1960 AC Ace Roadster
|Odometer reading||15,263 miles|
|Estimate||£140,000 - £170,000|
- Built from a genuine factory Ace chassis and components
- Lightweight factory bodywork
- Special aluminium cylinder head and magnesium cased competition gearbox
There is a purity of design that ensured that, even despite its motive power, its slippery shape and engineering heart, success was ensured. Luminaries such John Tojero looked after the chassis supplying a tubular ladder-type arrangement with Ken Rudd’s racing impetus backed up with the AC company’s owners, Charles, and Derek Hurlock. The suspension was of all-round independent type with transverse springs; the first very first British sportscar with such an arrangement in fact. This gave superb handling with minimal roll and excellent feedback. It is unsurprising therefore, that Carol Shelby’s eyes picked up on these characteristics within which to shoehorn his V8s into giving birth to the world-famous Cobra.
In order to understand this example, one has to begin at the beginning. In discussions with Peter Duckett of AC Cars, the vendor was told that, according to the works 'Bible' back in 1960, the chassis was laid, thought to be AE1172 but as this is obscured by an engine support it has proved impossible to confirm. The engine matched to this is CLBN 2422, but this was subsequently removed and ended up in chassis AE1171. Numbered close to the original, an appropriate engine, CLBN 2410, was obtained from Nigel Dawes and rebuilt by AC racer, Rod Briggs. It has been rebuilt to fast-road specification covering just 450 miles since and is still officially in ‘running-in’ mode. The mileage is genuine therefore making it possibly the lowest mileage AC Ace on the road today.
Very importantly, this engine is fitted with one of only three aluminium cylinder heads made by the factory. The whereabouts of the other two is not known. Fred Larrimore reports that this was used by Ferrari racing driver, Bob Staples in his racing Ace (AE01, previously sold by Bonhams), and returned to the works when a valve spring broke.
The first owner was restoring an AC Aceca, 8 HPL, and thus made many visits to Thames Ditton, getting to know the service manager Fred Larimore very well during that time. Latterly, in 1981, AC Cars closed the factory and he was then able to buy the dismantled car as well as numerous contemporaneous parts. Fred Larrimore provided nearly all the parts to complete the car, pointing out that these were not necessarily from the Ace chassis in question but that they were of original Ace origin and from the correct time period. These included lightweight aluminium bodywork panels such as front and rear wings, front-quarters, and internal panels as well as boot sides and floor. Other body parts included unused superstructure tubing to make up the body as well as the bonnet boot and door frames. The rear wings were made of 18-gauge aluminium rather than the competition-spec lighter 16-gauge.
The rear wings were also made from 18-gauge aluminium rather than 16-gauge and, apparently, had been made for a lightweight competition Ace that was never constructed.
The car was put together on a correct AC Ace ‘buck’ by respected coachbuilder, Aubrey Finburgh at Classic Autos and included the infill panels between the wings. Below the hand-rolled surface, the superstructure was completed by Tom Bowhill of Cheltenham who also attached the bodywork to the frame together with a new cockpit floor, door panels, boot and bonnet all attached to the ex-works, tubular space frame.
At this time, the main scuttle tubing was changed to stainless steel to prevent corrosion from the open ends that are exposed to the road. The small tubes that secure the inner wishbone pins were likewise changed to stainless as the inner wishbone pins tend to seize in the mild steel ones and become extremely difficult to remove.
The parts from the factory included all the running gear and transmission, including an AC lightweight competition gearbox with magnesium casing and a standard ENV differential. All the suspension parts are of factory origin including wishbones, uprights, stub axles etc. The braking system with Alfin drums is ex-factory, as is the steering mechanism which includes an original wood-rim steering wheel made by the once-famous Cheltenham Shopfitting Company.
With the exception of the ammeter, all the instruments are factory and new cotton-insulated wiring has been employed in the reconstruction. The hood and frame are proprietary items, while the tonneau is factory. The windscreen is a curved late Ace-style unit purchased from the factory and fitted in a handmade Brasscraft frame. An aluminium fuel tank was purchased from the factory and the exhaust manifold is a copy of the original unit fitted to the vendor's Aceca and made by Len Hartley who used to make manifolds for Formula 1 racing cars. He also made a number of other such manifolds for ACOC members. Interestingly, John Tojeiro was taken for a ride in the completed Ace around the Cambridge lanes and commented that the roadholding was 'better than he remembered'!
On completion the car had been registered as 'DMT 70'. Unfortunately, it transpired that the DVLA did not agree that the vendor of the registration number 'DMT 70' actually owned it (although this was disputed). After lengthy discussions with AC Cars and the DVLA, and following an inspection of the car, it was agreed that the Ace was an exceptional case and that an age-related number ('YFH 54') could be allocated.
During this time, Fred Larrimor, the service manager at AC Cars in Thames Ditton signed a sworn affidavit confirming that the car was a genuine AC chassis and that the chassis number was believed to be 'AE1172'. This was corroborated in a letter from the AC factory. However, the chassis had not been stamped and, accordingly the DVLA, issued its own number which is present on the AC factory chassis plate.
This Ace even went on to win the Porter Shield at the Bugatti Owners' Club's Concours in 2012. It has featured in the ACOC magazine and is listed in the ACOC AC Ace Register as 'AE1172'.
This is a very special Ace that was put together almost 30 years after its siblings, using correct components but more importantly, it represents the passion and commitment of the men who built it, aided and abetted by a number of time-served craftsmen and specialists, men whose talent with aluminium, brass and leather is the backbone of the British sportscar industry. The history file is compelling and the car itself epitomises every bit the heart and soul of a true AC Ace.
Interested parties should satisfy themselves as to the description and condition of each lot prior to the sale. Accordingly, buyers are on notice that each vehicle is offered ‘as is/as seen’ subject to the Terms and Conditions for the auction. Buyers are advised to inspect the vehicle in person or use a professional to carry out this service. Historics will not entertain disputes over descriptions.