History of the 1955 - 1963 AC Aceca
Following WWII and in an effort to modernise their lineup, AC looked to replace the trusty Weller-designed overhead cam six cylinder, two-litre 85-bhp engine, which was first used in 1919. The company met John Tojeiro, chassis engineer and racing car designer, and an existing tried and tested successful design of his was purchased and modified for road use. The new model, named the Ace, used a strong 76-mm tubular ladder frame chassis with transverse leaf and wishbone independent suspension front and rear. With Barchetta styling in light aluminium, the body styling was right up to date, and incredibly handsome if somewhat derivative.
Announced in 1953, deliveries of the first 85-bhp Ace from Thames Ditton were not available until April of 1954. The Motor claimed 0-60 mph in 11.4 seconds and 103 mph with 25.3 mpg. A total of 223 AC-engined Aces were built, weighing in at 1685 lbs and carrying an initial price of £1,439.
The AC Aceca, a three-door and very sleek fastback, was previewed in 1954—becoming one of the very first hatchbacks along with the new 1953 Aston Martin DB2/4. Deliveries were delayed until January 1955, with only 151 AC-engined Acecas built. Unlike the Ace, the Aceca had wood-framed doors, and was slightly heavier at 1,840 lbs.
In 1956 AC adopted Bristol's proven and more powerful 2-litre six cylinder engine for both the Ace and Aceca. Referred to as the Ace-Bristol and Aceca-Bristol, power was increased to 120 bhp with just 9.0 seconds to 60 mph and a 117-mph top speed. Many more Bristol-engined Aces were built than were Bristol-engined Acecas (463 vs. 169). Overdrive was now standard, with front disc brakes from 1957, initially as an option. These features on the Bristol-engined cars are the most sought after.
In 1961 AC was left in the lurch when Bristol stopped making their own engines. It was a blessing in a way as Ken Rudd & Co of Worthing stepped in and offered four different Ruddspeed stages of Ford's 2.6-litre six-cylinder Zephyr engine from 90 bhp upwards. The top Ruddspeed Zephyr engine produced a reliable 170 bhp with the help of Weber carburettors and a Raymond Mays specially modified 12-port alloy cylinder head. Just 37 Ace 2.6 and only eight 2.6 Acecas were built. A top speed of 125 mph was possible and 0-60 was now achieved in 8.1 seconds. The chassis frame of the Ace 2.6 and Aceca 2.6 was re-designed with a longer nose and smaller front grille to accept the new engine which was set further back in the chassis. The AC Ace 2.6 ceased production in 1963 but this final design inspired Carroll Shelby’s interest in AC from late in 1961 and his vision for the first AC Cobra which looked very similar.
The AC Ace and Aceca were exclusive and rare cars, with entertaining power, and they continue this legacy today. Much sought after in all forms, for use in all sorts of historic events, the Ace and Aceca are practical long-distance cars and easy to work on. Many specialist parts are available, particularly for the Bristol and Ford engined cars. Excellent restoration services are on offer, and many replica Ace manufacturers endorse the popularity of the model. The AC Owners Club or ACOC is very active with a full calendar of sports and competition events as well as technical help.