History of AC Cars.
1901 John Weller, an engineer backed by John Portwine, a wealthy tradesman, set up a small engineering workshop in South London to build motor cars.
1903 A two-cylinder 10 hp model and a four-cylinder 20 hp model were displayed at the British Motor Show. Autocar June 6th reported, RWe foresee a brilliant future for the Weller car and its talented designers.
1904 The firm, then known as Autocar & Accessories Limited, produced a commercial vehicle known as the Autocarrier. This was a 5.6 hp air cooled single cylinder tricycle built as a delivery vehicle P which proved successful.
1905 The Autocarrier found an immediate market and became a familiar sight. It was fashionable for firms such as Maple & Co, Dickens & Jones and Goodyear Tyre Co to have at least one as a delivery van. One concern ran a fleet of over 70.
1907 A passenger-carrying version of the Autocarrier was made, known as the Sociable. Its simple and practical design ensured its production until 1915. The abbreviation AC was used for the first time and in November a new company was formed, Autocarriers Limited, taking over Autocar & Accessories but with Weller and Portwine still as Directors.
1910 TMotor Cycling' August shows the Autocarrier adapted for military needs. The 25th London Cyclist Regiment was equipped with these vehicles. Maxim guns were mounted on special bodywork and other Autocarriers were adapted as ammunition transporters. The Autocarrier was chosen by the military authorities because of its reliability, lusty performance and special manOuvrability.
1911 Autocarriers Limited moved to larger premises at Thames Ditton in Surrey, at which time Weller designed AC's first production four-wheel car.
1914 During the First World War, AC's efforts were concerned with the manufacture of shells and fuses.
1918 Full production commenced with the two-seater, four-cylinder car which sold at #255. The cars were immediately successful in competition, particularly in hillclimbs and early trials such as the Land's End.
1921 Showrooms and offices in London's Regent Street were opened, and racing driver S. F. Edge joined the board of Directors. Weller and Portwine resigned. Edge became Chairman and AC Cars Limited was formed. The cars were sporting in character, possessed an amazing performance and were equipped with stylish bodies offered in a range of colours. Success in both competitive and ordinary motoring proved the AC slogan at the time: TThe First Light Six - and still the best'.
1922 Of all AC's competition achievements, they were especially proud of having covered one hundred miles in the hour, with a special AC record-breaker powered by their four-cylinder, four valve per cylinder engine. Mr J. A. Joyce drove the car at Brooklands in November and completely shattered all the light car records, the fastest lap being the last one at 104.85 mph.
1928 Seven models were now on offer, ranging from the Aceca two-seater coupe to a long wheelbase coachbuilt saloon. The output of the AC six-cylinder engine increased from 40 to 56 bhp. The AC Car Company was at this time one of Britain's largest automobile manufacturers.
1929 The World economic recession - AC Cars Limited, together with many others of the period, went into voluntary liquidation.
1930 William A. E. Hurlock and his brother, Charles F. Hurlock, purchased the AC Car Company. No new cars were produced but servicing facilities were maintained. Pressure from satisfied AC customers persuaded the new Directors that there was a future for limited production of hand-made cars for a specialist market. Throughout the Tthirties', the AC six-cylinder engine served faithfully in achieving tremendous results in events such as the RAC and Monte Carlo Rallies. With showrooms in Park Lane, London, the Company was prosperous and stable.
1931 The name Ace was used for the first time.
1933 Four new cars were entered in the RAC Rally, and all of them took prizes. A four-seater sports driven by Miss Kitty Brunel scored an outright win, Charles Hurlock took fourth place, William Hurlock sixth and Mrs G Daniel finished seventh and took first prize in the concours dTelegance.
1937 AC found export sales in North America.
1939 The outbreak of World War 2. All production facilities were turned over to the war effort for the manufacture of fire-fighting equipment, aircraft parts, radar vans, flame throwers, guns and sights.
1945 When war activities ceased, thoughts turned again to motor cars. Slowly, following much development and improvement, production grew.
1950 Five cars per week were produced of the Two Litre model, which was available in several body styles.
1953 The AC Ace, an open top two-seater sports car was produced and quickly gained a big following amongst sporting motorists. It was highly successful in British TClub' racing, being the type of fast, tough car that a private owner could race and rally and still use for everyday motoring. The AC Cobra evolved from the AC Ace .
