Bristol Cars, Bristol England 1945-present
|Private limited company|
|Sir George White Tony Crook|
Bristol Cars is the last remaining descendant that retains the original name of the Bristol Aeroplane Company, a major aircraft manufacturer that at one point employed well over 50,000 people. After the Second World War, the Car Division of the Bristol Aeroplane Company was formed, later becoming Bristol Cars Limited.
Unlike most speciality automakers, Bristol does not court publicity and has only one showroom, on Kensington High Street in London. Nevertheless, the company maintains an enthusiastic and loyal clientele.
Bristol has always been a low-volume manufacturer; the most recent published official production figures were for 1982, which stated that 104 cars were produced in that year.
The company suspended manufacturing in March 2011, when administrators were appointed and 22 staff were made redundant. In April 2011, the company was purchased by Kamkorp. Since 2011, the company has been restoring and selling all models of the marque while a new model was being developed. The company returned to the automotive business in 2015 with an all-new model, called the Bullet, initially dubbed “Project Pinnacle”. The car was first revealed to the public on 26 July 2016, and production will begin the following year.
The Bristol Cars showroom on Kensington High Street
The British aircraft industry suffered a dramatic loss of orders and great financial difficulties following the Armistice of 1918. To provide immediate employment for its considerable workforce, the Bristol Aeroplane Company undertook the manufacture of a light car (the Bristol Monocar), the construction of car bodies for Armstrong Siddeley and bus bodies for their sister company, Bristol Tramways.
On the outbreak of World War II, Sir George Stanley White, managing director of the Bristol Aeroplane Company from 1911–1954, was determined not to suffer the same difficulties a second time. The company now employed 70,000 and he knew he must plan for the time when the voracious wartime demand for Bristol aircraft and aircraft engines would suddenly end. The company began working with AFN Ltd, makers of Frazer Nash cars and British importer of BMWs before the war, on plans for a joint venture in automotive manufacture.
As early as 1941, a number of papers were written or commissioned by George S. M. White, Sir Stanley’s son, proposing a post-war car manufacturing division. It was decided to purchase an existing manufacturer for this purpose. Alvis, Aston Martin, Lagonda, ERA and Lea-Francis were considered.
A chance discussion took place in May 1945, between D. A. Aldington, a director of Frazer Nash then serving as an inspector for the wartime Ministry of Aircraft Production (MAP), and Eric Storey, an assistant of George White at the Bristol Aeroplane Company. It led to the immediate take-over of Frazer Nash by the Aeroplane Company.
Aldington and his two brothers had marketed the Fraser Nash BMW before the war, and proposed to build an updated version after demobilisation. This seemed the perfect match for the aeroplane company’s own ambitions to manufacture a high quality sports car. With the support of the War Reparations Board, H. J. Aldington travelled to Munich and purchased the rights to manufacture three BMW models and the 328 engine.
By July 1945, BAC had created a car division and bought a controlling stake in AFN. A factory was established at Filton Aerodrome, near Bristol.
George White and Reginald Verdon-Smith of the Aeroplane Company joined the new Frazer Nash Board, but in January 1947, soon after the first cars had been produced, differences between the Aldingtons and Bristol led to the resale of Frazer Nash. The Bristol Car Division became an independent entity.
The car division originally merged with Bristol Siddeley Engines, and was marked for closure, but was bought in September 1960 by George S.M. White the chairman and effective founder. White retained the direction of the company, but sold a forty per cent shareholding to Tony Crook, a leading Bristol agent. Crook became sole distributor.
In September 1969, only a month before the unveiling of the new Bristol 411 at the Earl’s Court Motor Show, Sir George White (as he had become) suffered a serious accident in his Bristol 410. The car was only superficially damaged, but he suffered severe trauma.
As time passed it became clear that he would never regain his health sufficiently to return to full-time work. To safeguard the future of his workforce, he decided in 1973 to sell his majority shareholding to Crook. As the ties with the White family were severed, British Aerospace (successors to the Bristol Aeroplane Company) requested the company to move its factory from Filton Aerodrome and it found new premises in nearby Patchway. The showroom on Kensington High Street became the head office, with Crook shuttling between the two in Bristol’s light aircraft.
Under Crook’s direction the company produced at least six types, the names of which were largely borrowed from Bristol’s distinguished aeronautical past: the Beaufighter, Blenheim, Britannia and Brigand.
End of the second era
In February 1997, Crook, then aged 77, sold a fifty per cent holding in Bristol Cars to Toby Silverton, with an option to take full control within four years. Silverton, then son-in-law of Joe Lewis of the Tavistock Group and son of Arthur Silverton of Overfinch, joined the board with his father.
Crook and Toby Silverton produced the Speedster, Bullet and 411 Series 6, though 2002 saw the transfer of Bristol Cars fully into the ownership of Silverton and the Tavistock Group, with Silverton in the chair and Crook remaining as managing director. Together they developed a two-seater V10 named after the first Sir George White’s world-famous First World War two-seater aircraft, the Bristol Fighter.
