Introduced in October 1953, the AC Ace was essentially a reworked version of LOY 500, the handsome John Tojeiro-designed sports racer with which motor trader Cliff Davis had notched up six wins and four seconds that season (in addition to placing 9th overall at the Goodwood Nine Hours). Lured into collaboration with the Thames Ditton manufacturer by the promise of a £5 ($17.85) per car royalty fee (capped at £500, $1,785), Tojeiro ensured that the new model's ladder-framed tubular chassis enjoyed the same handling prowess as the original by equipping it with all-round independent transverse-leaf suspension. Styled after LOY 500 (itself modelled on the Carrozzeria Touring-clad Ferrari 166 MM Barchettas), the Ace was arguably even more handsome. Initially powered by AC's own 1,991-cc OHC engine (dating from 1922), the availability from February 1956 onwards of Bristol's tuneable 1,971-cc 6-cylinder unit gave the aluminium-bodied sports car a welcome boost in both sales and performance. Upgraded with Girling front disc brakes in 1957, Ace Bristols achieved considerable success at Le Mans: 1957-10th overall and 2nd in class; 1958-8th overall and 2nd in class; 1959-7th overall and 1st in class. They also dominated the Sports Car Club of America's production championship for classes E (1957-59), D (1960), and C (1961). BEX406 was exported new to Canada, and an accompanying Province of Ontario Vehicle Permit shows that by the late 1980s, it belonged to RM Classic Car Investments Inc. of Chatham, Ontario. Purchased by specialist U.K. dealer Brian Classic, it underwent a professional conversion from left- to right-hand drive before entering current ownership in July 1991. Sparingly used over the last 18 years, it is understood to have covered a mere 6,000 miles since a major engine overhaul by TT Workshops of Westbury in 1992. As well as a reground/nitrided crankshaft and fresh liners, pistons, and valves, the straight-6 benefited from a new timing chain, oil pump, and camshaft bearings, etc. Other fettling has reportedly seen BEX 406 treated to a thorough brake system refurbishment (new rear drums, front discs, hoses, etc.), a replacement clutch master cylinder, an oil filter conversion, a new hood, and fresh radial tires. Largely standard, save for modifications to accommodate a taller driver (extended pedal box, rerouted throttle linkage, and exhaust manifold), the AC is understood to retain its original bodywork and Bristol 100D engine. Starting readily upon inspection and drawing many admiring glances on display at the VSCC's recent Oulton Park meeting, this desirable AC Ace Bristol Roadster is offered for sale with an overdrive adaptor casting (plus notes on installation), special cylinder head torquing spanner, detachable pedal blocks, an MoT certificate valid until February 2010, and historic class (free) road tax valid until March 2010.

SCM Analysis


This 1958 AC Ace Bristol Roadster sold for $195,437, including buyer’s premium, at the H&H Auctions sale in Buxton, England, on June 10, 2009.

This was the star lot, centered in front of the stage at the charming Octagon Theater in the Peak District spa town of Buxton. Aces have been creeping up in recent years, to the point when even the supposedly least desirable AC-engined cars tipped over the psychological £100,000 ($162,000) barrier a couple of years ago. Without the Ace to inspire him, remember, Carroll Shelby might have put his V8s in Healeys-and plenty of folks have done that. But would it have made such an emblematic Cobra?

With a sale room half full of sports cars, intense bidding lifted this car $30k over a fairly conservative prediction. Eventually it was bought on the telephone by a private U.K. collector who outbid two traders-a Brit on the phone and a Dutchman in the room.

This Ace Bristol Roadster was about as nice as they get without being too concours. The body was very straight, the vulnerable corners-unprotected by the tiny over-riders (only U.S. Aces and Cobras seemed to get little nerf bars)-are in good shape. The doors fit well and the body was symmetrical and ripple-free, not always the case on Aces.
A driver, not a car you’re afraid to use

The metallic blue paint was good and even, not over-shiny and with just enough tiny blemishes and imperfections to give it some character, keeping it firmly as a driver rather than a car you’re afraid to take out. The leather was nicely supple and the top was new; the sidescreens were scruffy but perfectly usable.

The chassis looked in good shape, and there were some welded repairs to the low-slung exhaust. The Bristol motor is an expensive unit, but this one was refreshed 6,000 miles ago by one of the U.K.’s leading specialists, so one might assume all is right with it.

The AC Ace retains a lithe delicacy that is absent from its meatier, heavier-tired derivative, offering super-tactile high-geared steering, enough body roll to orient you in its enormously adjustable envelope of poise, and a firm brake pedal, proudly embossed with the AC logo, which gives reassuring bite from the disc/drum setup.

The right rubber is important here. Aces were originally fitted with 5.50-16 crossplies, and for a long while in the 1980s and ’90s, all that would fit were taxi radials, unsuitably heavy and stiff of carcass. Happily, a wider choice of vintage and classic-style rubber has become available in recent years, and this car sits on some period-looking Avon Turbosteel radials that should give it grip (but not too much), along with the feel original Ace owners found such a revelation.

The pedal blocks are included, presumably so the car can be fitted for a shorter driver, and the only absentee from the “desirable” roster is overdrive; with long gearing these are surprisingly good long-distance tourers, making them very accomplished all-rounders. But at least the adaptor is included.

So what we have here isn’t the cheapest AC Ace Roadster to have sold recently, but it is one of the nicest, most usable cars, with no immediate expenses, and the right-hand-drive conversion doesn’t seem to have hurt its value. In my book that makes it a very shrewd long-term purchase, as you can’t buy these on every street corner; owners tend to keep them a long time.

You can bet that those for sale will all now be marked up to $195k; there’s currently an Ace on the U.K. market that started as an Aceca and has an asking price of almost $220k. As we go to press, H&H has a much rarer Ford-engined car slated for its July 22 sale. A comparision will be interesting. As we Brits never tire of saying, this is the thinking man’s Cobra. And this one was thoughtfully bought.

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