- Fantastic provenance and competition history
- One of only 446 Bristol-powered Aces
- Conveniently adapted to RHD during 1989s restoration
- Eligible for a wide variety of historic motorsport events
The Auto Carriers now legendary AC Ace was introduced in October 1953. The design of the AC Ace (and its later Cobra derivative) proved to be incredibly successful in competition and has since become a motoring icon which understandably has been widely imitated. The Ace itself however traces its origins back to the striking one-off sports racer “LOY 500” designed by John Tojeiro for motor trader Cliff Davis. Davis campaigned his one-off car with so much success that AC cars acquired the rights from Tojeiro with a promise of a £5 royalty per car. The Ace therefore retained its pretty Ferrari 166-inspired barchetta bodywork and the twin-tube ladder frame chassis with all-round independent suspension and so maintained its competitive edge.
From launch the Ace was powered by AC’s own 1991cc over-head cam engine but from February 1956 the Ace was available with the significantly more powerful Bristol engine. Despite its lower capacity the Bristol-powered Ace proved to be the car to have. In competition the racers preferred the Bristol for its low-down torque performance and superior durability. The AC Ace Bristols also were commonly upgraded with optional Girling front disc brakes from 1957, making these previously competitive cars a real force to be reckoned with on the international sports car racing scene. At the 1957 Le Mans 24hrs the Ace Bristol placed 2nd in class (10th overall), achieved similar results in ’58 before winning its class in 1959 and coming 7th overall thus cementing the Ace’s place as a British motor-racing hero.
However, production of the Bristol Aces was limited. Phased out in 1962, just 446 Ac Ace Bristols are known to have left the Thames Ditton factory, making these cars rightly very sought after.
THIS MOTOR CAR
Any Bristol-powered Ace is a desirable car – truly wonderful to drive and eligible for the pinnacle of the world’s historic motoring events, the model holds a special place among the cognoscenti. This car, BEX349, has a fantastic and unique history. This is the only AC Ace supplied new to St Lucia in the British West Indies. The car left the Works factory on 17th September 1957 heading to Peter & Co; an import / export business and coal supplier to the shipping industry.
A 120mph British sports car seems a little gratuitous for the narrow tracks of the West Indies, however this Ace was likely destined for the South American racing championships. Popular among racing drivers in North and South America, no fewer than five Aces contested the Venezuelan Sports Car Grand Prix on 3rd November 1957.
Likely thanks to its competition history BEX349 still possesses desirable upgrades including an additional steering box brace, sleeved chassis tube and aeroscreen mounting holes. After its South American campaigning, this AC Ace is known to have spent some time in America before being brought back to the UK by well-known collector and financier Michael Campbell Bowling. Clearly in need of some attention by this point, Campbell Bowling treated the car to an extensive photographically documented chassis-up restoration during which time he decided to adapt the car to UK road spec and changed the car to RHD specification. With desires to compete in European events Campbell Bowling finished the car in British Racing Green to properly represent Great Britain after its South American campaigning. The Ace subsequently participated in three Ecurie Ecosse Highland Tours, three RAC Norwich Union Rallies and the RAC Nürburgring-Spa Historic Rally. Its next custodian J.L.S Maclay purchased OSU 187 at Sotheby’s RAF Hendon Museum auction in 1996.
Entering the last family ownership twenty years ago, BEX349 is the last in a considerable line of AC Aces to pass through their hands. After a few seasons enjoying their green Ace, the family decided to strip the two-seater back to aluminium and refinish it the original Svecia Red. At a similar time, the black leather seats were retrimmed and the engine benefitted from an overhaul at the hands of marque specialist Mike Robinson from 1999-2000. Two years later the AC was granted a Historic Vehicle Identity form by the FIA and the previous owner continued to campaign the car at various rallies and events across Europe, usually sharing driving duties with his son. In recent years however, the car has seen little use and instead has been stored in a secure, heated garage.
This AC Ace Bristol is in fine form, benefitting from a recent inspection and tuning in our own workshop, the car drives exceptionally well. The provenance of this car, particularly being a pre ’58 drum braked car means “OSU 187” is eligible for a wide variety of top events including the Mille Miglia Storica, Le Mans Classic, Goodwood Revival to name just a few. The car is offered for sale with its manual, original AC brochure, AC Owners’ Club Dating Letter, past FIVA identity cards, and an impressive history file.
The AC Ace is will sit proudly in any collection and will surely be one of the first cars you choose to take out either for a gentle weekend drive or a historic race meeting. Available for immediate inspection at The Classic Motor Hub.