The Little Cars



Not a demeaning term, but these are the smaller- non-Chrysler-engined cars with three different engine specs built between 1960 and the company’s demise in 1965: Facellia, Facel 111 and Facel 6. They maintained the distinctive Facel characteristics such as the three radiator grills in the nose, same headlights as HK500 and then  Facel 11, and similar rear bodywork treatment – virtually scaled-down but developed versions of their larger-engined siblings with familiar features but a youthful image.

Facel creator Jean Daninos says that he was initially asked by his French dealers to make a little sports car back in 1957. They wanted something to attract a younger customer, to rival Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Porsche or the English manufacturers such as MG, Triumph or Austin Healey. Market research suggested a customer base of 2500 cars initially in France alone, rising to 5000.


Daninos wasn’t so sure he wanted to make such a car, but the favourable market research pressed the green light button and the studies began. Facel launched the Facellia at the 46th Paris motor show in October 1959.

This, of course, would elevate Facel into mass production. No longer would Facel be Daninos’s hobby, where it didn’t matter if the cars made a profit or not. This was joining the big boys. Initially it accounted for 5-6% of Facel’s turnover but it became more crucial. A loan was negotiated to pay for tooling before production began.

The biggest problem, of course, had been the engine. Daninos went to see Citroen and Peugeot but they were unable to help. Simca didn’t have a suitable power unit. Hillman were prepared to supply Daninos with an engine but the French government refused to allow Facel to accept; a few hundred Chrysler engines for the big cars was one thing, potentially thousands of English engines was another.

He was saved – if that’s the right word – by gearbox manufacturer Pont-a-Mousson. They had tempted Daninos with their 2.8 six cylinder engine for the big cars but instead he chose Chrysler. Now the French company offered a scaled down version of the same twin cam engine, now a four cylinder of 1646cc, just under the 9hp French tax bracket and conveniently over 1600cc so it couldn’t be used in that competition class.

Two prototypes were built – FAA-101 and -102 – and the former passed its type approval in March 1960. The technical specification was attractive with disc brakes as standard, a convertible with an optional hard top, red or black interior and Solex carburation. There were now 2500 orders, but actual production fell woefully short of that with just 30 per month initially and then less than fifty per month after that.


Furthermore, the car wasn’t well received. Drivers found it raucous – top end noise in particular – uncomfortable and overweight and soon after production began came the engine complaints. Cooling was a problem. Like the MGA twin cam and the similar specification Fiat 1500S, it was prone to burning its pistons, particularly number three. But production continued and diversified with the two seater fixed head coupe in November 1960 and the four seater 2+2 coupe a month later.

A year after the car’s initial type approval a revised model was launched, the F2. There were modifications to the gearbox and clutch, a booster for the discs, two speed wipers, different seats, the fuel filler was positioned behind the number plate the dash trim was modified. More importantly, the cooling was uprated, the piston supplier was changed, and there was a lower compression ratio of 9.2:1.

Facellia F2B4

But already the warranty claims were flooding in for replacement engines after their own pistons failed, and even if customers didn’t have problems with their engines they were still asking for a new unit. Daninos was deposed as chief executive and Pont-a-Mousson, Hispano Suiza and Mobil Oil came in as partners.

The F2S was meant to be a further modification consisting of a higher compression again with side draught Weber carburettors but it never really happened. Instead the F2B was launched in October 1961 comprising Facel 11-style headlamps from Marchal Megalux, imitation wood dashboard while the engine modifications included revised conrods, water pump, timing chain tensioner, new cylinder head distributor and a brake servo.

Facellia F2BFacellia F2B2

Although it was said to be a car for the home market, around 100 went to the United States and 24 cars came to the UK – the third best market for the cars and sold through HWM, in spite of the fact that they actually discouraged purchasers! This wasn’t difficult: firstly, the cars were expensive, 25% more than E-type Jaguar and three times the price of an Austin-Healey. Secondly they had a harsh ride and a thirst for oil and the Americans added noisy engine and spongy brakes to the list of complaints. HWM tried to persuade Facel to fit the Daimler V8 engine from the SP250/Dart and one was subsequently fitted with this engine to a poor reception. It should be pointed out that not all RHD cars came to the UK.

Meanwhile Facel’s engine reliability problem – now solved – was still causing problems in the boardroom but a further solution was being sought which would result in the Facel 111. But actual production details of the Facellia and its variants are decidedly vague.


Schedule: Production began in March 1960 with the Facellia convertible.  These really rolled off the production line; the first of the 22 RHD convertibles came to the UK in July 1960, the 240th produced.  They made about 400 by the year’s end. By 1962, production details were decidedly scrambled. The last completed car of 679 convertibles was delivered in February of 1963.

The company introduced the 2+2 coupe in November 1960, a fixed hardtop but with a little more space in the back for where the hood would fold down. The fifth car was the first of three RHD cars. The 16th 2+2 coupe was prepared for rallying by Maurice Gatsonides. Only 48 were made, the last delivered in 1961.

A month later came the four seater which had a rather boxy cabin to accommodate the rear seats, which also resulted in a small boot, although the seats folded down for extra luggage space when needed. The third car was the first of eight RHD cars and destined for the UK. The first to be delivered was in December 1960. The last of the 354 four seaters was delivered in February 1963.

