One of the most influential and widely imitated classic sports car designs ever is that of the AC Ace roadster—although, of course, much of the world associates its appearance with the later Shelby Cobra derivative, which resulted when the Ace received Ford V8 power and a Carroll Shelby performance makeover in 1962.
The original Ace was itself a derivative. It all began with a one-off sports racer designed by John Tojeiro for driver Cliff Davis in 1952. From the very first, everyone seemed taken with the styling of the Tojeiro Special, which was overtly patterned after the era’s Ferrari 166 Barchetta.
By 1953, rights to the Tojeiro design had been acquired by AC Cars Ltd. of Thames Ditton, near London. Within a year, a new AC Ace based on the car appeared. The 1954 Ace evidenced some differences from the Tojeiro Special—most notably in the placement of its headlamps.
Built on a twin-tube ladder-frame chassis featuring transverse leaf springs and 4-wheel independent suspension, the Ace was a competitive sports racer in the late 1950s. Annual Le Mans efforts between 1957 and 1959 cumulated in a 7th overall showing, and a first-in-class win for the marque in 1959.
AC Ace Registrar Tim Isles has kindly confirmed that this Ace left the factory on February 20, 1958, and was originally finished with red paintwork. It left the U.K. bound for the East Coast of the United States, and its first ownership was in Maryland. Its interior was in black leather, which quite possibly remains in the car, as it appears to never have been fully restored.
The car retains its original 6-cylinder engine, backed by a 4-speed manual gearbox. The vendor recently discovered the Ace in Philadelphia, PA, where it had languished in storage for 35 years. Its now-deceased prior owner is believed to have obtained the car in Ohio in 1972.
The Ace was treated to a complete mechanical going-over in 2010, documented by copies of receipts totaling more than $37,000. Work completed includes an overhaul of the original engine, complete renewal of the brakes, and a new exhaust system. New radial tires were also installed. The vendor states the Ace “drives and runs superbly,” and notes that it is eligible for vintage racing.
A design classic in its purity of purpose and simplicity of line, this rarely offered AC Ace represents a great opportunity for the discerning collector.