Crook finally relinquished his connection with Bristol Cars in August 2007. In March 2011, it was announced that Bristol Cars had been placed into administration. Rescue came in April 2011, in the form of Frazer-Nash Research.
Pre-war BMW designs, Aldington brothers and early cars
HJ Aldington, a director of the Bristol Aeroplane Company affiliated AFN (BMW’s pre-war concessionaire in the UK), used his British Army connections to visit the bombed BMW factory in Munich several times post-war. In 1945 he took plans for BMW cars back to Britain, and BMW chief engineer, Dr. Fritz Fiedler was also employed. Its first car was the Bristol 400, prototyped in 1946 and introduced at the 1947 Geneva Motor Show. Derived from immediately pre-WW2 BMW products (thanks to a connection to BMW through Frazer Nash), the chassis was based on the BMW 326, the engine on the 328, and the body on the 327. Even a variation on the famous double-kidney BMW grille was retained. Bristol, however, did a thorough examination of the car’s handling and ended up with performance “only matched by outright purpose-built competition cars”. Seven hundred of the Bristol 400 were built, 17 of which received “handsome” drophead bodywork from Pininfarina.
In 1949, the 400 was joined by the five-place 401. Bodied by Touring, it was aerodynamically sleeker, accelerated better, and had higher top speed. It was joined by the drophead 402, of which just 24 examples were built.
450, entered at Le Mans in 1953; it broke its experimental crankshaft, but despite being less than aerodynamically ideal proved fully five seconds a lap quicker than the competition. Bristol withdrew from racing two years later.
Along with the 403 was the
404, on a shorter wheelbase, with a more powerful engine and styling reminiscent of the 450. The 404 introduced a concealed front wing-mounted spare wheel and battery. It was built to extremely exacting standards, and the price reflected it; this, plus newly introduced “punitive taxation”, meant only 40 were produced.
The 405, which entered production in 1954, was much more successful, not least for being Bristol’s only four-door. It remained in production until 1958, with 297 saloons and 43 drophead coupés produced in all.
Bristol debuted the
406 in 1958, and it remained in production until 1961.
It was followed in 1963 by the
408, with drastic restyling as well as improved suspension. This was succeeded by the409. Many buyers preferred the crisp steering and gearbox of the earlier six-cylinder cars.The 410, introduced in 1966, was a return to the high-performance touring tradition, offering the same top speed as the 409, and superior acceleration, with the same powerplant. It also saw Bristol become a private company and marked a return to quality to the exclusion of output: no more than three cars a week were to be made.
In 1969, the Bristol 411 appeared, with a new 6.2 litre Chrysler V8 (still rebuilt and modified by Bristol, as before) delivering higher top speed and even better acceleration.
1970 Bristol 411 Series 1
Until 1961, all Bristol cars used Bristol-built derivatives of the BMW M328 2-litre six-cylinder engine. These engines also powered a number of sports and racing cars, including all post-war Frazer Nashes (apart from a few prototypes), some ACs, some Lotus and Cooper racing cars, and several others.
In 1961, with the launch of the Bristol 407, the company switched to larger Chrysler V8 engines, which were more suitable for the increasingly heavy cars. All post-1961 Bristols, including the later Blenheim and Fighter models, used Chrysler engines.
Kamkorp era (2011–)
Administration and purchase
On 3 March 2011 it was announced that Bristol Cars had gone into administration, with the immediate loss of 22 jobs. On 21 April 2011 the company was purchased by Kamkorp, which also owns Frazer-Nash Research, a manufacturer of electric vehicles. The acquisition could thus be presented as a reunion of two great names of British motoring, despite there being no connection with the original Frazer Nash car company.
In 2014 Bristol Cars announed the development of a new model codenamed “Project Pinnacle”. Initial reports indicated it would be a petrol-electric hybrid with a petrol engine from BMW. However a later media report and a May 2015 press release indicated that the car would have non-hybrid V8 power.
The car, a 2-seater roadster, made its first public appearance, slightly camouflaged, at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in June 2016. In July the car was shown undisguised, technical details were announced, and its name given as Bristol Bullet. It is powered by a normally aspirated BMW V8 engine of 4.8 litres and 370 bhp driving the rear wheels, has a body of carbon fibre, weighs 1130 kg, and will cost £250,000. The planned production run is 70. The company states that the car is a precursor of future range-extender electric vehicles.
Type 407 (1961–63)
Type 408 (1963–65)
Type 409 (1965–67)
Blenheim Roadster/Speedster (2003–11) Fighter (2004–11)
- “Die wundersame Welt von Bristol”. Auto Bild (in German). 6 January 2008. Retrieved 16 May 2008.
