AC Cars (originally Auto Carriers) was one of the first independent car manufacturers in Britain. But the company went bust at the end of the 1920s and production did note get going again until the mid-1930s. Following World War II, AC bounced back with a new 9-liter model that was traditionally built using an underslung chassis and ash-framed, aluminum bodywork offered in saloon and drophead form.
The revitalized company prospered and the impressive AC Ace roadster appeared in 1953. This had a chassis designed by John Tojeiro and was initially fitted with an evolution version of the elderly AC six-cylinder engine that had first come off the drawing board just after World War I (and would remain in production until 1963). The Ace’s light weight made it a potent performer — but racing driver Ken Rudd soon fitted his own competition car with a smaller but more powerful engine derived from the prewar BMW straight six motor subsequently developed by Bristol.
In 1957, this superior combination was put into production as the AC Ace-Bristol and enjoyed considerable track success, including creditable outings in the punishing Le Mans 24 race in 1957 and 1958. The original AC engine remained an option, but in 1961 Bristol stopped producing engines and this time the ever-inventive Ken Rudd suggested using a Ford Zephyr engine. Unfortunately, this wasn’t an easy option, involving a chassis modification and redesigned front end. But the result was sensational, with many regarding the AC Ace 2.6 as the best ever. It could certainly shift, with a top speed of 125 mph (201 km/h), though sadly for lovers of macho sports cars only 37 were made.
Other variations on the ‘Ace’ theme included the Aceca closed coupe unveiled in 1954 and a four-seat Greyhound built on a stretched Ace chassis.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1953 (until 1963)
1,991 cc, 1,971 cc or 2,553 cc Straight Six
Top speed of 103 mph (166 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 11.4 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW: Even as it was developing and manufacturing high-powered cars after World War II, AC’s bread-and-butter line was a single-seat invalid carriage with a BSA motorcycle engine – a lucrative Government contract that would last until the mid-1970s.