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