Is That You, John Wayne?

Ah yes, Facel: we’ve been expecting you.

(c) facelvegaparis

The resurrection of defunct, once revered automotive brands seems to be a frequent and favourite pastime of enthusiasts displaying varying degrees of naivety and business acumen. The more persistent of these who manage to attract enough investors manage to produce an actual life size (but not always functional) concept of their planned new vehicle; and likewise these show varying levels of workmanship, realism and taste.

Subsequently they secure a space at a major Motor Show – Geneva being especially popular- which is in most cases their first and last foray into the real world. Isotta-Fraschini, Duesenberg, Diatto, Russo-Baltique, Lea-Francis, Veritas, Hispano-Suiza: the list is long and the end result virtually always the same.

This should not come as a shock to anyone, as off the record even a major manufacturer like Mercedes-Benz would not declare its Maybach redux a success. Volkswagen seems to be the exception with Bugatti; but that required time and money in quantities only a company of its size could muster – plus the iron fist of a certain Ferdinand Piëch.

In today’s Instagram and photoshop world new cars regularly appear out of nowhere, usually promising dazzling performance  and unheard of levels of luxury. Of course, talk is cheap as they say.

For a person handy in the digital arena it is not too difficult to produce convincing images of something that exists only in the mind of whoever is contemplating the introduction, or return, of a prestigious brand name. Today’s subject seems to teeter agonisingly on the brink between a photoshop pipedream and an actual honest (naïve or not) effort to bring an old prestigious name back to life.

Hence the title, which refers to the book “The short-Timers” by Gustav Hasford that Stanley Kubrick adapted to produce the film Full Metal Jacket. In both book and film, the remark “Is that you, John Wayne?” is uttered by a private implying that Gunnery Sergeant Hartman only thinks he is a tough cowboy like John Wayne.

So, what of this new Facel Vega V?

First impressions from the photos are promising. Whoever designed it managed to produce a very clean shape without much unnecessary ornamentation- just compare it with something like the Bentley Bacalar. It has an obvious retro aspect to it but not overtly so. Its form language and unadorned flanks recall- apart from the original Facel FV and HK- the Infiniti FX35/45 and Mazda RX Vision concept car. The bulbous roof and lower trim (black on the V, chrome and anodised aluminium on the HK500) combined with the grille and stacked LED headlights visually bridge old and new.

But are these photographs of an actual car? In the rear 3/4 photo there is no shutline at all visible in the rear wing and bumper area. While it makes for a very clean appearance, it would not be a very practical arrangement. On the other hand, practicality was never high on the list of the typical Facel Vega customer and we can safely assume it will be no different for this revived version.

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More doubt creeps in however upon visiting the website for the car (www.facelvegaparis.com); it seems like a hastily slapped together affair that has been published online before it was fully finished. Most links to pages that ought to contain more information do not work, and the configurator is astonishingly basic for a car of this presumed stature. And when attempting to choose a colour scheme for the interior, you are presented with a photo of the interior of a Bentley!

What can at least be determined are the engine and performance data; there is no mention where the engine is sourced but presumably it is a Chevrolet LS V8: a V8 with a capacity of 6 litres and 510 or 550 Bhp depending on the version. It should propel the Facel V to 62 Mph in 3.7 and 3.5 seconds respectively. Of course, the original Facels also mostly turned to outside suppliers from either the USA, the UK or Sweden for their engines so there is historical justification here.

In conclusion, we will have to wait to see if the website gets amended and -more importantly – if any actual Facel V’s emerge in real life to be covered by the automotive press. For now there is simply not enough convincing evidence to suggest that the Facel V will remain nothing more than a pipedream – albeit an attractive one. Here’s hoping to being proven wrong.

Postscript: Just before going to press, we discovered that the Facel V website is still online but now consists of only a welcome page. It could be a sign that there is work in progress, or…..

Author: brrrruno

Car brochure collector, Thai food lover, not a morning person before my first cup of coffee

16 thoughts on “Is That You, John Wayne?”

