1958 AC ACE BRISTOL
ESTIMATE: £180.000 - £220.000
The AC Ace first appeared at Earls Court in 1953 and epitomised a new era of British post-war sports car production. The owners of AC, Charles and Derek Hurlock, along with AC agent, Ken Rudd, transformed the company's reputation by taking a racing special and putting it into production, with notable stylistic influences from Italian sports cars of the era. The result was a car that delivered both on the road, and particularly on the track thanks to the input of racing chassis designer John Tojeiro. Tojeiro employed the same simple tubular ladder-type chassis with an aluminium body that he had used in his earlier specials. However, the Ace boasted all-round independent suspension by transverse springs (the first British sports car to do so), ensuring superb handling with minimal body roll and plenty of feedback. Such was the success of the Ace chassis, it became the foundation for the mighty Shelby Cobras with over three times the power of the original 105bhp, Weller designed, six-cylinder engine. The outdated AC unit eventually made way for the more refined Bristol straight-six, which had evolved from the pre-war BMW 328. The Bristol engine was far more suited to racing, as demonstrated with some success by Cooper, and in its standard form developed 128bhp at 6000rpm. Consequently, it is the Bristol engined Ace that is most sought after by collectors.
The Ace Bristol enjoyed significant competition success being campaigned by enthusiastic club racers, private owners and most famously by the Ken Rudd team at Le Mans in 1957 and 1958. Bristol engined Aces were run successfully at Le Mans from 1957 to 1962 by various entrants however, it was on a domestic club level where Ace Bristols earned their reputation as supreme racing machines. In total, only 466 Ace Bristols were manufactured and they are justifiably hot property amongst collectors as very few examples come onto the open market. The AC Ace was a truly innovative piece of design, and represents the foundation from which the legendary Cobra was developed.
Chassis number BEX406 is a Bristol engined Ace originally delivered to British Columbia Sports Cars in Canada on 3rd February 1958. According to the AC Owner's Club, the original colour was Svecia Red with a black leather interior and the car has recently been returned to this original colour scheme. By all accounts, the car was mainly set up for road use and had lived an easy life in Canada prior to repatriation to England in 1990. The car was discovered and purchased at this time by respected AC specialist, Brian Classic, and he shipped the car back to England and had it converted to right-hand drive. It was purchased by a Mr C. Cadogan-Rawlingson of Suffolk, an AC Owner's Club member, in 1991 and he was its custodian for 18 years. A Mr O'Connell acquired BEX406 in 2009 and had the engine, clutch and gearbox rebuilt by engine specialist Nick Finburg. This was carried out in order to compete in the 2010 Spa 6 hours, Dijon-Prenois and Sir Stirling Moss Trophy for pre-1961 sportscars at the Silverstone Classic. In 2013, the car was purchased by its current owner, who has enjoyed it on road rallies and at the 60th anniversary ACOC race at Silverstone in 2014.
Recent works carried out by the vendor have included a suspension rebuild, and a complete overhaul of the rear axle, brakes, and steering amongst other mechanical components. The aluminium, foam-filled, fuel tank holds 45 litres and feeds the fuel through a high-performance fuel pump, regulator and filter. The cooling features a deep core aluminium radiator with a Kenlowe thermostatic controlled fan and Evans waterless coolant. The ignition has been supplied by IN Racing and features a competition programmed electronic distributor. A new starter motor and alternator have been commissioned in the style of a period dynamo and all of these recent improvements have resulted in a car that inspires real confidence when driven. Additional features include a removable roll bar and full harness seat belts, both FIA approved, electrical kill switch, rear fog light, Brantz rally timer, calibrated gauges, good Avon tyres all weather equipment and a removable hard top.
One of the most appealing features of this AC Ace is its originality. The engine is the original 'D' series unit and is mated to its original gearbox with the all-important overdrive. Being one of the later Bristol engines, this car produces 128bhp compared to 125bhp in earlier models. A test on the engine in 2014 revealed very healthy compression in all 6 cylinders and this test report is available for viewing in the history file. The bodywork features original body stampings on the bonnet and boot and overall the chassis and body retain excellent patina. Supplied with an MSA Historical Technical Passport valid for racing, hill climbs and rallies, this charming Ace is eligible and would be welcomed at some extremely prestigious racing events around the world. Alternatively, the car is equally happy being exercised on country roads. The AC Ace Bristol is a car that rightfully deserves its place in the history books as grandfather to the legendary AC Cobra, and this exciting example offers a glorious opportunity to turn history into racing, rallying or every-day reality.
Viewing and bidding
The Salon Privé Auction takes place at Blenheim Palace on the evening of Friday 4th September 2015
Viewing of the lots will be available on Thursday 3rd September and Friday 4th September 2015.
Bidding at the auction can be done either in person by attending the sale, by telephone, by leaving a commission bid or live online. Full details of registration requirements and a buying guide can be found on the Silverstone Auctions website (http://www.silverstoneauctions.com/buying).