- “Supercar Supermarket: BRISTOL FIGHTER – Feature”. Car and Driver. January 2001. Retrieved 16 May 2008.
- Lösch (1984), p. 402.
- “Bristol Cars announces 22 staff redundancies”. BBC News. 4 March 2011. Retrieved 4 March 2011.
- “Bristol Cars bought by Kamkorp Autokraft”. BBC News. 21 April 2011. Retrieved 21 April 2011.
- “Bristol Cars”. Bristol Cars. Retrieved 8 October 2013.
- Jenkins, Alex (18 July 2016). “Bristol Cars to make comeback with new Bristol Bullet”. Auto Express. Retrieved 18 July 2016.
- Lawrence (1991), p. 58.
- “The Bristol Cars Story”. Bristolcars.co.uk. Retrieved13 March 2015.
- Rob de la Rive Box. “Encyclopaedia of Classic Cars: Sports Cars 1945-1975”. Books.google.com. p. 64. Retrieved2016-08-17.
- Setright (1978), p. 233.
- “Farewell Tony Crook: Racing driver and ex-Bristol Cars owner dies at 93”. Bristol Post. 19 February 2014. Retrieved13 March 2015.
- Setright (1978), p. 232.
- Setright (1978), pp. 232–3.
- Setright (1978), pp. 233–4.
- Setright (1978), p. 234.
- Setright (1978), p. 235.
- “Bristol Cars goes into administration”. BBC News. 3 March 2011. Retrieved 3 March 2011.
- Pollard, Tim (2015-06-02). “Bristol Cars is back with new 2015 Pinnacle model by CAR Magazine”. Carmagazine.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-08-17.
- “Bristol previews new Project Pinnacle anniversary car”.Autocar.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-08-17.
- “PRESS RELEASE : BRISTOL CARS CONFIRMS POWERTRAIN FOR 70th ANNIVERSARY PROJECT PINNACLE” (PDF). Bristolcars.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-08-17.
- “Bristol Bullet to be precursor of electrified models”.Autocar.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-08-17.
AutoCarrier CARS GROUP Ltd.
I found more information about AC and more than 100 extra pictures, so that’s the reason most of this Blog will look the same as the one before, but keep looking, there is lots more.
|Founded||West Norwood, London,United Kingdom (1901)|
|Founder||The Weller Brothers|
|Headquarters||Thames Ditton, Surrey, United Kingdom|
|Alan Lubinsky, current owner|
|Website||AC Cars official page|
1957 AC Aceca Bristol prepared for the “Carrera Panamericana” Mexican road race
While the company’s sporting cars won plaudits from many enthusiasts, it was the long-running contract with the UK government for the production of three-wheeled invalid carriages that may have most impressed those concerned for the company’s financial stability.
The first car from what eventually became AC was presented at the Crystal Palace motor show in 1903; it was a 20 HP touring car and was displayed under the Weller name. The Weller Brothers of West Norwood, London, planned to produce an advanced 20 hp (15 kW) car. However, their financial backer and business manager John Portwine, a butcher, thought the car would be too expensive to produce and encouraged Weller to design and produce a little delivery three-wheeler. Weller did so, called it the Auto-Carrier, and a new company was founded and named Autocars and Accessories; production started in 1904. The vehicle caught on quickly and was a financial success. In 1907, a passenger version appeared, called the A.C. Sociable. It had a seat in place of the cargo box. The A.C. Sociable was described in a review of the 1912 Motor Cycle and Cycle Car Show asone of the most popular cycle cars on the road, both for pleasure and business, and A.C. displayed eight vehicles on their stand, six for pleasure and 2 for business. The single rear wheel contained a two-speed hub, and the single cylinder engine was mounted just in front of it, with rear chain drive.
The company became Auto Carriers Ltd. in 1911 and moved to Ferry Works, Thames Ditton, Surrey—at this time they also began using the famed “AC” roundel logo. Their first four-wheeled car was produced in 1913; it was a sporty little two-seater with a gearbox on the rear axle. Only a few were built before production was interrupted by the first World War.
During the Great War, the Ferry Works factory produced shells and fuses for the war effort, although at least one vehicle was designed and built for the War Office. At the end of the First World War, AC Cars started making motor vehicles again, designing and building many successful cars at Ferry Works, as well as expanding into an old balloon factory on Thames Ditton High Street.
After the war, John Weller started on the design of a new overhead-cam 6-cylinder engine. The first versions of this design were running by 1919. The Weller engine would be produced until 1963; it is possibly the second-longest-lived production motor in history after the Volkswagen boxer. In 1921, Selwyn Edge (who had been with Napier & Son) bought shares in the company and was appointed governing director. He did not get along with Weller or Portwine, who resigned less than a year later. In 1922, the name changed again to AC Cars Ltd.
