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AC

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AC Cars Group Ltd. is a British specialist automobile manufacturer and one of the oldest independent car marques in Britain.

History

In 1903 Weller Brothers in West Norwood, London, planned to produce an advanced 20 hp car. This looked economically unviable so their financial backer John Portwine proposed a simpler 3 wheeled vehicle. Autocars and Accessories was founded to make this in 1904. This company became Autocarriers Ltd in 1911 using the 'AC' logo. The company moved to Ferry Works, Thames Ditton, Surrey in 1911 and grew into a substantial car manufacturer. S F Edge, who had been behind Napier & Son, joined the board in 1921 and in 1922 both John Weller and John Portwine left.

During the 1914-18 War, the Ferry Works factory produced shells and fuses, 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. In 1922 the name changed again to A.C. Cars Ltd. Edge bought the company outright for £135,000 in 1927 and re-registered it as AC (Acédès) Ltd but sales, which had been falling, continued to decline. The company was caught by the recession in trade in 1929 and went into voluntary liquidation. In 1930 production ceased and the company was sold to the Hurlock family who ran a successful haulage business. They wanted the factory as a warehouse but allowed the service side of AC to continue.

A single car was made for William Hurlock in 1930. He agreed to a very limited production restarting mainly using components left over from previous models. Agreement was reached with Standard to supply new chassis and in 1932 a new range of cars was launched. Production remained on a small scale until the outbreak of war in 1939.

Production of cars restarted in 1947 with the 2 litre and with a large contract with the government to make glass fibre bodied single seat invalid carriages with BSA engines. These continued to be made until 1976 and were an important source of revenue to the company. They also built an aluminium bodied three wheeled microcar, the Petite.

In 1953 the firm began production of the AC Ace, a lightweight chassis with either the now rather old AC 2 litre engine or the 135 bhp (101 kW) Bristol six-cylinder engine, the latter being known as Ace-Bristols. The car raced at Le Mans in 1957 and 1958. When the company lost access to the Bristol engine in 1959 Ford Zephyr engines were used with the highest tuned version giving 170 bhp (127 kW) and a 125 mph (201 km/h) top speed. In 1962 AC was approached by Carroll Shelby to use a small block Ford V8 Motor in the Ace chassis, producing the AC Cobra. Shelby needed a car that could compete with the 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 (113 km/h) limit on British motorways. Although a major factor in the decision, after being caught doing 196 mph (315 km/h) during a test run,<ref>Template:Citation/core{{#if:|}}</ref> a recent spate of accidents in foggy conditions also helped the introduction of the limit.<ref>Template:Citation/core{{#if:|}}</ref> 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 390 Ford FE engine 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 help of Ford computers and the experience of the AC engineers, the new MK3 chassis was born! 4" tubes instead of 3" for the chassis, huge cross-braced shock towers and coil springs all around made the new AC Cobra MK3 an absolutely unbeatable 2,200 lb race car. The engine that was installed in the car was the famed 427 FE Nascar Side Oiler Ford V8 motor, a power-house engine developing 385 bhp 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 privaters and went on to win races all the way into the 70's The AC 427 Cobra, although a commercial failure at the time is one of the most sought-after and copied automobile ever. It was produced in two versions, a Street model with a more tamed motor, dual carburators, a glove box, under car exhaust 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 carburator, side exhausts, a roll-bar and wider fenders to accommodate racing tires. Shelby was left with a few unsold competition cars and decided to sell them to the general public under the name of Cobra 427 SC or Super Competition. (Incidentally, today these SC cars are the most sought after models and can sell in excess of a 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 MK3 Cobra for the European market fitted with the small block Ford motor. The car was called the AC 289. At the same time, the company realized they needed a grand-tourer automobile that could appeal to wealthy customers and they contacted the famed Italian coach builder Pietro Frua to design an appealing GT body that could be fitted on a stretched MK3 Cobra chassis (6"). 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 became the AC 428 Frua. Built out of steel, the AC Frua is heavier than a Cobra, just around 3,000 lb, it is still a light, very fast automobile built on a racing chassis. The car was never fully developed and the cost of sending chassis to Italy and back to England for final assembly made it so expensive that only a few were produced. Production ended in 1973.

