1956→1962 AC Ace-Bristol
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
|submitted by||Richard Owen|
|type||Series Production Car|
|production years||1956 – 1962|
|built at||Thames Ditton, England|
|valvetrain||Pushrod OHV 2 Valves / Cyl|
|displacement||1971 cc / 120.3 in³|
|bore||66.04 mm / 2.6 in|
|stroke||96.01 mm / 3.78 in|
|power||93.2 kw / 125 bhp @ 5750 rpm|
|specific output||63.42 bhp per litre|
|bhp/weight||141.24 bhp per tonne|
|torque||173.54 nm / 128 ft lbs @ 4500 rpm|
|body / frame||Wood-Framed Aluminum Body over Steel Ladder-Type Frame|
|f suspension||Double Wishbones w/Transverse Leaf Springs, Armstrong Tubular Dampers|
|r suspension||Double Wishbones w/Transverse Leaf Springs, Armstrong Tubular Dampers|
|curb weight||885 kg / 1950 lbs|
|wheelbase||2286 mm / 90.0 in|
|front track||1270 mm / 50.0 in|
|rear track||1270 mm / 50.0 in|
|length||3848 mm / 151.5 in|
|width||1511 mm / 59.5 in|
|height||1245 mm / 49.0 in|
|transmission||4-Speed Manual w/Optional Overdrive|
|top speed||~185.1 kph / 115.0 mph|
|0 – 60 mph||~8.2 seconds|
|0 – 100 mph||~34 seconds|
Auction Sales History
Auction Source: The Chantilly Sale 2015
Auction Source: 2015 Paris by RM Auctions
Auction Source: The Amelia Island Auction 2012 by Gooding & Company
Auction Source: 2011 Goodwood Revival Sale by Bonhams
Auction Source: 2011 Amelia Island Auction by Gooding & Company
Auction Source: 2011 Automobiles of Arizona by RM Auctions
Auction Source: Gooding & Company 2010 Amelia Island Auction
Auction Source: 2009 RM Auctions Sports & Classics of Monterey