AC Ace Bristol Roadster

Acquired by the Hurlock family during the early 1930s, A.C. built a wide variety of automobiles in very small quantities until the outbreak of World War II, with most of its products powered by a six-cylinder, single overhead camshaft engine designed by company co-founder John Weller in 1919. Like most other constructors, A.C. mounted a freshened body on its prewar chassis following the war, while plans were laid for a new model. The marque’s signature product, the Ace, was based on a sports racing car designed by John Tojeiro, which featured four-wheel independent suspension and a sleek two-seat envelope body reminiscent of the contemporary Ferrari barchettas.

Built upon a simple and robust tubular frame, Tojeiro’s very sound design was acquired by A.C., adapted to accommodate the two-liter A.C. engine and introduced at the 1953 London Motor Show as the A.C. Ace. The body design was refined and constructed from aluminum over a steel-tubing armature that supported the body panels, adding torsional rigidity to Tojeiro’s simple frame. In 1956, the A.C. engine was supplemented by the addition of the 1,971 cc Bristol six-cylinder unit, initially offering 105 horsepower, rising to 130 horsepower in the ultimate D2 specification. This unusual engine, with a pushrod and rocker arm-operated overhead valvetrain and hemispherical combustion chambers, traced its origins to BMW’s prewar 327 and continued to be very successful in competition well into the 1960s.

The enduring reputation of the Bristol-powered Ace is based on several attributes including its handsome styling, responsive handling, light weight and healthy engine. During its approximate ten year production run, the Ace received only minimal changes, attesting to the soundness of the original design, as well as the high build quality at A.C.’s Thames-Ditton works. In competition, Bristol-powered Aces were very successful, winning three successive SCCA E-Production championships and scoring very well at the rigorous 24 Hours of Le Mans, where the Ace finished second in class during 1957 and 1958. Ultimately, the Ace achieved a sterling class victory, as well as a seventh-place overall finish at Le Mans in 1959. Without a doubt, this fine performance left an indelible impression on 1959 Le Mans champion Carroll Shelby, who later created the Shelby Cobra derivative of the Ace.

This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in August 2009 at the Portola Hotel & Spa and Monterey Conference Center, Monterey, California.

130 bhp, 1,971 cc D2-specification inline six-cylinder engine, three Solex downdraft carburetors, four-speed manual gearbox with overdrive, four-wheel independent suspension with dual wishbones and transverse leaf springs, and hydraulic front disc, rear drum brakes. Wheelbase: 90"

Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright ©P. Decker 09

Gallery: AC Ace Bristol Roadster