In customary fashion Edge sought publicity for the company through motoring competition. In 1921 Sammy Davis joined A.C. as a driver, competing in the Junior Car Club 200-mile (320 km) race, for cars up to 1,500 c.c., at Brooklands. In 1923 and 1924 J.A. Joyce won the Brighton Speed Trials driving an A.C. In May 1924, at Montlhéry, near Paris, T. G. Gillett broke the continuous 24-hour record in a 2-litre A.C., fitted with special streamlined bodywork, covering a distance of 1,949.3 miles. In 1926 the Honourable Victor Bruce, an AC employee, won the Monte Carlo Rally in his 2-litre AC. In 1927, Victor Bruce, with his wife Mildred (The Hon Mrs Victor Bruce), assisted by J.A. Joyce, set a 10-day endurance record at Montlhéry, driving an AC Six.
Selwyn Edge bought the company outright for £135,000 in 1927 and re-registered it as AC (Acedes) Ltd but sales, which had been falling, continued to decline. The company was caught by the crash of 1929 and went into voluntary liquidation. Production ceased for a time, and the company was sold to the Hurlock family who ran a successful haulage business. They wanted the High Street factory only as a warehouse (Ferry Works was not acquired), but allowed the service side of AC to continue.
A single car was made for William Hurlock in 1930. He liked it and agreed to restart very limited production, mainly using components left over from previous models. An agreement was reached with Standard to supply new chassis, the ancient three-speed transaxle was replaced by a modern four-speed gearbox (built in unit with the engine), and by 1932 a new range of cars was finally launched. Production continued on this small scale, averaging less than 100 vehicles per year, until the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. The final pre-war car was delivered in June 1940, after which the factory was fully involved with war production.
After the Second World War
Production of cars restarted in 1947 with the 2-Litre and also a large contract with the government to produce the fiberglass-bodied, single seat, Thundersley Invacar type 57 invalid carriages with BSA engines. The 2-Litre used an updated version of the pre-war underslung chassis fitted with the AC straight-six and traditional ash-framed and aluminium-panelled saloon or convertible coachwork. The invalid carriages continued to be built until 1976 and were an important source of revenue to the company. They also built an aluminum-bodied three-wheeled microcar, the Petite. They also produced “Bag Boy” golf carts (with independent suspension to the two wheels!). In 1949, AC Cars also produced four trains, each consisting three power cars and four coaches, for the Southend Pier Railway in Essex. These remained in use until 1976.
In 1953, the firm began production of the AC Ace, a lightweight chassis designed by John Tojeiro with the venerable Weller-designed 2-Litre engine. Soon after, car dealer and racing driver Ken Rudd fitted his own competition Ace with a pre-war BMW-designed, Bristol-produced 135 bhp (101 kW) six-cylinder engine. This combination was put into production as the AC Ace-Bristol in 1957. In this form, the car raced at Le Mans in 1957 and 1958.
For 1954, a new aluminum-bodied closed coupe was unveiled at Earls Court, the AC Aceca. It was only slightly heavier than the convertible Ace, and because of better aerodynamics was actually slightly faster (128 mph (206 km/h) top speed). Only 328 Acecas were produced, and they were equipped with either of the Ace’s engines. There was a demand from some customers for a larger four-seater car, for whom AC produced the Greyhound. This was built on a stretched Ace chassis with coil suspension all around and a 2.2-litre Bristol engine.
In 1961, Bristol stopped producing their own engines—and once again, Ken Rudd came to the rescue, suggesting that AC use a 6-cylinder engine from the Ford Zephyr. These engines when fitted with the Raymond Mays twelve-port alloy head and Weber carburetors could be made to produce a safe 170 bhp (127 kW) and a 125 mph (201 km/h) top speed. The AC Ace 2.6 (as it is latterly known today) is for many people the prettiest Ace of all—and undoubtedly the rarest, with only 37 such cars built. To fit the Zephyr engine, AC had to modify the frame, relocate the steering box and completely change the nose of the car. These changes are often mistakenly attributed to Carroll Shelby.
Today, Acecas are popular at historic racing events. Arch McNeill, a factory Morgan racer from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s told fellow Texan and Aceca owner Glenn Barnett that “the Morgan team spent two years campaigning to beat the factory AC Acecas and finally did in the late 1950s”. Though more valuable than comparable AC or Shelby replicas, the Aceca is still a bargain when compared to a Shelby CSX Cobra, while maintaining similar performance.
Carroll Shelby and the Cobra
In 1962, AC was approached by Carroll Shelby to use a small block Ford V8 engine in the Ace chassis, producing the AC Cobra. Shelby needed a car that could compete with the Chevrolet Corvette in US sports car racing. The resulting Cobra was a very powerful roadster, and it is commonly blamed for the introduction of the 70 mph (110 km/h) limit on British motorways. While this was a major factor in the decision, after a coupe version was caught doing 196 mph (315 km/h) during a test run, a then-recent spate of accidents under foggy conditions also helped the introduction of the limit.
