Classic Van Auction Talk

Thursday 25 April 2019



Starts: 01/05/2019 11:00 AM BST

1982 AC 3000ME Mk 2 PROTOTYPE
Registration No: VPC634X
Chassis No: ME301R90000129
Location: Cheshire

- Former Thames Ditton demonstrator and then Charles Hurlock's personal car before being reworked by Aubrey Woods of BRM fame as an MKII prototype

- Re-engineered with much Alfa Romeo componentry as part of a potential joint venture including engine, suspension, brakes etc

- Recently treated to over £11,000 worth of fettling (new ECU, water pump, sundry recommissioning and rolling road testing)

Although the AC 3000ME prototype debuted at the 1973 Earls Court Motor Show, difficulties in obtaining Type Approval meant that it would be another six years before the mid-engined sports car entered production. Hailed as the British equivalent of the Lancia Stratos - both machines featuring wedge-shaped styling, fibreglass bodywork and proprietary V6 engines - its 'bathtub' steel chassis played host to substantial front/rear subframes and an integral roll-over bar. Equipped with all-around independent double-wishbone suspension, rack and pinion steering and four-wheel disc brakes, the model boasted a rearward 40:60 weight bias and excellent handling. Transversely mid-mounted, the 2994cc Ford powerplant was allied to AC's own five-speed manual gearbox (albeit with Hewland internals) via a Reynold triplex chain system. With some 138bhp and 192lbft of torque on tap, the lightweight 3000ME (1085kg) was reputedly capable of 0-60mph in 8.5 seconds and over 120mph. Some seventy-six cars were produced at AC's Thames Ditton factory before manufacture switched to AC (Scotland) Ltd in 1984 where another thirty were built. For many the last true AC - and certainly, the final model in which the Hurlock family had a hand - the 3000ME has long been collectable.

This particular example - chassis 129 - is unique among the total production run in having been actively involved in both eras of the story. Originally the Thames Ditton factory demonstrator, it was adopted for a time by AC's Managing Director Andrew Hurlock for his personal use and was therefore still on the company's books when the project relocated to Scotland. Aside from extending production of the MKI, the intention was to market an improved MKII version in conjunction with Alfa Romeo, and former BRM engineer Aubrey Woods was tasked with undertaking the related development. That work was carried out on the car now offered and reportedly included the following Alfa Romeo componentry: 2500cc V6 engine, suspension parts, wheels, control unit, pedals, steering, CV driveshafts and ventilated disc brakes. Chassis 129 is also understood to have benefited from a modified Hewland gearbox incorporating a Hyvo chain drive with Weller tensioner housed in a separate chain case, tapered races and individual selectors. Koni self-levelling shock absorbers were added too.

A former AC test driver, Ray Wilkinson bought chassis 129 when the Scottish operation folded. Won over by its handling/road holding, he planned to race the two-seater with the AMOC and to this end commissioned John Dooley to prepare the Alfa Romeo 2500cc V6 for competition usage. Unfortunately, a regulation change rendered chassis 129 ineligible before it ever ran in anger. Fitted with a more tractable/usable Alfa Romeo 3000cc V6 thereafter, the AC remained in Mr Wilkinson's care until 1997 when it was purchased by Michael Cowburn. Forming part of the latter's private collection, the fixed head coupe was sparingly used during his seventeen-year tenure. Repainted shortly before entering the current ownership during February 2014, chassis 129 was treated to £11,196.37 worth of fettling in 2018. Stripped and checked over, its 3000cc Alfa Romeo engine was updated with an Emerald K3 management system (plus associated wiring loom), new Lambda sensor, electronic water pump/controller and VR6-type injectors. Attention was also paid to the clutch, steering rack, suspension, washer jets and brakes. A secondary 12-gallon fuel tank was added because the original one contained too much detritus. Filled with fresh oil and antifreeze, the two-seater underwent two rolling road set-up sessions. Riding on fresh tyres and sporting a bespoke stainless steel exhaust system, 'VPC 634X' is said to 'have plenty of performance and to sound like an Italian thoroughbred'. A fascinating glimpse into what might have been, this historic and unique AC is offered for sale with V5C Registration Document, history file and its initial Alfa Romeo 2500cc V6.

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