  1. Well, that’s a very diplomatic at something which seriously looks like the first step of a crowd funding scam…

    A few hints :
    – The engine picture seen on their Instagram page is nothing more than a photoshop of the actual AMG V8 (which, BTW, is a twin-turbo 4.0, not a 6.0) with a 3D airbox added on top. Problem is, this airblow blows were the exhaust of the AMG block sits – something the photoshop “artist” mustn’t be aware of (turbos are on top, exactly were this 3D airbox is supposed to be, admission port are in fact below the engine. So, this is just a bad photoshop of something that technically can’t work.

    – They posted a picture of the founder of “facel vega paris”, a certain Paul Giraux. I searched him for a long time. never found any clue of his existence. When I wrote about it ont their page, the picture was subsequently erased.
    They give me some nonsense answers “its a case study to get a sense of interest”, and regarding their strange website : “our website account was accessed by an outside party and they published our work in progress website”.
    Blah blah.

    I’m surprised a poorly researched article like this one was published at DTW. Haven’t you noticed almost not a single car media talks about this car ? Did’nt it make you doubt about that project ?
    As I said I suspect it to be a scam, trying to find notoriety in order to make naïve people believe this is for real and invest in this supposed revival – Facel Vega is strong in the heart of elderly persons here in France.

    1. Yanalexandred: Thanks for your comment.

      While I cannot speak for the author of the piece, I can safely say that I was under few illusions as to the validity and likely outcome of this ‘interesting’ thought experiment – hence my wording of the headline. However, a close reading of Bruno’s words suggests more than a hint of scepticism on his part as well. Indeed, were it not for this, I would have questioned running it in the first place. I am sorry that you feel that this piece has fallen short of DTW’s standards, but I stand by the piece and by my decision to run it.

  2. Good morning Bruno. As you rightly point out, there have been many failures and almost no successes in the various attempts to revive defunct brands. It would be wonderful to have a properly French interpretation of the luxury GT automobile, but I’m not holding my breath.

    I remember my initial excitement at the news that Borgward was to be revived, then discovering that the cars would have nothing in common with the originals and would be no more than Chinese clones of Audi’s Q models. Apart from Bugatti, and possibly Alpine (whose longevity is in again question) can anyone think of any other successful revivals? TVR is the automotive equivalent of Godot. MG?

  3. Without even remotely attempting to comment on the plausibility/ authenticity of the commercial venture:

    Whoever designed this, knows his/her onions well. It’s a remarkably clean and unpretentious attempt at recreating
    a modern Facel without trying too hard, neither in a ‘Retro’ direction nor in a ‘please everybody’ eclect-kitschism that
    so many actual designs sadly seem to suffer from.

    (I used ‘her’ above since this design offers an air of welcoming simplicity that might even reveal a certain gender implication
    in its nativity).

    Apart from the slightly detectable (not that worrying) lack of tension in the DLO / roofline shape, there is really very little
    to object to its form, as seen in the visual evidence Bruno supplied
    in the article (in this era we cannot, of course, be sure whether those are photos, renderings, or other forms of ‘virtually produced visual footprint’).

    What with grilles being a major topic in 2020, I would particularly point out the unexpectedly well resolved proportion between the absolute grill surface area and those of the (frontal look) windscreen. Almost a textbook example of how to design
    a prominent grille, without it looking visually
    dissonant to the rest of the front end.

    This is even more surprising, as the mathematical relation of the grille to the headlights’ surface area is almost grotesquely overpronounced, and somehow the grille still ‘works’,
    the above notwithstanding.

    The curvature and clarity of the flanks, as Bruno points out,
    are another strong aspect. Although the blacked-out lower
    part of the door is actually a trick that aims at achieving
    the elusive Phi-ratio between the mean heights of the flank
    and of the DLO, it is exemplary in its effect.

    The closing pillar (“B”-pillar in this case) is very Facel-faithful
    without burdening the rather clean shape in any way, which
    is admittedly not an easy feat.