At the end of the 1964 racing season, the Cobra was being outclassed in sports car racing by Ferrari. Carroll Shelby decided he needed a bigger engine. A big block Ford FE series 390 V8 was installed in a Cobra and the result was scary—the car was virtually undrivable. It was decided that a completely new chassis was needed. With the combined help of Ford’s computers and the experience of the AC engineers, the new MKIII was born with 4-inch (100 mm) main tubes instead of 3-inch (76 mm) for the chassis, huge cross-braced shock towers and coil springs all around. This, along with a bigger 427 ci version of the FE, made the new AC Cobra MKIII an absolutely unbeatable 2,200 lb (1,000 kg) race car. Specifically, the engine that was installed in the car was Ford’s famed 427 FE NASCAR “Side-Oiler” V8, a power-house engine developing 425 bhp (317 kW) in its mildest street version. Unfortunately, the car missed homologation for the 1965 season and was not raced by the Shelby team. However, it was raced successfully by many privateers and went on to win races all the way into the 1970s. The AC 427 Cobra, although a commercial failure when in production, has now become one of the most sought-after and replicated automobiles ever.
It was produced in two versions: a street model with a tamer motor, optional dual carburetors, a glove box, and exhaust running under the car, and a competition version with a stripped interior, no glove box, different instrument layout and revised suspension. The competition version also had a more powerful motor with only one carburetor, side exhausts, a roll bar and wider fenders to accommodate racing tires. At the end in 1966, Shelby was left with 31 unsold competition cars; he decided to sell them to the general public under the name of Cobra 427 S/C or Semi-Competition. Today these S/C cars are the most sought after models and can sell in excess of 1.5 million dollars.
Carroll Shelby sold the Cobra name to Ford in 1965 and went on to develop the famed racing Ford GT40.
Meanwhile, AC went on producing a milder version of the 427 MK III Cobra for the European market fitted with the small block Ford motor. The car was called the AC 289 and 27 were produced.
AC 428 or Frua and AC 429
At the same time, the company realized they needed a grand tourer model that could appeal to wealthy customers. AC contacted the famed Italian coach builder Pietro Frua to design an appealing GT body that could be fitted on a MKIII Cobra chassis stretched by 6 inches (150 mm). The new car was shown at the 1965 Turin show. A few early models were fitted with the famed 427 Ford FE motors. In 1967 the long-stroked 428 motor became available and the car was known as the AC Frua. Built out of steel rather than AC’s usual aluminum, the Frua is heavier than a Cobra at slightly under 3,000 lb (1,400 kg). That said, it is still a light and very fast automobile built on a racing chassis. The car was never fully developed and the cost of sending chassis from England to Italy and back for final assembly made it so expensive that only a few were produced. Production ended in 1973 after only 80 cars (29 convertibles and 51 coupes) were finished.
In 1970, a special version of the coupé was built. It was based on an extended bodyshell that Frua built for Monteverdi which was supposed to become the second Monteverdi 375/L. After the alliance of Monteverdi and Frua split off in Summer 1969, that bodyshell remained in the Frua works in Turin. A year or so later Frua changed some details on front and rear, including some semi-hidden headlamps which had been seen on the Iso Lele and the Iso Grifo, second series, before. The car was called AC 429; it remained a one-off.
The 1970s were not a good period for luxury car manufacturers and Derek Hurlock went searching for a totally new smaller car. Mid-engined designs were in fashion at the time and in 1972 the Diablo, a prototype with an Austin Maxi engine and transaxle, was built by privateers Peter Bohanna and Robin Stables. In much the same way as they had taken up the Tojeiro prototype and turned it into the Ace, AC acquired the rights and at the 1973 London Motor Show showed their own version, the mid-engined ME3000 with the 3.0-litre Ford Essex V6 engine installed transversely over a bespoke AC-designed gearbox. Development was virtually complete in 1976 when new Type Approval regulations were introduced. A prototype failed the 30 mph (48 km/h) crash test, and the chassis had to be redesigned. On the second attempt, the car passed with flying colours. This was a huge achievement for a tiny firm—Vauxhall had to make several attempts before the contemporary Chevette passed. For AC, such delays meant that the first production cars (now renamed 3000ME) were not delivered until 1979, by which time they were in direct competition with the Lotus Esprit. Although comfortable, brisk, nicely built and practical, AC’s ambitions of selling 250 cars per year were a distant memory. After just 71 cars were sold, Hurlock called a halt to production as his health was suffering and the company was struggling in the teeth of a recession. In 1984, production stopped at Thames Ditton and the car and the AC name were licenced to a new company registered as AC (Scotland) plc run by David McDonald in a new factory in Hillington, Glasgow. Here, 30 cars were built, including a development car tested with Alfa Romeo‘s 2.5-litre V6 engine and a nearly complete Mark 2 prototype of the same. Regardless (or possibly because) of these developments, AC Scotland called in the receivers in 1985. After selling the historic High Street works for redevelopment, AC themselves soldiered on as a service operation in the “21st Century” works on Summer Road until the Hurlock family finally sold their holdings in 1986 to William West. After some complex machinations the company was split between property interests and the car brand; the former was renamed and the latter was acquired by Brian Angliss.