1954 The Aceca Coupe was introduced at the London Motor Show and went into production the following year.
1957 Le Mans - Ace Bristol finished tenth overall. Efforts never concentrated solely on cars and the familiar blue invalid carriages were turned out by the hundreds at Thames Ditton, alongside the high powered sports cars.
1958 Le Mans - Special-bodied Ace Bristol finished eighth, a standard version ninth.
1959 Introduction of The Greyhound 2+2 sportscar.
1961 Carroll Shelby, a Texan ex-race driver, entered negotiations with AC Cars and with the backing of The Ford Motor Company, proposed the installation of a large Ford vee eight engine in the current lightweight AC Ace. Built by AC Cars, the combination resulted in the AC Cobra, one of the fastest and most brutal sports cars ever produced.
1962 AC Cars production concentrated on manufacturing the AC Cobra. Each one was hand built at the factory in Thames Ditton.
1963 The AC Cobra caused a sensation by racing along the M1 motorway at 196 mph, leading to questions being raised in Parliament. Production of the AC Cobra was now 15 cars per week. The AC plant at Taggs Island, situated half a mile from the main AC Works, was fully occupied with the manufacture of motorised invalid carriages for the Ministry of Health. 1,200 invalid carriages were produced.
1964 Following the motorway sprint, a 70 mph legal speed limit was introduced. Two AC Cobras were entered in the Le Mans 24 Hour Race, the AC entry was the first British car to finish. By now, the 427 AC Cobra had the distinction of being listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the fastest production car in the world, a title which it held for several years.
1965 The AC Cobra wins The Sports Car World Championship.
1967 AC Cars produced the 428, a seven-litre sporting model with a body design by Frua of Turin. 29 Convertible and 51 Fastback vehicles were produced up to 1973, when production ceased.
1970 During the 1970s and early 1980s AC developed and produced the ME3000, a totally new mid-engined two-seater sports car.
1985 The updated 5.0 litre AC Cobra is re-introduced into North America, using the original tooling and meeting 50 State EPA and DOT Federal Regulations.
1986 After some 56 years of ownership, the Hurlock family sold their controlling interest in AC Cars to the joint ownership of Autokraft Limited and the Ford Motor Company. William Hurlock's son Derek retired as Chairman. The AC Ace prototype is displayed at the Birmingham Motor Show.
AC Cars moved into a new purpose-built factory of some 90,000 square feet sited within the historic Brooklands race track, scene of so many achievements by AC Cars during the 1920s. The AC Ace is redesigned for the 1990's sports car market.
1990 The RlightweightS version of the AC Cobra is introduced.
1991 The AC Ace pre-production vehicle is constructed by Autokraft. The body styling is by International Automotive Design (IAD) of Worthing. IAD continue to assist AC Cars in design engineering to meet full International Certification regulations.
1992 Brian Angliss personally acquires Ford's interest in AC Cars Limited. The AC Ace is developed into its final production form for 1993 launch. The AC Cobra Lightweight is re-engineered to meet 1993 EEC and 49 State North American Certification Standards. AC Cars returns to London Showrooms after an absence of 50 years.
1993 The AC Ace receives full EEC type approval and is launched at The London Motorshow.
1994 The new AC Ace enters production with encouraging reviews.
1995 The AC Ace unveiled to North America at the Detroit Motorshow.
1996 AC Cars Ltd goes in to recievership and is acquired by the AC Car Group Ltd. Production of a revised Ace and several versions of the Cobra continue.
Third time around for the Ace
In 1986, when Derek Hurlock retired, ownership of AC Cars was split between Brian Angliss (Autocraft) and another owner who soon sold their share to Ford. Ford had already got involved with AC to produce a prototype for a new AC model, the Ace.
The 1986 Ace prototype featured Ford Scorpio 4 wheel drive transmission and V6 engine. It also looked rather like a Scorpio, having been styled by Ford. This car design was dropped, and Ford tried to come up with alternatives but ran into problems, and so another period of delays beset AC. Finally, Angliss commissioned UK design consultants IAD to dream up a new AC and this they did extremely well, with a sleek and individual piece of styling. Meanwhile, an excellent chassis design was drawn up. Like the 3000ME it followed the perimeter chassis principle, but this time a one-piece frame. Also, it was made of stainless steel.
