1957 AC Ace-Bristol
The AC Ace Bristol
The AC Ace’s lineage can be traced back to a racing special that John Tojeiro had built for British amateur Cliff Davis. It had an aluminium body stretched over a tubular chassis and closely resembled a Ferrari 166 MM barchetta by Touring.
The handsome roadster was just what AC Cars needed in a world that was in love with Jaguar’s new XK120, and the Hurlock brothers (who had bought AC out of bankruptcy in 1930) showed the new car at the 1953 Earl’s Court Motor Show. It was the first British sports car available from the start with four-wheel independent suspension.
The first Ace’s old-fashioned AC engine did it no favours, but in 1956 the roadster was transformed by fitting Bristol’s sophisticated unit, a 125bhp masterpiece based on BMW’s pre-War ’six. It made the Ace an immediate race-winner and countless class and overall victories fell to the fine-handling cars from Thames Ditton. Ken Rudd and Peter Bolton finished 10th overall at Le Mans in 1957 (2nd in class) and, like so many British sports cars, the Ace Bristol found an avid audience in North America.
A well-set-up Ace-Bristol is a joy to drive and the cars are popular entries to races such as the Goodwood Revival and Le Mans Classic, as well as long-distance road-rallies including the Tour Auto and Colorado Grand.
This Motor Car
Chassis BEX 329 left AC’s Thames Ditton factory in July 1957. The car was fitted with a four-speed manual gearbox, drum brakes and triple-carburettor ‘D2’ engine ‘100D 682’ – the motor it has today. ‘BEX 329’ was an export model, destined for AC Imports in Arlington, Virginia, USA.
Its original colour was attractive Bright Blue Metaline (a subtle, fine-particle metallic of the 1950s, often used by AC and Bristol), paired with a blue leather interior and tonneau.
Its earliest history in the US is unknown, but by March 1964 it was owned by Ohio resident George Conrades who subsequently sold it to historic racing driver of some note, Bob Fergus. Fergus was an experienced racer from the 1950s with a stable of bespoke competition machinery so he used the Ace solely for tours and weekend drives.
In April 1989 the Ace was sold to Maryland collector Randy Hardgrove who then traded it to a long-term friend of Bob Fergus. During his ownership, the car was resprayed its original-specification Bright Blue Metaline. It was sold at auction in January 2012. Since then further work has included: a complete interior retrim in blue leather as original; overhauled brakes and carburettors; refurbished fuel tank; new custom-made steering wheel.
Our client purchased the car in 2015 and since then it has benefitted from careful maintenance at British marque specialists Brooklands Motor Company. In July 2016 Brooklands was commissioned to fabricate a new hood and side curtains, together with a new spare wheel cover, side screen bag and hood bag, at a cost of £3,600.
Award-winning restorers Moto Technique carried out a full lubrication service in January 2017, work that also included attention to the brakes and the useful fitment of a discrete phone-charging lead.
Few open sports cars of the 1950s can match the AC Ace Bristol’s subtle blend of a sporting and strong-willed straight-six coupled with sure-footed handling courtesy of all-independent suspension. More dynamic than an Aston Martin DB2 or XK, far more affordable than the equivalent Italian exotic, the race-bred Ace Bristol remains one of the gems of the immediate post-War era.
‘Matching numbers’, this car is a well-maintained ‘driving’ example of the desirable Bristol-engined Ace, just as well prepared for 2018 events as it is for an exhilarating and breezy Sunday drive to an English pub. Cheers!