1951→1956 AC Ace
Despite being one of Britain's oldest car manufacturers, AC made its best impression with the Ace as debuted at the 1953 London Motor Show. It was one of England's first post-war sports cars, featuring an attractive body and a simple, yet sporting, chassis. In later years, the design was used by Carol Shelby to create the more blatant Shelby Cobra.
Brothers Charles and Derek Hurlock bought AC during and managed it during this transitional period. They partnered with John Tojeiro and bought the production rights for his upcoming sports car. The Ace essentially became a production version of his 1952 Tojeiro Bristol Special. Like that car, the Ace had four wheel independent suspension and a simple frame consisting of two three-inch diameter tubes. These chassis appealed to the Hurlocks because of it's easy design.
On top of this sporting chassis sat a striking body that mimicked traits of Italian sports cars. It was built using methods similar to Touring's superleggera design which used a tube framework to support a welded aluminum skin. An open and spartan roadster body was standard until 1954, when the Aceca Coupe was added with a curved windshield and hinged rear door.
Early Ace's used a an old engine which was designed by John Weller in 1919. This straight-six displaced two liters, and had an SOHC setup which was quite antiquated for the car. It was attached to a Moss gearbox.
From its initial configuration, the Ace was upgraded constantly. Front disc brakes were fitted from 1956, an optional overdrive was offered, the Moss gearbox was replaced by a custom box with Triumph TR3A gears and the engine produced more power almost annually.
In 1956 and after 220 cars had been made, a more definitive Bristol engine offered 120 bhp. AC was inspired by race driver Ken Rudd who fitted one in his. This particular engine was based off a prewar BMW 328 design that was taken as part of war reparations. It produced not only more power but was more capable of a higher state of tune. Original configuration included 3 Solex downdraft carburetors that made the engine quite tall. From the factory, the hotest version offered 130 bhp @ 4750 rpm.
AC Aces made a brief appearances in motor sport, and the car's best moment probably came at LeMans in 1957 when one placed seventh overall. This was followed by an eighth place at the 1958 edition. During this time the Ace provided direct competition to the Jaguar XK 120 and 140, Austin-Healey 100M and Porsche 356 Speedster.
In 1961, AC charged their engine once again to a 2553cc Zepher unit. Only 46 were made with it, and had a more prominent front air intake. One of these models was purchased by Carol Shelby, no doubt inspired by the cars performance at LeMans. He convinced the Hurlocks that Ford's small-block V8 was the way to go.
After 680 cars were built, the Ace was succeeded by the Ford V8-powered Cobra. Since idea was simple and development was completed quickly and this British-American hybrid became an instant winner.
Specification listed is for the 1956 Ace with the Bristol Engine.
Story by Richard Owen
Auction Sales History
1958 AC Ace AEX1012 - sold for $280,500
Beautifully presented example of the classic AC Ace. Restored by Motion Products and SLR Automotive. Colorado Grand veteran. US delivered, factory left hand drive example. Offered with substantial history file.
Auction Source: 2014 Quail Lodge Auction by Bonhams
1958 AC Ace AEX-456 - sold for $214,500
A Remarkably Original Example of the Revered AC Ace. One of the Most Beautifully Designed Sports Cars of the Era. Light Aluminum Body in Rare, Original Rouge Iris Livery. “Post-1956 Classics” Wheels of Britain Winner. Qualifies for Vintage Motor Sports Events. Offered with Owner’s Manual.
Auction Source: The 2013 Scottsdale Auctions by Gooding & Company
1958 A.C. Ace Roadster AEX 416 - sold for €99,000
AC Ace Registrar Tim Isles has kindly confirmed that this Ace left the factory on February 20, 1958 and was originally finished with red paintwork. It left the UK bound for the East Coast of the US and its first ownership was in Maryland. Its interior was in black leather with matching carpets. The car is confirmed to retain its original "matching numbers" six-cylinder engine, backed by a four-speed manual gearbox. The previous owner recently ... read more
Auction Source: 2011 Goodwood Revival Sale by Bonhams
1956 AC Ace Bristol Conversion AEX93 - sold for $148,500
The early car offered here was originally built with the aging six-cylinder AC engine, prior to the availability of the Bristol motor option. Although its build year is 1955, it has been titled as a 1956. Today it has been retrofitted with the desirable 120-hp 100D2 Bristol engine and transmission, freshly rebuilt by Ron Leonard in Denver, Colorado. The present owner bought the car in February 1986, though for some years it sat in his garage, ... read more
Auction Source: 2011 Amelia Island Auction by RM Auctions
1955 AC Ace Bristol Conversion AE70 - sold for €147,231
This right-hand drive 1955 Ace Roadster, bearing chassis number AE70, is one of the first 50 examples produced of this historic sports car design. Finished in silver with its sporting cockpit trimmed with red upholstery, this car received a restoration to show-quality standards performed by marque experts in the UK and Germany. Fitted with a correct-type Bristol 100D2 six, the most powerful and desirable specification, the Ace is a very strong... read more
Auction Source: 2010 Automobiles of London by RM Auctions