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AC Ace: Buying guide and review (1954-1963)

AC Ace: Buying guide and review (1954-1963) Classic and Performance Car
AC Ace AC Ace AC Ace AC Ace
It’s one of the prettiest sportscars ever made yet there’s very little about the Ace Ace that’s original or unique, from an engineering or styling point of view. Indeed, when you analyse it, the Ace is a hotch-potch of design cues from earlier sportscars, not least some of the earliest Ferraris. But who cares, when the end result looks this good?
Designed by Lionel Leonard over a chassis created by John Tojeiro, the Ace started out as a special in the early 1950s. When it was shown to AC in 1953, the company knew the car was just what it needed. Power would come from the all-alloy overhead-cam straight-six introduced by AC as long ago as 1919.
With independent suspension front and rear, a choice of smooth six-cylinder engines and light, accurate steering the Ace is a delight to drive and it’s beautifully built too. Throw in those ultra-pretty looks and there’s no reason not to buy one of these charismatic ACs, assuming your pockets are deep enough.
Which one to buy?
It’s not that long since you could buy an Ace without having to sell an organ or two first. Those days are now gone as collectors have latched on to the AC with a vengeance and values have shot up accordingly (see prices below). The result is that an increasing number of owners are investing significant amounts of cash in bringing their cars up to standard, so it’s easier to find a good one but you need to pin down exactly what it is that you’re getting.
All Aces are basically the same but there were numerous variations on the theme. The AC and Ford engines are very flexible (with 223 and 37 built respectively) but if you want a more free-revving powerplant seek out one of the Bristol-powered Aces; 463 were made. However, while the Bristol engine is sweeter than the other two, it doesn’t offer the same low-down torque; the peak is at 4500rpm compared with the 2000rpm of the Zephyr unit.
Originality is important to most Ace buyers and owners, so check that you’re getting what you think you’re getting. An AE chassis number should have an AC engine; AEX means it’s left-hand drive. A Bristol-engined car will have a BE or BEX chassis number while RS denotes a Ford straight-six.
Performance and specs
AC Ace-Bristol
Engine 1971cc, six-cylinder
Power 125bhp @ 6000rpm
Torque 122lb ft @ 4500rpm
Top speed 117mph
0-60mph 9.1sec
Consumption 22mpg
Gearbox Four-speed manual
Dimensions and weight
Wheelbase 2286mm
Length 3848mm
Width 1511mm
Height 1245
Weight 762 kg
Common problems
• The aluminium bodywork gets dented easily but repairs tend to be straightforward (if not necessarily cheap) as there aren’t many box sections so everything is visible.

• The steel chassis is more of a problem as it corrodes and is easily damaged in a crash. Look for cracks next to the front spring tower welds, wishbone mountings can tear away from the diff casing and the rear shock absorber top mountings can shear off.

• The earliest Ace straight-sixes came with white-metal bearings and are given away by their UMB or UMC engine number. A CL number denotes an AC engine with shell bearings.

• The AC engine can suffer from silt accumulating in the block, leading to localised overheating then head gasket failure. Water pumps also fail as the bearing runs in water, accelerating wear. The alloy cylinder block can also crack, but can usually be welded up.

• The central crankshaft bearings in the Zephyr engine are a weakness. They allow vibration leading to crankshaft failure, but can be strengthened, so ask if any such work has already been done.

• Expect oil pressure of at least 55-60psi at 3000rpm on a healthy engine, with 25-30psi at tickover once the engine is up to temperature.

• There are numerous greasing points which need attention every 500-1,000 miles without fail. If the suspension isn’t lubricated frequently, rapid wear is guaranteed, leading to vague handling.

• Moss (AC) and Bristol gearboxes are devoid of synchromesh on first, but the Ford ‘box has it. Any Ace transmission should be pleasant to use and quiet in operation. If you can find a car with overdrive that’ll be a bonus; it’s a desirable extra that makes for much more relaxed cruising.

• If there’s any sign of backlash in the diff there’s a good chance that catastrophic failure isn’t far away. If in doubt, get an expert view.

• Standard fare was a steering box although a few cars have been converted to a rack-and-pinion set-up, which can make a car ineligible for some competitive events. Everything should feel sharp; any sloppiness suggests the box has worn although it could also be wear in any of the six track rod ends and central fulcrum bush.