At the 1973 London Motor Show a completely new car was shown, the mid engined ME3000 with Ford V6 3 litre engine and ACs own gearbox. Problems in development meant sales did not start until 1979 but the company was again struggling and it was sold in 1984 to David McDonald who opened a new factory in Hillington, Glasgow and registered the company as A.C. (Scotland).

The original A.C. company was sold in 1987 to Ford and a company called CP Autokraft owned by Brian Angliss, who had continued making Cobras at Brooklands, Surrey. The company was sold again in 1996 to Pride Automotive and was rescued from administration, as AC Car Group Ltd, and continued car production. Later the factory was sold and slimmed down and later opened up in Frimley in 2001. There the activity was concentrated on repairs, restorations and the production of the MkII and MkIII 289 and 427 FIA Roadster. In October 2004 the factory in Frimley closed down and was moved to Guildford.

In 2005, AC Cars relocated to Malta and announced plans for expansion. The first new vehicle chassis was shipped in May. A new company, AC Cars Manufacturing (USA), has plans to begin operations in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 2006. The factory to be used is the same Maple Street building used by Armstrong Electric to build early automobiles in 1885.

On 11 September 2006 it was confirmed that Project Kimber had sealed a deal to use the AC name on its new sports car based on the Smart Roadster.

Post War Mechanical details

ACs were available with two body styles and two engine/transmission combinations (in addition to the microcar). The body styles were the Ace roadster and the Aceca coupé. All bodies were aluminum.

These engines each had about two liters displacement, but different bores, strokes and powers. The best known engine is the Bristol, the design for which was taken from BMW during or after World War II, and which was built by Bristol Cars for its own cars, and sold to AC. This had two sets of push-rods and two sets of rocker-arms opening the exhaust valves to allow a cross flow "hemi" combustion chamber in a compact space.

The other engine was AC's own single overhead camshaft product dating back to the 1920's, which had a longer stroke and less power but was cheaper and lighter, putting the car in direct competition with Porsche.

Road & Track reported on a satisfactory Chevrolet V8 conversion before the Ford "Cobra" V8 version appeared.

The rear suspension was independent with upper and lower leaf springs, like the front of a Panhard. This was changed when the Ford V8 was used.

When the original and 427 Cobra projects ended, Shelby produced Cobras with Mustang bodies and AC built its own American V8 engined cars.

For historical reference see also Allard.