    Must be said that we miss a dead-on side view to fully analyse
    this one.

    A refreshingly clean attempt, that deserves at least a moderate but sound appreciation from stylistic point of view. I sincerely hope
    it is not what the other commenters (and partly the article)
    doubt it is.

    Al Pinaweiss

    1. Hi Al. Your comments encouraged me to go looking for side view, and I discovered this, apparently from the company’s website, which is now offline:

      Very nice at first glance, but what’s going on with that red car behind? It’s obviously a rather weird Photoshop effort, but why so bad?

    2. Nice analysis and description of the grille, Al! I also like it a lot.

      I was thinking about why the very narrow lights don’t look wrong next to this large grille. As so often, I found that I read the front fascia of a car like a human face. The grille is the mouth and/or nose, the headlights are the eyes. Usually, when the shapes or proportions deviate too much from the human template, we preceive the car as weird or even alien looking. When looking at the photo of the white car, I actually found out that I read the light-coloured area between the two horizontal bars as the eyes, and not the headlights. In the title photo there is a black car, and it works less well there. So I think it might be a colour-sensitive design, working better in light shades. In a dark shade, it looks more futuristic, less ‘human’.

  4. Looks to me like Hanlon’s razor.
    Embarrassing what they do with the wonderful legacy of Facel.

  5. Daniel,
    thank you for that side view rendering.

    No idea what was their thinking with the Cinque behind, except an effort to emphasize the car’s length/ height?

    It looks way more compromised from the profile view than I originally assumed, from the opening angles.

    Much of the disturbance comes from the door shutlines being radically disconnected from the DLO, which is a feature that usually looks bad on white cars.

    It really needs a different door design.
    The way it is,
    it’s a huge compromise.

    It definitely has potential to be a succesful design.

    1. The door shutlines are a bit strange, indeed! But keeping in mind the original, they don’t look so wrong any more. For me it looks like they wanted to recall the old Facel’s panoramic windscreen with its door shutline offset towards the front. It’s a bit exaggerated here, but I like the idea. Back in the 60s and 70s, when the windscreens were more upright und much closer to the dashboard than today, we often have door shutlines offset to the front, and I think it often looks quite charming.

  6. Even reborn Bugatti reportedly made a loss on each Veyron – but if treated as marketing material and technology testing for the wider VW group, then it must be regarded as a success. If not, they would surely have cancelled it.

    Every so often, someone wonders whether JLR might resurrect the Rover name for less prestigious cars, or Peugeot might use Talbot as a rival to Dacia. Neither seems very likely, but PSA in particular won’t be short of ‘active’ brands any time soon!

    Daniel O’Callaghan mentions MG. Tough one – a rare successful rebirth if so, but is the time between death and rebirth too short to count, especially as the first reuse was just a continuation of TF production? Other than that, it has similarities with Borgward anyway, but then again there are some who feel that post-MGB it wasn’t much of a brand anyway.

    New Metrocab almost looked liked it might work, but may have been sunk by the legal action with LEVC. Kamkorp also operated/operates a research company using the Frazer-Nash name, as well as being the owner of Bristol.

    There is also this: https://www.morris-commercial.com/ As this is from SAIC, I think, it may be based on the LDV (also reborn, just, as the UK brand of SAIC Maxus Vans) EV30 so perhaps more viable than the Facel-Vega. No reviewer seems to have sampled one yet, but they are keeping their website and Facebook page updated..

    To avoid being too Europe-focussed, have there been any reborn brands elsewhere, I wonder?

  7. Indisputably successful: Audi. 1910-1939, 1965-

    Do we count McLaren?

    Elsewhere, Stutz. 1911-1935, 1970-1995

    1. Idly scrolling through this again as I put off resuming clearing out the workshop, I am reminded that BMW still own Triumph. But the thought of what any resurrection might look like is too horrible to contemplate…..

  8. And they own the name of Riley, as well. I wrote the BMW powers that be about both names being resurrected in the future but have yet to hear from them. I’ll give a few more decades…

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