- 1959 AC Ace Bristol for sale
- The only Ace to be fitted with a 2.2-litre Bristol engine from new
- Original, matching numbers example
- Recently restored in blue with black wheels
Chassis number BE1096 is a unique example of the AC Ace. In total, 463 of these lithe British sports cars were fitted with Bristol’s straight-six engine, but this was usually the 2-litre Type 100D2 unit. The AC Ace Bristol now being offered for sale by The Classic Motor Hub was the only example to leave the Thames Ditton factory with the 2.2-litre Type 110 engine.
The original logbook is still in the car’s history file and notes that the date of original registration was 18 August 1959, when it was given the number 3 LPE. It was finished in Dragonfly Blue with blue trim and the first owner was listed as a company by the name of Chrome-Alloying Co Ltd of central London, but a hand-written note says that the Ace was ‘kept in Middlesex’ during this time.
It remained in the south-east of England until the mid-1960s, when it passed to a new owner in Hereford.
The Ace is listed in the reference work Ace Bristol Racing – A Competition History, written by John McLellan and Tony Bancroft. At the time the book was published, it was noted that the car had been ‘dismantled [for] 20 years’, and it was still in that condition when it was acquired in 2012 by the current owner.
Fortunately, the Type 110 unit – engine number 110/5082 – was still with it, and the owner set about restoring the Ace to its former glory. Photographs of the rebuild, from the bare chassis upwards, are included in the file.
Whereas the standard dashboard layout has the auxiliary gauges arranged in a ‘V’ shape in the centre of the dashboard, this Ace has been modified so that the dials for fuel level, oil temperature and water temperature are below the speedometer and rev counter. This puts them directly in front of the driver and works well once you’re on the move.
With more torque on offer from the Type 110 engine, this AC Ace pulls more strongly than those fitted with the 2-litre ‘six’ and the overdrive engages instantly. It looks superb in light blue with black painted wires, and is an invigorating and eminently usable 1950s sports car.
During the early 1950s, the Hurlock family – who owned AC at that time – were looking for a new model with which to replace the aging Two Litre. The bodies for the Two Litre tourers were made by Buckland in Buntingford, Hertfordshire, and based next door to Buckland was John Tojeiro, who produced a two-seater that was proving to be successful in competition.
One of Tojeiro’s cars was owned by Vin Davison, who’d had it bodied by Eric Gray in Hammersmith – the shape evoking Ferrari’s pretty 166 Barchetta. When Davison showed it to the Hurlocks, they immediately saw its potential and, after acquiring the rights from Tojeiro, set about turning it into their latest production car.
First unveiled in late 1953, the new Ace initially featured AC’s existing six-cylinder engine, but then Ken Rudd fitted his car with Bristol’s much more powerful 2-litre unit. By 1957, this BMW-based engine was standard fitment in the Ace, which commanded a price that was twice that of an MGA and more than £300 above that of a Jaguar XK 140.
The Ace was a true dual-purpose sports car. In the 1959 Le Mans 24 Hours, Ted Whiteaway and Jack Turner finished seventh overall and won the 2-litre GT class in an Ace that had been driven to La Sarthe. After finishing the endurance classic, it was driven home again, and other examples of the AC were achieving competition success in Europe as well as America.
The Bristol engine was found in more than half of the 723 Aces that were built, but in 1961 the Filton-based manufacturer stopped making the six-cylinder unit and switched to Chrysler V8s for its own cars. AC therefore fitted the 2.6-litre Ford Zephyr unit at the suggestion of Ken Rudd – the same man who’d first had the idea of fitting the Bristol engine – and with a 12-port Raymond Mays alloy cylinder head, the Ford unit could be made to produce 170bhp. Only 37 Zephyr-engined Aces were made before production came to an end in 1963.
Two years before that, however, AC had been approached by a Texan named Carroll Shelby, who wanted to create a new sports car by putting a Ford V8 into the Ace – but that’s another story.