It is well known that we like car lovers and their stories. If it’s a classic car like Ana’s AC Ace, even more so. If the car is also rare, it is almost unbearable. And when the location is also nice, we are almost at a loss for words. This is one such story.
We have an appointment with Ana on a Monday evening. In Düsseldorf harbour , which actually doesn’t sound that spectacular, but when there’s a wonderful sunset and a relaxed evening atmosphere, it’s pretty good. Then we always pinch ourselves about what a great job we have.
Ana is actually very busy. With cosmetics and fashion. And with beautiful shapes and a cultivated lifestyle. We are happy that she gives us a small slot in her tight schedule. Ralph Lueker, our photographer, is also immediately enthusiastic. With a sonorous hum the creamy white AC Ace is coming down the street from far away. “Sorry, guys, I’m running a bit late – where do we start?”
Ana loves the car and the lines of both merge into a total work of art. The dusk adds a touch of Hollywood and Saint Tropez.
1956 AC Ace – The Car Of Distinction
Open Motoring at its best. This is the car “The Motor” declared “car of the year from the viewpoint of pleasure and safety in driving.” The long rakish speedy lines of the Ace are well supported by the amazing performance, the chassis having been specially designed to meet the demands of present day sports motoring which calls for a car, fast and steady and all conditions. The Ace continues the Company’s sports car tradition in worthy succession to the pre-war types and the earlier vintage models of pleasant memories over a period of 50 years.”
So says the brochure of A.C. Cars Ltd, Thames Ditton, Surrey. The model, which was presented for the first time in 1953 at the Earls Court Exhibition in London on the basis of a chassis developed by John Tojero, derives its design language from the famous Ferrari Barchettas of the 1950s. A.C. actually means “Auto-Carrier” and was founded in 1904. The original 6-cylinder engine was designed by John Weller already in 1919. The 4-speed gearbox shifts really well and the independent suspension provides very good road holding. The beautiful aluminium roadster with only 800 kg weight was built only 223 times with the AC engine and only 463 times with the Bristol engine. From 1956 onwards, the exceptionally good handling of the Ace was combined with the reliable Bristol 6-cylinder engines, so this became the AC Ace Bristol with 125 instead of 105 hp. Of the 223 AC Aces with AC engines, 124 were left-hand drive and 99 right-hand drive. So this is a really rare car.
And then in 1962 the Ace was also turned into Carroll Shelby’s famous Cobra. In 1961 Bristol had decided to discontinue the 6-cylinder in-line engine. And about the same time Carroll Shelby had to give up his racing career and wanted to develop and build an Anglo-American sports car that would beat the whole world and as it had never existed before. A “real ass-kicker”, as he called it. But more about that here soon.
Back to the evening light in Düsseldorf harbour. This Ace is a very special car because, according to the register, it is the only one that was equipped with a Ford V6 engine in the late 1960s. With its 120 hp it fits well to the characteristics of the car and has about the same power as the Bristol engine. The car has the sports seats available at the time and has an overall wonderful patina on the beautiful classic lines from every angle. Pedestrians pass by and linger just to take one look at the sheer beauty of the car. “Grace, Pace, Ace” was the headline in Classic And Sportscar’s 1983 test – John McLellan judged the Ace to be one of the truly greatest English sports cars ever. Or “Guts, Glamor And Go” was another pun in a test by “Motor Trend” in February 1960.
Yes, one looks back a little wistfully to the 60s, when hand-beaten aluminium bodies thrilled us. Cars with character, without electronics, without GPS, without battery power and without big compromises, but with spoked wheels, chromed windscreen, beautiful Smith instruments, no outside handles and always ready for an adventure.
Ana sits dreamily in the car and enjoys the evening. Ralph relaxes, takes beautiful photos and fixes the highly desirable sports car in the glow of the harbour lights.
There are days that really shouldn’t end.
Photocredit: Ralph Lueker