Specification: They were all powered by the Pont-a-Mousson-built 1646cc/100 cu in twin cam four cylinder engine, with a claimed 115bhp at 6400rpm, reaching 185kph. They were all the same dimensions: 4.12m long x 1.58m wide x 1.27m high. The four seater weighed 1080 kilos, the 2+2 1040 kilos and the cabriolet 990 kilos. They all had disc brakes – the optional servo later became standard – and four speed Pont-a-Mousson manual gearboxes. There was independent front suspension with coil springs, and the usual leaf sprung live rear axle with two possible ratios. The fuel tank held 60 litres. Options included a hard top for the convertible, a set of suitcases, radio and clock.

There were three further specifications of Facellia, the F2, F2S and the F2B. The original FA had a compression ratio of 9.4 whereas the F2s had a compression ratio of 9.2 plus further engine modifications in the search for reliability. There were several other changes, including an improved gear change, brake servo, repositioned fuel filler, steering. There was also an F2S with Weber carburettors.

The F2B had the one piece Marchal twin headlights, a wood effect dashboard and further engine modifications but these were for the convertible and four seater coupe versions only.

Price: FFr22,900; SFr22,600; £2508; $4140

Facel 111

It was clear that the Facellia needed a makeover in the engine department and would benefit from a slight bodywork redesign as well. Both Volvo and Salmson were approached, the latter having a two litre SW5 engine which was actually quite tall. Volvo, meanwhile, at first turned down Facel but then agreed to supply their 1.8 litre engine and four speed gearbox, which fitted the Facellia chassis perfectly. There was less power but with the 1000 franc overdrive option the performance was the same.


Three prototypes were built (two convertible, one four seater) and one two-seater coupe was built for Jean Daninos; otherwise, they were all convertibles or four seaters. They passed government approval in April 1963.

The chassis dimensions were the same as the Facellia but the Facel 111 looked more like a mini Facel 11, particularly the rear end treatment where the flat panel along the boot had been removed and there were chrome surround rear lights. There were slightly different grills at the front, while inside imitation leather was offered plus two extra dials in the console.

There were no right hand drive cars; HWM sold one Facel 111 which was the 1963 Motor Show car which went to Cyprus where it was converted to right hand drive. Another went to Guernsey direct.

Schedule: Replacing the Facellia was the Volvo-engined Facel 111 in cabriolet and coupe form.  Production details are extremely sketchy. Type approval was gained on April 11, 1963. 193 made in cabriolet form plus one RHD. 431 made in Coupe form, all LHD. The last ones were completed in spring 1965.

Specification: They were  powered by the 1780cc/108 cu in four cylinder B18 Volvo engine plus Volvo four-speed gearbox and optional overdrive. The engine gave 108bhp at 5800rpm, good for 180kph. Dimensions were the same as the Facellia, but the coupe weighed 1090 kilos and the cabriolet 1050 kilos. The fuel tank held 65 litres and the suspension was as before. Brake discs had servos.

Price: Convertible: FFr21990; coupe FFr22695.

Facel 6

As a last gasp, Facel were keen to offer a three litre version of the Facellia theme and so they approached BMW first and then BMC for an engine. No agreement could be made with BMW to use a four cylinder engine, which was considered better and lighter, but BMC agreed to provide the heavy conventional Austin Healey engine sleeved down from 2912cc to 2852cc – below the 17hp tax threshold – although some might well have been three litres. None were right hand drive.


It gave 150bhp but with a 3.07:1 back axle would provide 195kph smoothly and flexibly. The gearbox was still Pont-a-Mousson, identical to the V8 with possible overdrive and updated suspension to detail with the extra weight. The chassis was slightly modified to squeeze in the extra seats for the four seater and the front had been extended by two inches to accommodate the six cylinder engine although the wheelbase was unchanged. There was a power bulge in the bonnet to take the taller engine while leather clothed the inside of the car. Wire wheels were optional.

The car was announced on May 20, 1964 and type approval was given on July 10 of that year but it took some time for production to start. Just 43 cars were built, including the prototype convertible plus six more convertibles and a single two seater fixed head for Jean Daninos. All the rest were four seaters, none were right hand drive.

Eleven cars were built in 1964 but on October 31 Facel’s days as a car manufacturer came to an end; they couldn’t even sell cars on their stand at the Paris motor show that year. The remaining Facel 6s were completed and sold by Ste Chamond Granat, a subsidiary of Sud Aviation. They were auctioned off and were distributed into the middle of 1966.

Schedule: First Facel 6 gained type approval on August 25, 1964 although there was a prototype which was completed before that. First eight cars were cabriolets apart from one Coupe. Then came one 2+2 coupe which was M Daninos’s personal car and 34 four seater coupes. Some of these were finished and delivered as late as mid-1966.

Specification: Now fitted with the BMC straight six engine of 2860cc/172 cu in, driving through Pont-a-Mousson four speed gearboxes with optional overdrive. This gave 150bhp at 5250rpm. Disc brakes, 72 litre fuel tank. Coupe weighed 1210kilos. Cabriolet weighed 1180 kilos. 195kph/121 mph claimed top speed. All LHD. All had wire wheels, suspension as before with coils at the front and leafs at the rear; disc brakes with servo.

Price: Convertible: FFr32,950, $6000; Coupe: FFr34,900



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