Car Models

Type Engine Approx Production Year Notes
Autocarrier 648 cc single cylinder air cooled 1904-1910 Three wheeler with single wheel at rear. Initially made as goods carrier with driver behind the load. Passenger version from 1908 with driver and passenger side by side (2 seater) or driver behind (3 seater). Chain drive to rear wheel via 2 speed gearbox.
AC Sociable 648 cc single cylinder air cooled Possibly 1800 1910-1914
AC Ten 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.
AC 12 hp 1478/1992 cc four cylinder water cooled Approx 850 including 6 cylinder models to 1930 1920-1928 Engine made by Anzani or later Cubitt. Transmission by Transaxle. Two or four seater bodies.
AC Six (16/40, 16/56 and 16/66) 1478/1991 cc six cylinder water cooled Approx 850 including 12 hp (9 kW) models to 1930 1920-1939 Engine made by A.C. Larger capacity from 1922. 16/66 had triple SU carburetors. Transmission by Transaxle. Two or four seater bodies.
AC Six (16/60, 16/70 and 16/90) 1991 cc six cylinder water cooled Approx 650 1930 to 1939 1936-1939 Engine made by A.C. 16/90 supercharged. Transmission by Transaxle. Longer and wider than previous Six.
AC 2 litre 1991 cc six cylinder water cooled Approx 1290 1947-1958 Engine made by A.C. Two and four door saloons, drophead coupé and tourer bodies.
AC Petite 350 cc single cylinder two stroke 1952-1958 Engine made by Villiers. Four speed gearbox. Three wheeler with single front wheel. Two/three seater.
AC Ace, AC Bristol 1991/1971 cc six cylinder water cooled 689 1953-1964 Engine made by A.C. or Bristol (1971 cc) from 1956 or Ford Zephyr engine (Later models). Two seat aluminium open sports bodies.
AC Aceca 1991/1971/2553 cc six cylinder water cooled 357 1954-1963 Engine made by AC, Bristol (1971 cc) from 1956 or Ford (2553 cc) from 1961. Front disc brakes from 1957. Two seat aluminium sports coupé bodies with hatchback.
AC Greyhound 1971/2216/2553 cc six cylinder water cooled 83 1959-1963 Engine from Bristol. Some might have the A.C. Independent suspension. Four seat saloon bodies.
AC Cobra 260/289/AC289 4261/4727 cc V8. 75/571/27 1962-1968 Legendary two seat aluminum roadster. Ford small block V8 Engine. Four wheel disk brakes. Early MK1 cars had cam and peg steering, later MK2 cars rack and pinion. Later AC 289 had AC 427 coil spring chassis with narrow fenders.
AC Cobra 427/428 6997/4948 cc V8. 306 to 1966 1964-1966 1983-1990 MK3 series. A reworked AC Cobra designed for racing with coil springs all around and beefed up 4" chassis tubes. Early cars had ford FE 427 Engines, Later cars fitted with less expensive 428 FE motors. Around 400 bhp (298 kW) or more depending on version, Four Wheel disc brakes and rack and pinion steering. Aluminum bodied two seat roadster bodies.
AC Frua 6997/7016 cc V8. 80 1965-1973 Frua body built on a stretched Cobra 427 Chassis (6") Ford FE 428 400 bhp (298 kW) engine. 4 wheels disc brakes. Manual or automatic transmission. Two seat open or coupé, Steel body built in Italy.
AC ME3000 2994 cc V6 cylinder. 106 1979-1985 Engine made by Ford. Mid engined. Five speed gearbox.
AC Ace 4601/4942 cc V8. 1996- Engine made by Ford. 4942 cc version supercharged.
AC Aceca 4601/4942 cc V8. 1998- Engine made by Ford. 4942 cc version supercharged. Four seat coupé version of the Ace. Chassis made in South Africa, bodies in Coventry.
AC Superblower 4601/4942/3506 cc V8. 1998- Engine made by Ford. 4942 cc version supercharged. 3506 cc made by Lotus optional from 2000. Aluminium bodied. Cheaper CRS (Carbon Road Series) from 1999. Built at Weybridge factory.
AC Mamba 4 litre in line six. 3.5 litre V8. 2006? Long delayed new car now promised for mid 2006. Six cylinder engine from Ford Australia. V8 from Lotus. LPG option on 6 cylinder cars. Two seat coupé with carbon fibre bodyshell on Ace chassis.
AC Ace/ Roadster 1.0 litre three-cylinder petrol engine n/a 2006/2007 A remake of the Smart Roadster using the old Smart roadster car, but with a new chassis and the new Smart ForTwo engine. IT is priced between £12,000 and £19,000 depending on whether it is turbocharged or not.

See also


image (between 170-190 pixels)
AC

Current: Ace · Aceca · Superblower · Mamba · Ace Roadster

Historic: Autocarrier · Ten · 12 hp · Six · 2 litre · Petite · Ace · Aceca · Greyhound · Cobra · AC Cobra 427/428 · Frua · 3000ME

Concept: · · · · · · · · · · · · ·


Include notable internal links here


Weller Brothers Corporate Website independent


External links

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Notes