery