1959 AC Ace “Cobra” Roadster

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.