Matching numbers

1957 AC Ace-Bristol

The alloy-bodied AC Ace-Bristol is an elegant sports car with clean, uncluttered styling. Based on a Tojeiro-designed ‘special’, the AC Ace prototype was unveiled at the London Motor Show in 1953 with the first customer cars being delivered during 1954 following some effective styling modifications carried out by AC Cars Ltd.

The Ace helped fuel the demand for post-war sports cars amongst the motoring enthusiasts who appreciated its handmade quality and excellent handling. Powered initially by AC’s own venerable Light Six engine, it was clear that the Ace was in need of more performance. Due to its bespoke construction, it was comparatively expensive and a new engine would further inflate the purchase price. Despite initial concerns, the AC management cast around for a suitable replacement. A simple pushrod four or six-cylinder engine from one of the major manufacturers would do little enhance the reputation of the AC which led the company to the only conclusion; the obvious candidate was the bespoke 2-litre six-cylinder engine built by Bristol and used in its 400 Series touring cars. This engine was popular amongst the motor racing fraternity as it had the potential to be tuned to provide as much as 150bhp and it thrived on high revolutions. Although a little heavier than the AC Six, its gearbox was lighter and the gear change was a substantial improvement.

Once an agreement was reached with the Bristol company, deliveries of the Ace-Bristol began in April 1956 with the engine tuned to provide 120bhp, sufficient for top speed in the region of 118mph. At the time, the all independent suspension set new standards of roadholding, using upper transverse leaf springs, lower wishbones and firm telescopic dampers. The Alfin drum brake system was improved in 1957 with the introduction of disc brakes at the front. With the new engine, the Ace-Bristol weighed in at just 16cwt (812kg) and was shod with four-inch wide wheels as standard, fitted with 550-16 Michelin ‘X’ tyres.

The Bristol engine gave a new lease of life to the Ace, proving its worth in competition and adding lustre to the AC marque. Raced between 1956 and 1962, its most notable success was achieved at the Le Mans 24-Hours where Ace-Bristols finished tenth overall in 1957, eighth and ninth in 1958 and a remarkable seventh overall and first in class in 1959. It proved very popular amongst private owners in the USA where it dominated its class in SCCA sports car racing and won its class three years running at the Sebring 12-Hour race.

Having built a total of 463 Ace-Bristols, production came to an end during 1962 when a Texan racing driver arrived at the Thames Ditton factory with an idea and a new V8 engine. Overshadowed for many years by the Shelby AC Cobra, the Ace-Bristol has become one of the most sought-after ‘classic’ cars from the 1950s as enthusiasts came to appreciate its more subtle qualities.

We are delighted to be able to offer for sale a genuine and very original AC Ace-Bristol, chassis number BEX 287, engine number 100D 619. This left-hand drive ‘Bristol’ left the AC works on May 2nd 1957 painted white with black upholstery and was exported to the USA. An original sales document shows it was sold on November 18th 1959 by International Motors of Texas to Mrs. Virginia Hare Nelson of Longview, Texas. By June 1960, Mrs. Nelson had taken up temporary residence in the UK and was accompanied by her Ace-Bristol on a temporary import permit. By now the car had been repainted red with a white central stripe and nose band, a colour scheme it retains to this day.

By 1976 the car had suffered from neglect and came into the ownership of Gurtner Motorsport in Switzerland. Owned by a further three French enthusiasts, it was purchased and sympathetically restored to its current condition by its Swiss gentleman owner who campaigns the car in historic events around Europe. Swiss registered and with matching numbers, this Ace-Bristol comes with the requisite paperwork that offers a future owner the opportunity to compete in premier motoring events such as the Mille Miglia, Tour Auto and similar classic rallies.

Thanks to marque historian and author Trevor Legate for this information.