Lot 247: 1960 AC Ace/Cobra 289 Roadster
This car started life in 1960 as a standard AC Ace Bristol and was used in its early years as an everyday road car. There is no evidence that the car had competed prior to 1965 when Tony Luxton bought it from a university friend. Tony’s intention at the time was to use the Ace as his daily driver and compete with it at weekends in hill climbs, sprints, driving tests and circuit races. (A substantial quantity of copied period memorabilia including entries, race programmes, Motoring News features, etc, recounting its competition history is available for inspection). However, almost immediately the AC broke its crankshaft and it was decided that fitting a Triumph 2000 six-cylinder engine would be a good idea as Tony Luxton was then working for Triumph. This engine was easy to fit and worked well with the original gearbox but did not last long either, blowing up spectacularly at Shelsley Walsh. The third engine to be installed was a Triumph 2500 ‘six’ which lasted a good deal longer. In this form the car was well known in the AC Owners Club at the time and Tony was invited to be part of the ACOC Team at the Silverstone 6-Hour Relay meeting in August 1969. Although fast, the Triumph-engined Ace did not have the brakes to match and Tony ended up having a big ‘off’ at Copse, striking the Armco at about 45 degrees with virtually no speed scrubbed off. Thankfully, he was not hurt but the car was in a fairly bad way. On returning home with the wreck, the decision was made to further modify the car and alleviate its shortcomings - brakes, chassis, engine, gearbox, etc. The result was some fairly lengthy telephone calls to Fred Larrimore and Doug Taylor at AC Cars whom Tony had always dealt with in the stores. Tony decided to go the whole hog by fitting a Cobra MkIII chassis with all-independent coil-sprung suspension. The necessary suspension and other components were supplied by AC at Thames Ditton, including a set of working drawings for the chassis, and taken to Ken Nicholls in Holsworthy who then constructed the frame. For some years, the car stood idle in Tony’s garage awaiting completion, which did not occur until Steve Hobbs became involved with the project. Steve, who eventually bought the car from Tony, had a good Ford 289 five-bolt V8 engine (believed to have come from a racing Cobra of the period) and Ford T10 Toploader gearbox. It is a well known fact that the MkIII chassis was designed by Ford at Dearborne with the aid of a computer and that when AC were sent the new chassis drawings, it was clear that the rear suspension’s forward link’s front mounting point was impossible to locate if you wanted to sit in the car! AC relocated this mounting point further back in the chassis, inadvertently endowing the car with rear-wheel steer on and off the power, resulting in the 427 being very twitchy to drive. A perfectionist by nature, Steve Hobbs was unwilling to finish the car knowing of the rear suspension’s inherent defects and devoted some considerable time to solving the problem. The rear vertical links were altered along with some other changes, thus eliminating the unwanted steering effect conferred by the original geometry and resulting in what must be the best handling AC Ace/Cobra ever made. Some measure of the Hobbs suspension wizardry may be gained from the fact that Carroll Shelby himself acknowledged Steve’s skill after driving his Sunbeam Tiger at the Le Mans Classic, writing “that was how we should have set up those cars” on the bonnet and signing it! In 1984 Steve Hobbs acquired the Ace and finished off the details. Although it seems almost unbelievable, the body is the original that was taken off the frame and reworked by a Mr Fox from Jensen into the 289 shape that it is today. All the dimensions were taken from Verner Oswald’s car. This AC Ace/Cobra is not original but it is a well-sorted car with a consistent and fascinating history. (Curiously, the accompanying Swansea V5 document records Tony Luxton as being the first owner from 1960 to 1999 and the only other registered keepers as Martin Cullen and the vendor). The car looks exactly like a UK-market AC 289 MkIII, drives extremely well and possesses a lovely patina that would look absolutely right in the Goodwood paddock. This car has extensive national race history (copy details supplied) with lots of successes at all the well known circuits, hill climbs and sprint venues throughout the UK, culminating in at least six race wins and countless podium placings. Finished in blue with back leather interior, this unique AC Ace/Cobra is offered with old-style logbook and road fund licence/MoT to August 2007.
Bonhams, Chichester, Sussex
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