Brian Angliss era
In 1982 Brian Angliss was running Autokraft, a Cobra restoration shop, parts supplier and replica manufacturer. To further such pursuits, he acquired some of the tooling from Thames Ditton and created the MKIV; the car had US-spec 5 mph (8.0 km/h) bumpers, a federalized motor, and a larger interior with modern switchgear. About 480 cars were produced in his factory at Brooklands. He also produced a lightweight model which was more in tune with the original Cobra spirit, though it could not be imported to the US due to Federal regulations.
Early cars were sold as the Autokraft MKIV but eventually Angliss acquired the rights to use the AC name. Derek Hurlock had been strongly protective of the name, but Angliss’ high standards of craftsmanship won him over. When the Hurlock family finally sold up in 1986 Angliss fully acquired the AC trademark rights and set up a new AC company as a joint venture with Ford, who had also recently bought Aston Martin. A big conflict followed over the future direction for AC, but Angliss eventually won his independence as well as Ford’s continuing and essential cooperation as an engine and parts supplier.
Also interested in aircraft, Angliss restored a Hawker Hurricane XIIB at Brooklands as well as acquiring two ex–Indian Air Force Hawker Tempest IIs as future projects. The Hurricane was registered as G-HURR and was destroyed in a fatal accident at the Shoreham air show in 2007.
Angliss looked for a new car to complement and perhaps replace the MKIV. At the 1993 London Motor Show, he introduced a new vehicle that he named the AC Ace. It was a modern automobile with a stainless steel chassis and an aluminum body, but was expensive to develop and build. The costs hit Angliss hard and he sold his large motor bike collection, vintage Bentley and other assets to try to make ends meet. The receivers were called in by 1996 after approximately 50 “new” Aces had been built.
In March 1996, largely due to the cost of developing the new Ace, Angliss’ company went into receivership and was eventually sold to Pride Automotive in December 1996, who continued car production in Weybridge, Surrey under the name of AC Car Group Ltd. The AC trademarks and intellectual property were transferred to Acedes Holdings, LLC. Both the Cobra Mk IV and the Ace were made, and soon a ‘CRS’ version of the Mk IV was announced with a carbon fibre body shell, a 212 S/C version with Lotus twin turbo V8 power, as well as the AC Superblower with a supercharger Ford V8. Two or three closed Aceca coupe versions of the Ace were also made.
In 2003, Carroll Shelby International and AC Motor Holdings, Ltd. announced production of an authentic Shelby/AC Cobra, with the production vehicle arriving at dealers in July 2004. Initially, available models included Shelby AC 427 S/C Cobra and Shelby AC 289 FIA Cobra, which would be branded as the CSX 1000 and CSX 7500 Series, respectively. In February 2004, the first handcrafted aluminum body shell was built.
Due to rising costs in the UK, AC relocated to Malta in 2005 and started production of the carbon-fibre bodied AC MkV. Due to problems with the factory building, production ceased in 2007.
In 2007, AC announced a joint venture with Brooklands Motor Company (the spiritual successor of Autokraft) in Weybridge, Surrey, UK and confirmed plans for the continuation of the traditional AC designed tubular chassis and aluminium bodied models.
AC Heritage seem to be the owners of certain models, as their website lists two, both of the original design. More importantly, because their models are made in the “origin” country of where AC Cars started over a century ago, then the heritage of these cars is retained. Whereas, the model made in Germany would not follow the heritage of company, and so would not be an “authentic” AC branded car, much like a Ferrari would not be seen as a “genuine” Ferrari if it were made in China. Their website reveals their adherence to the history of the company.
In April 2009, a joint venture in Germany was announced to manufacture the new AC MKVI. Following a supply deal with GM, the AC MKVI had a totally new spaceframe chassis, 6.2 litre V8 engine and 6-speed manual transmission, and new Corvette brakes, retaining the original shape in lightweight composite material with the moulds taken from an original AC MKIII body. Following extensive development the car went into series production in July 2012 after two years of intense prototyping.
In 2010, AC announced a joint venture with the USA-based company Iconic which resulted in the design of the ultimate “Cobra”: the “Iconic AC Roadster”.
Acedes Holdings, LLC is the current owner of AC Cars.
The AutoCarrier 648 cc
single-cylinder air-cooled 1904–1914Three-wheeler goods carrier with single wheel at rear and driver behind the load. Chain drive to rear wheel via two-speed epicyclic gearbox.
