A NEW APPROACH IN AN AGE OLD BUSINESS+44 (0) 1926 691 141
Sold for: £220,500
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 differed by being fitted with 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 The outdated AC unit eventually made way for the more refined Bristol straight-six, which had evolved from the pre-war BMW 328.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 superb racing machines. In total, only 466 Ace Bristols were manufactured and they are justifiably hot property amongst collectors as very few examples become available on the open market. The AC Ace was a truly innovative piece of design and represents the foundation from which the legendary Cobra was developed.
This, left-hand drive, AC Ace Bristol (#BEX452) left the factory in April 1958 and being a later car benefitted from a curved windscreen, front disc brakes and an overdrive. It was delivered new to France via Ets Chardonnet and some years later, in the late 1980s/early1990s, the car belonged to one Alain Nibart and was registered '109 OM 45'. In 1997, Msr Alain Navarro purchased the Ace and installed a replacement Bristol engine ('110/5068') that had been rebuilt by Bristol Cars in 1989 for the substantial sum of £11,048 and a detailed account is in the car's history file. It should be noted that the FIA papers still record the original engine's number, '100D2506'.
Re-registered as '231 BQY 92', the AC was restored in 1998, and at around this time an illustrated 'Rapport d'Expertise' (condition report) was prepared and a copy is on file. In 2008, the Bristol engine was rebuilt again, on this occasion by SARL Supersport in Paley, France, and other works carried out at a cost of €76,499 (detailed bills on file). On 29th January 2001, Mr Navarro sold the car to Alexis Robert, only to repurchase it towards the end of 2002 at which point the registration was changed to '830 DOD 92'. In February 2005, the AC became the property of Jean-Pierre Grave of Toulouse and Geneva who, in turn, passed it on, during April 2006, to one Pierre Pinelli of Nice. The accompanying FIA papers date from 2007 when the car was registered '771 BLK 31'.
In 2012, the Ace was imported into the UK and treated to a comprehensive professional rebuild, completed in 2013, which included a repaint in a delightful shade of Gunmetal Grey metallic, an interior re-trim in black leather, and a new hood, tonneau cover, etc (bills on file). Since 2013, the car has been extensively detailed and the gearbox and overdrive were rebuilt in 2018 with the relevant invoices in the file.
One of the most sought-after Bristol-engined versions of this British classic, #BEX452 is presented in generally excellent condition and, as a European-delivered car with the later curved windscreen, front disc brakes and overdrive transmission, is particularly desirable.
The Ace Bristol is a car that rightfully deserves its place in the history books as 'grandfather' to the legendary AC Cobra, and this lovely classic offers the opportunity to enjoy that history whenever you fancy.