The success of Cliff Davis’s successful Tojeiro sports-racer prompted AC Cars to put the design into production in 1954 as the Ace. The Davis car’s pretty Ferrari 166-inspired Barchetta bodywork was retained, as was John Tojeiro’s twin-tube ladder-frame chassis and Cooper-influenced all-independent suspension, but the power unit was AC’s own venerable two-liter long-stroke six. This overhead-camshaft engine originated in 1919 and, with a modest 80 bhp (later 100 bhp) on tap, endowed the Ace with respectable, if not outstanding, performance. It would be left to Texan racing driver Carroll Shelby to fully exploit the design’s potential in the form of the legendary Cobra. Convinced that a market existed for an inexpensive sports car combining European chassis engineering and American V8 power, Shelby concocted an unlikely alliance between AC Cars and the Ford Motor Company. The former’s Ace provided the chassis frame, supplied with four-wheel disc brakes for the Cobra—into which was persuaded one of Ford’s small-block V8s. The 4.2-liter prototype first ran in January 1962, with production commencing later that year. After 75 cars had been built, the 289-c.i. (4.7-liter) unit was standardized in 1963. Rack-and-pinion steering was the major Mk II update; then in 1965 a new, stronger chassis was introduced, a move that enabled Ford’s 427-c.i. (7-liter) V8 to be installed. Production ended in 1968 after 1,029 cars had been built, resuming in 1980 under Brooklands-based Autokraft. This Ace/Cobra hybrid combines a left-hand drive Ace chassis, Shelby Cobra engine and “427”-style wide-hipped coachwork. The car was imported into the UK from Portland, Oregon, in 1989 and has been in the present ownership ever since.

SCM Analysis


Years Produced:1954-63
Number Produced:220
Original List Price:$4,799
SCM Valuation:$45,000-$65,000
Tune Up Cost:$400
Distributor Caps:$25
Chassis Number Location:Data plate on cowl
Club Info:AC Owner’s Club, Ltd., 11955 SW Fairview St, Portland, OR 97225, 503/643-3225, fax 503/646-4009
Alternatives:Jaguar E-type SI roadster, Austin-Healey 3000, Sunbeam Alpine “Tiger”

This car sold for $8,100, including buyer’s premium, at the Bonhams & Brooks Beaulieu sale held September 9, 2001.

As experienced gardeners know, attempting to create a hybrid is always a chancy bit of business. This poor old AC just about defined the term “abandoned project,” sitting in the Bonhams & Brooks tent at Beaulieu bereft of its intended Ford V8, showing awful paint and looking like it had just been dragged from a long stay in a field or from under a barn.

Bonhams & Brooks estimated the car to earn a bid of between $11,200 and $16,800. Frankly, they were fortunate to raise what they did for this scabrous example. There are other ACs that have suffered the same fate as this car—indeed, there was also a 1963 Aceca coupe from the same Oregon “collection” that was offered at this auction complete with an uninstalled Ford V8.

Sadly, this roadster is now a vandalized mish-mash, neither AC Ace (thanks to the heavy-handed “427” body bodge-ups, big grille opening, imitation Halibrand mag-style wheels plus a poorly installed roll bar) nor AC Cobra (because, of course, even the most skillful conversion on the planet would still render it an AC with a Ford V8 dropped in decades later instead of a true “factory” Cobra).

At least these erstwhile plastic surgeons quit the ’63 Aceca coupe project before its body could be messed with. Consequently it made that car all the more restorable to someone who wanted to bring it back to its original AC powertrain combo. Not only that, it turned out to be a better buy than the roadster, selling for only $6,890 with premium.

We don’t know who bought either the roadster or the coupe, but we can’t imagine the roadster shown here actually being useful for anything except a donor car/spare parts source for another AC Ace’s maintenance or restoration. To even entertain thoughts about bringing this car back from the automotive Twilight Zone it presently occupies is an invitation to throw money away by the bagful and get way past its fully restored value before it ever approaches that condition.

It’s just a shame it wasn’t left alone before the previous owner or owners tried to turn it into a shade-tree Cobra.

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