Bonhams are offering arguably the most famous Facel 11 in Britain at their December 10 sale at Hendon RAF Museum. Being the former Intercontinental Cars demonstrator and press car, chassis number A114 was seen in and described by every newspaper and motoring magazine that tested it, most notably Autocar and Motor. Indeed, I wanted to illustrate this article with the front cover of the Facel Vega Cars in Profile book because it comprises a real ‘in your face’ frontal shot of this very car. But I can’t find the book, so you’ll have to make do with Bonhams’ pics, I believe taken by the wife of the deceased owner.
It has a pretty sensible low estimate of £60-£70,000 but don’t be deceived; there is a lot to be done to this car to bring it back to its original state, not least sourcing an original 6.3 litre Chrysler engine and a set of wheels. But there are rays of sunshine; the good news is that the original registration number 958XPF is currently not allocated and therefore could decorate this fine car again and there are plenty of spares to restore the car to its former glory. Indeed, its sale price and subsequent restoration will be of considerable interest in the Facel Vega market.
A114 originally arrived at HWM/Intercontinental Cars on February 26, 1962 but not registered by them until April 2. It was the fourth RHD Facel 11 built but A112 was destroyed at the factory so this became the third RHD car to be sold. Road tests were carried out that that summer by various magazines, the car not only recognisable by its registration but also George Abecassis’s BRDC badge on the front bumper, because it was also the HWM boss’s personal car.
It was originally metallic Facel blue with black interior leather piped with blue. It also had one of the few real wooden dashboards rather than those in painted metal which HWM/ICC felt were substandard. They lost a sale to Peter Sellers because of that feature, so they commissioned a run of proper wooden ones but the carpenter who made them didn’t want to continue supplying them so they are quite rare. The back axle ratio was also changed to the optional 3.31:1 from 2.93:1. They also produced a special photographic booklet of this car.
In a year and a half it covered some 30,000 miles before being sold via a dealer in Forres to J. Hepburn-Wright of Westerton House, Pluscarden in Morayshire. It did a further 8,900 miles with various owners, having a recorded mileage of 38,900 in September 5, 1964 but 19,896 just over a month later on October 12. Work that one out!
It had also become FSO1 (currently not allocated) but then changed to 491HYX on November 11, 1970 when it was owned by Wensley Haydon-Baillie, a colourful rags-to-riches-to-rags individual, once said to be one of the 50 richest in Britain and onetime owner of Wentworth Woodhouse near Rotherham, one of Europe’s largest and most imposing Georgian-era private houses. But he went into voluntary liquidation in 1998 owing debts of £13m. However, it was thought that it was during his ownership that the car acquired wheel arches covering alloy wheels and a 7.2 litre engine from a Chrysler New Yorker.
It was then bought by a Mr Scantlebury from near Huntingdon, before it found its way to Brian Marriage in Ilfracombe who bought it via dealers Greenwell and Grimwood of Ashwood, Devon in 1976. However, it was then put away in a garage for future restoration and has never left it. It has some useful spares including a windscreen, driver’s window, four wings, headlight and various lenses and chrome strips plus other spares, some of which seem to have been removed from the car.
At £60-£70,000 it is an interesting project; Facel restorer Ian Webb from near Looe has seen the car and will have his own views on restoration. But it is a ground-up rebuild and it has many modifications, making it quite a task. And what is the current price for a perfect Facel 11 in the UK? The last one went for about £180,000 so what price will make this car a viable proposition? It will be interesting to see what it makes.