• All of the electrics are proprietary so if anything is lost, damaged or doesn’t work you should be able to replace it easily enough – and cheaply in most cases.

• The leather-trimmed seats age well. If they’re damaged it’s easy enough to get them retrimmed, but don’t be too keen to take this route if they’re just showing patina.
Model history
1953: The Ace is shown at the Earls Court motor show.
1954: The first production cars are delivered to their owners.
1955: Power is increased to 90bhp thanks to the fitment of shell bearings, which takes the rev limit from 4500rpm to 5000rpm.
1956: The Bristol 2.0-litre straight-six from the 405 is now an option, and from March, rubber-bushed wishbones are fitted.
1957: The boot is shortened.
1959: The Moss gearbox is replaced by an AC unit with TR gears.
1960: The last AC-engined Ace is built.
1961: The Ford Zephyr 2.6-litre straight-six becomes an option. It’s offered with power outputs ranging between 120bhp and 170bhp.
1963: The last Ace is built.
Owners clubs, forums and websites
• www.acownersclub.co.uk
Summary and prices
Ace prices have risen very sharply over the last 10 years, putting them into top end collector territory. Original AC-engined cars start from around £100,000, although you might be able to find a car in need of a full restoration for closer to £60,000. Nice examples tend to be worth closer to £150,000, although the very best can go for £195,000. 
Bristol-engined models are even more expensive, with the best of these costing upwards of £250,000. The rarest Ace is the RS 2.6, although a slightly less thoroughbred (but tuned up) Ford engine means values are around the same as equivalent Ace-Bristol engines 
Words: Richard Dredge
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Last updated: 7th Jan 2016
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  • AC Ace Prototype


    Mayfair 020 7125 1400 | Maldon 01621 879579 Just arrived – AC Ace Prototype 1953 This incredibly historic motor car started life as a two seater roadster built by John Tojeiro for Vincent Davison but was soon acquired by AC cars and thereafter became the development prototype for the AC Ace In early 1953 John Tojeiro was asked to build a new sports car for his friend Vincent 'Vin', Davis. Of a similar design to the barchetta previously provided for Cliff Davis (LOY500) this example had a tubular chassis and pleasing Italianate aluminium bodywork built over a lightweight frame but unlike the earlier car was powered by a 2.5 Litre 4 cylinder Lea Francis engine obtained from Connaught. The new car was finished in the summer of 1953, registered LER371 and delivered to Davison, although no sooner had he taken delivery than Tojeiro asked him to return the car so he could show it to AC Cars at their Thames Ditton factory. So impressed were AC that a deal was quickly struck passing ownership of LER371 to AC Cars in return for a royalty payable to Tojeiro and suitable recompense for Davison, who joined the AC company as development engineer soon afterwards to help transform his car into the

    • Year: 1953
    For sale
    JD Classics
    01621 879579 VIEW CONTACT NUMBER
  • AC Ace Ken Rudd


    Mayfair 020 7125 1400 | Maldon 01621 879579 1954 AC Ace This is a highly desirable AC Ace with period competition history, driven by probably the most famous exponent of the marque Ken Rudd. The AC Ace is one of the most attractive and popular British Sports Cars built in the mid-1950s. Based on a strong tubular chassis, clothed with a beautiful lightweight alloy body and powered by a range of excellent engines it provided a superb basis for an all-round competition car and examples were driven by many of the top drivers of the day. One of the most famous names to be associated with the marque must surely be Ken Rudd, whose competitive driving skills and race tuning expertise was often applied to these cars with great effect. He was highly successful, not only as a driver, but also in transferring the hard-won lessons from the track into effective performance and race tuning upgrades that were made available to customers through his engineering enterprise ‘Ruddspeed’. The car offered here is one of the AC Aces that Ken Rudd owned in period and used for competition. Constructed in 1954 it was fitted with a 2 litre AC engine and delivered to Smithfield Garages on September 10th of th

    • Year: 1954
    For sale
  • 1959 AC Ace-Bristol


    Delivered to New York in October 1959, BEX1099 was fitted with front disc brakes from new and is equipped with the legendary Bristol 6 cylinder motor. The engine block retains its original number as fitted at the factory. The previous owner, Dr. Richard Riddell, purchased the car in 1984 from well known racer and restorer Jim Proffitt and having carried out some restoration work went on to use it on touring events and rallies across California.

    • Year: 1959
    For sale
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