648 cc single-cylinder air-cooledPossibly 1800 1907–1914 Passenger version of the Auto Carrier from 1907 with driver and passenger side by side (2-seater) or driver behind (3-seater).
1096 cc four-cylinder water-cooled About 100 1913–1916 Engine made by Fivet of France. Transmission by Transaxle (combined rear axle and gearbox). Two-seater and dickey or Sports two-seater. Optional 1327 cc engine pre war, standard post war.
The AC 12 hp
1478/1992 cc four-cylinder water-cooledApprox 850 including six-cylinder models to 19291920–1927 Engine made by Anzani or later Cubitt in Aylesbury. Transmission by three-speed transaxle. Two- or four-seater bodies.
The AC Six (16/40, 16/56 and 16/66)
1478/1991 cc six-cylinder water-cooledApprox 850 including 12 hp models to 1929 plus 50 assembled from parts 1930–33.1920–1929Engine made by A.C. Larger capacity from 1922. 16/66 had triple SU carburetors. Transmission by 3-speed transaxle. Two- or four-seater bodies.
The AC Six (16/60, 16/70, 16/80 and 16/90)
1991 cc six-cylinder water-cooled 618 1932 to 1940 1932–1940 Engine made by AC; 16/90 was supercharged with an Arnott blower. Transmission by four-speed ENV, Moss synchromesh or Wilson pre-selector gearbox. Longer and wider than previous Six. Chassis overslung 1932-33, underslung 1933-1939, overslung 1939-1940.
The AC 2-Litre
1284 1947–1958 Engine made by A.C. Two- and four-door saloons, drophead coupé and tourer bodies.
The AC Petite
350 cc single-cylinder two-stroke Approx 4000 1952–1958 Engine made by Villiers. Four-speed gearbox. Three-wheeler with single front wheel. Two/three-seater.
The AC Aceca
1958 AC Aceca.
|Body and chassis|
|Engine||2.0 or 2.6 L I6|
|Wheelbase||90 in (2,286 mm)|
|Length||153.5 in (3,899 mm)|
|Width||61 in (1,549 mm)|
|Curb weight||2120 lb (962 kg)|
The Aceca (pronounced “A-See-Ka”) is a closed coupé from the British AC Cars company, produced from 1954 until 1963. The car originally had an AC engine but the similar Bristol-engined Aceca-Bristol was also available alongside the original from 1956 to 1963 when production of the engine ceased. A few cars were built from 1961 to 1963 with a 2553 cc tuned Ford Zephyr engine and sold as the Aceca 2.6.
Based on the open two-seat AC Ace, the Aceca was a hand-built grand tourer in the British tradition, with ash wood and steel tubing used in their construction. One notable feature was the hatchback at the rear, making the Aceca only the second car, after the 1953 Aston Martin DB2/4, to incorporate this element.
151 Acecas, 169 Aceca-Bristols and 8 Ford-engined models had been built when production halted in 1963.
The main difference between the Aceca and Aceca-Bristol was the engine. Both used a straight-6 unit, but the Aceca shared its 90 hp (67 kW), 1,991 cc (121.5 cu in) overhead camshaft AC engine with the lighter AC Ace, while the Aceca-Bristol used a 125 hp (93 kW) “D-Type” 2.0 L (1971 cc/120 in³) unit sourced from Bristol Cars. The Aceca-Bristol was also available with a milder “B-Type” Bristol engine of 105 hp (78 kW). The Bristol specification added $1000 to the Aceca’s $5,400 price tag in the United States. In the UK, the basic car cost £1722.
The front-end styling of the Ace and Aceca reportedly traces back to a design done by Pinin Farina for AC in the late 1940s. The car is rather light owing to a tubular frame, aluminium engine block and aluminium body panels. Large 16″ spoked road wheels and near 50/50 weight distribution allowed exceptional handling on substandard pavements. Later Acecas feature front-wheel disc brakes (added in 1957), while all share transverse leaf spring IRS, articulated rear half-axles, worm-gear steering, an optional overdrive on 2nd, 3rd and 4th gears, curved windshield, and leather-covered bucket seats. The suspension is independent at the front and rear using transverse leaf springs.
The in-line six Bristol engine fitted to the Aceca-Bristol was based on a design from BMW with cast iron block and aluminium cylinder head. It has a single camshaft with pushrods running vertically to a rocker shaft on the inlet side of the engine and further horizontal pushrods running in 6 tubes over the top of the engine in order to reach the exhaust rockers. The two inclined rocker covers give the engine a similar appearance to an overhead – camshaft arrangement. Three inline Solex downdraft carburettors bolted directly to the cylinder head casting via small adaptor plates.