Bodywork continued in the AC tradition of hand-formed aluminium. The result was like a much modernised AC 428. I saw the prototype under construction in 1991, and it still had 4 wheel drive, which seemed to be all the rage during a short period in the late '80s/early '90s. Thankfully, rear wheel drive was adopted for the production version, which also used the Ford V8 302 power-plant. For a while it looked as though it would end before getting started, as a dispute with Ford seemed likely to close AC down altogether. Angliss' determination paid off and Autokraft became outright owner of AC Cars.
The new Ace was in production by 1994 and was very well received in reviews and tests, for its handling, refinement and driving pleasure. Build quality looked even better than earlier Ac's. At this stage, readers may well be holding their breath wondering what disaster might befall this latest of promising sports cars? Sadly, after a few short years, the receivers were called in (1996) and it looked as though it was over. I'm not sure what had happened, since Angliss' philosophy for the business and his enthusiasm for the AC marque inspired confidence.
The AC company was saved again by one Alan Lubinsky in 1997, the company becoming the AC Car Group. The Ace was cost reduced by re-engineering the chassis replacing expensive Aluminium panels with composite and production of the major componants moved to South Africa. Although benefiting from a range of more powerful engines including a supercharged Ford V8 from the Cobra derived Superblower this version of the Ace was less well received by the press and new owners.
An Aceca hard top version was planned but only barely made it into reality. Both models were then dropped by 2000 and the company concentrated on more Cobra derived sports cars.
AC Ace (AC Cars Group) Press Release (1997)
The latest AC Ace has been designed and developed not only to meet the rigorous and exacting safety and emission requirements of the EEC and North America, but also to provide an aerodynamically stable, long-lasting vehicle that is both practical and remarkably easy to drive. Yet, at the same time, it has the exciting performance and handling characteristics of the almost forgotten golden age of powerful front-engined British sports cars. The massive construction of the stainless steel alloy monocoque-type chassis, together with the aluminium outer body panels, provide an immensely rigid and corrosion-resistant platform to mount the race-inspired suspension, ABS controlled ventilated power disc brakes and variable-ratio power-assisted steering. Sacrificial crash structures and hydraulic rams are incorporated into the front and rear of the monocoque, capable of progressively absorbing substantial impact without damage to the main chassis and cockpit areas whilst extensive door beams protect driver and passenger from side impact.
Wide-based unequal-length wishbones, gas-filled dampers (twin at the rear) and concentric coil springs impart the traditional firm feel of a powerful sports car without impairing ride quality or transmitting vibration and harshness into the cabin. Though front engined, a 50/50 front/rear weight distribution has been achieved to provide precise and balanced handling that both reassures and rewards the driver. The ACE's 5.0 litre EFI catalytic V8 engine, coupled either to the 5-speed manual or the optional 4-speed automatic transmission, allows effortless acceleration up to a top speed in excess of 140mph. At the same time, 28 clean' miles per gallon can be achieved on unleaded fuel. British craftsmanship is evident the moment you sit behind the wheel.
Trimmed extensively in the finest Connolly hide, wool carpets and burr elm veneers, the interior imparts a feeling of luxury and natural warmth. Fully adjustable seats, adjustable steering column and air conditioning provide driver comfort whilst the fully retractable power hood provides an all-weather sports car for all climates. The joy of experiencing comfortable open-top motoring regardless of the season is, of course, the true purpose of the Ace. The Ace's unique and distinctive shape is the result of extensive wind tunnel testing resulting in excellent aerodynamics providing high speed stability. Of equal concern was the desire to reduce cockpit turbulence during top-down' motoring. The Ace features a remarkable absence of the wearying and undesirable wind buffeting normally associated with open-top vehicles. In every sense, the AC ACE and the AC COBRA are both traditional British sports cars from Britain's oldest manufacturer designed predominantly for the American market to invigorate and satisfy those who take personal pride and derive pleasure from their open top motoring.