DI Buchan and the Facel Vega
Added at 14:21 on 09 December 2022
One of the editors who turned down Buchan stated that they wanted to see more from the main character than the fact he drove a cool car. I thought it a little glib and unfair, particularly given that the thing that defines Buchan the most is how he laments the way he messed up his marriage, and how he makes himself miserable by going to drink in his wife’s bar every night. But that wasn’t really the editor’s point. His point was, here we go, we have a crime novel, and we have our detective and the detective has a cool car, just like Magnum had his Ferrari, and Morse had his Jaguar, and Starsky and Hutch had whatever that was they had with its white stripe down the side.
Buchan drives a Facel Vega HK500, which is undoubtedly a cool car. The Facel, in various models, was built from 1954, and was one of the accessories of the day, being driven by everyone from Sinatra to Ringo, from the King of Morocco to François Truffaut. Bad business decisions let to the company’s early demise, and the Facel died in 1964.
I didn’t, however, stumble across the Facel by Googling “cool car that no other maverick fictional detective has”. Given that I don’t read crime fiction, for all I know there may well be a legion of fictional detectives driving around in Facels.
The reason I used it was because my dad bought one. In the late sixties. As the family car, with two small children.
At the time it seemed normal. Normal, plus I was like five or something, and was getting driven around in the coolest car in Glasgow. My main memory of bouncing around in the bucket seat in the back with no seatbelts was the double automatic aerials either side of the boot, and we’d shout at dad to activate them and delight in the amazing technology of these aerials going up and down. I’ve no idea if I’d seen Bond at that point. Five seems young to have seen Bond at the cinema, which would’ve been the only way to have seen it then, of course, but Bond seems to have been an ever-present, and part of the memory, at least, is that it felt very James Bond.
The Facel Vega is just something that happened in our family. By the time my dad died in 1992, I'd never thought to ask him the obvious question.
What were you thinking?
In my head the Facel was just a vague memory until I stumbled across the one in the photograph, in Haynes Car Museum in Somerset. It was then that I discovered it was the coolest celeb car of the day AND went out of production several years before dad got hold of one. So, there we were, late-sixties Glasgow, my dad’s this regular guy working in an office, wife working in an office, two bairns at home, and he buys a rock star car that will be impossible to service.
Well, I guess the answer’s in the description. He was young, he saw something shiny, he wanted it. Who wouldn’t have wanted a Facel? It was over fifty years ago, so those memories are hazy, but I don’t think it lasted very long. Probably until it needed a new brake pad or something.
Anyway, it seemed obvious then to give Buchan the Facel. I’m sorry, in fact, that I never gave one to DS Hutton. I’m not sure we even know what Hutton’s car is. But it would’ve suited him perfectly too, even though he’s a completely different fish to Buchan.
So, that’s Buchan. He drives a Facel Vega. Just like my dad did briefly in 1969.