The car has a fairly hard ride owing to the stiff suspension and holds the road well in corners, with some oversteer. The narrow wheelbase is noticeable, though. On the downside, the 90 hp (67 kW) engine is best at higher rpm, so the 0-60 mph time is not exceptional. Other weaknesses include inadequate rear mirrors, even though the hatchback window affords a large rear view, a heating system that isn’t suited for cold winters, and inadequate soundproofing for easy passenger conversation when cruising above 75 mph (121 km/h). The gear-shift is more solid than smooth and has synchromesh on 2nd, 3rd and 4th gears, only.
AC Greyhound 1959 – 1963
|Body and chassis|
|Engine||2.0/2.2/2.5 litre I6|
|Wheelbase||100 in (2,540 mm)|
|Length||175 in (4,445 mm)|
|Width||65.5 in (1,664 mm)|
|Height||53 in (1,346 mm)|
|Curb weight||2185 lb (991 kg)|
The AC Greyhound (1959-1963) was a 2+2 version of the Ace and Aceca automobiles made by AC Cars of Thames Ditton, Surrey, England. The Greyhound, of which 83 examples were built, had a two-door, four-seater aluminium body, and inherited most of the technical components of the Ace and Aceca:
- ladder-frame chassis
- independent coil spring suspension front and rear. Unlike the Ace and Aceca the rear suspension used semi-trailing arms.
- 4-speed manual gearbox, overdrive optional
- rack and pinion steering;
- 11.75 in (298 mm) disc brake front, 11 in (279 mm) drum brake rear
Various straight-six engines were fitted:
- 1.991-litre AC Cars OHC (75 bhp @ 4500 rpm; 1000 kg)
- 1.971-litre Bristol 100D2 OHV, (125 bhp @ 5750 rpm; 1015 kg)
- 2.216-litre Bristol (105 bhp @ 4700 rpm; 1093 kg)
- 2.553-litre Ford Zephyr (up to 170 bhp @ 5500; 1040 kg)
Three Greyhounds were left-hand drive; the rest were right-hand drive.
A 2 litre Bristol engined car with overdrive tested by The Motor magazine in 1961 had a top speed of 110 mph (180 km/h) and could accelerate from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 11.4 seconds. A fuel consumption of 21.8 miles per imperial gallon (13.0 L/100 km; 18.2 mpg-US) was recorded. The test car cost £3185 including taxes.
The AC Cobra
AC Cobra MkIII
|Also called||Shelby Cobra|
|Assembly||Thames Ditton, Surrey, England
Los Angeles, California, USA
|Body and chassis|
|Body style||2-door roadster|
|Successor||AC MK IV|
CSX2000 – The first Cobra completed by Shelby
|Engine||260 or 289 cu in (4.3 or 4.7 L) V8|
|Wheelbase||90 in (2,286 mm)|
|Length||151.5 in (3,848 mm)|
|Width||61 in (1,549 mm)|
|Height||49 in (1,245 mm)|
|Curb weight||2,019 lb (916 kg)|
1963 MkII 289 (FIA Roadster)
|Engine||289 cu in (4.7 L) V8|
|Wheelbase||90 in (2,286 mm)|
|Length||151.5 in (3,848 mm)|
|Width||61 in (1,549 mm)|
|Height||49 in (1,245 mm)|
|Curb weight||2,315 lb (1,050 kg)|
1966 AC Cobra 427 (North America)
|Engine||427 or 289 cu in (7.0 or 4.7 L) V8|
|Wheelbase||90 in (2,286 mm)|
|Length||156 in (3,962 mm)|
|Width||68 in (1,727 mm)|
|Height||48 in (1,219 mm)|
|Curb weight||2,355 lb (1,068 kg)|
The AC Cobra, sold as the Ford/Shelby AC Cobra in the United States and often known colloquially as the Shelby Cobra in that country, is an American-engined British sports car produced intermittently since 1962.
History and development
Like many British specialist manufacturers, AC Cars had been using the Bristol straight-6 engine in its small-volume production, including its AC Ace two-seater roadster. This had a hand-built body with a steel tube frame, and aluminium body panels that were made using English wheeling machines. The engine was a pre-World War II design of BMW which by the 1960s was considered dated. Bristol decided in 1961 to cease production of its engine and instead to use Chrysler 331 cu in (5.4 L) V8 engines. AC started using the 2.6 litre Ford Zephyr engine in its cars. In September 1961, American automotive designer Carroll Shelby wrote to AC asking if they would build him a car modified to accept a V8 engine. AC agreed, provided a suitable engine could be found. Shelby went to Chevrolet to see if they would provide him with engines, but not wanting to add competition to the Corvette they said no. However, Ford wanted a car that could compete with the Corvette and they happened to have a brand new engine which could be used in this endeavor: Ford’s 260 in³ HiPo (4.2 L) engine – a new lightweight, thin-wall cast small-block V8 tuned for high performance. Ford provided Shelby with two engines. In January 1962 mechanics at AC Cars in Thames Ditton, Surrey fitted the