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Lot 68: AC Ace 2.6

Fine Collectors' Cars, H&H Sales Limited (22 July 2009)

"The new Ruddspeed Ace is a sports car of immense performance which is also an ideal touring or shopping vehicle. Judged on a basis of performance for your money, it must be well ahead of anything else on the market" (John Bolster, Autosport 7th July 1961).

Introduced in October 1953, the AC Ace was essentially a reworked version of 'LOY 500' the handsome John Tojeiro designed sports racer with which motor trader Cliff Davis had notched up six wins and four seconds that season (in addition to placing ninth overall at the Goodwood Nine-Hours). Lured into collaboration with the Thames Ditton manufacturer by the promise of a �5 per car royalty fee (capped at �500), Tojeiro ensured that the new model's ladder-framed tubular chassis enjoyed the same handling prowess as its competition forebear by equipping it with all-round independent transverse-leaf suspension. Styled after 'LOY 500' (itself modelled on the Carrozeria Touring clad Ferrari 166 MM Barchettas), the Ace was arguably even more handsome. Initially powered by AC's own 1991cc OHC engine, the availability from February 1956 onwards of another straight-six in the guise of Bristol's tuneable 1971cc unit gave the aluminium bodied sports car a welcome boost in both sales and performance. Upgraded with Girling front disc brakes in 1957, Ace-Bristols achieved considerable success at Le Mans (1957: 10th o/a & 2nd i/c, 1958: 8th o/a & 2nd i/c, 1959: 7th o/a & 1st i/c) as well as dominating the Sports Car Club of America's production championship for classes E (1957-1959), D (1960) and C (1961).

When Bristol announced that 1961 would see it cease making six-cylinder engines for its own or anybody else's cars, AC was left in a quandary. A hugely accomplished Ace exponent and the proprietor of competition preparation specialist 'Ruddspeed', Ken Rudd soon persuaded the Thames Ditton factory to adopt Ford's Zephyr MKII powerplant as a replacement. With its 'oversquare' dimensions (bore 82.55mm x stroke 79.5mm) and such design niceties as an individual water jacket per cylinder, the 2553cc unit proved durable, free revving and surprisingly potent. Notably shallower than its Bristol predecessor, the Ford engine allowed AC to re-craft the Ace's nose giving greater separation between the grille aperture and front wings (not to mention a reduced frontal area). Some chassis strengthening and repositioning of the steering box aside, the metamorphosis from Ace Bristol to Ace 2.6 had a commendably minimal effect on the two-seater's kerb weight. An acknowledgement of Ken Rudd's involvement, the Zephyr powered cars carried 'RS' prefixes to their chassis numbers and could be had in five levels of Ruddspeed tuning. By utilising such 'goodies' as a Raymond Mays twelve-port aluminium cylinder head and triple Weber carburettors, a 'Stage 5' converted Ace 2.6 reputedly developed 170bhp and 154lbft; outputs that at least one source claims were sufficient for 0-60mph in 6 seconds, a standing quarter mile time of 16.3 seconds and 135mph flat out.

H&H are indebted to the vendor for the following description: "Produced for just 30 months or so, from mid 1961 until the end of 1963, the Ace 2.6 is the ultimate development and rarest derivative of the highly desirable and much sought-after AC Ace. Only twenty four right-hand drive Ace 2.6s were produced by AC Cars Ltd (plus the prototype). The immediate success during 1962-1963 of the now revered AC / Shelby Cobra (of which approximately 1,000 were made in all) resulted in the sudden demise of the Ken Rudd-inspired Ace 2.6 and thereby guaranteed its rarity and exclusivity. The Ace 2.6 came about, just as its progeny the Cobra did, by an eclectic mix of people and the cooperation of the AC factory. In the case of the Ace 2.6 the very talented key players were John Tojeiro, Alan Turner, Ken Rudd and the Hurlocks and staff from AC Cars Ltd. This particular example - chassis number RS 5003 - was first registered as '659 CGT' on 2nd November 1961 to AC Cars Ltd and utilised for exhibition and demonstration purposes, being the first right-hand drive production model with the revised and lowered front bodywork. It was displayed at the 1961 Earls Court Motor Show and mentioned in the 27th October 1961 issue of Autosport: "the 2.6-litre Zephyr-engined model created a sensation when its performance figures were published".

'659 CGT' still retains its original chassis and original bodywork (though, the latter was initially deep blue with a red leather interior) and boasts a desirable 'Raymond Mays' alloy cylinder head atop its uprated, slightly later 213E-type engine. The car began life in 'Stage 3' tune according to the definitions taken from AC's contemporaneous model brochure and hence was fitted with triple SU carburettors. Other 'Factory Optional Extras' specfied on the Ace 2.6 included: a curved windscreen, over-drive, oil temperature gauge, wood-rim steering wheel, second petrol pump, polished alloy rocker cover and fibre-glass hardtop. This desirable specification led to it being one of the fastest production sports cars available at that time, and a Mr. Montgomerie, who was a resident of Switzerland, became the first private owner. However, the two-seater was returned to the factory at Thames Ditton for all its initial servicing requirements. Philip Boulton, the then competition secretary of the North Staffs Motor Club became the second owner in 1964, and not surprisingly he used '659 CGT' for competitive motorsport. Indeed he kindly wrote a letter in March 2008 to the current owner; recounting his exploits and enclosing some photographs of '659 CGT' in action. He subsequently sold the Ace in 1967 to Dr. Robert Follows.

Dr. Follows, living in London in 1966, but now resident in West Vancouver, wrote two letters (enclosing photographs) about his ownership of '659 CGT', the first to Mick Walsh in 1989 and the second to Simon Taylor in 1997 (both of Classic & Sportscar fame). He described '659 CGT' in 1989/97 as "one of my all time favourites and most mourned" which, considering the other cars in his collection have comprised; AC Aceca and Ace Bristol, 1933 Short Chassis Aston Martin Le Mans LM1, Porsche RS 2.7 Carrera and 911S, Bobtail Cooper Climax 1100, Cobra 289, Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona, Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster, Aston Martin DB4 and DB6, Bentley 3-Litre, Lancia Aurelia Convertible and Alfa Romeo 2600 Spider, indicates the attachment he felt for his old Ace 2.6! By 1974, after passing through the hands of David Emmott (who lived just off the High Street in Thames Ditton) and Andrew Malin the AC was looking rather tired and had gained some extended wheel arches, a relatively common modification to several Aces in the 1970s. The late Richard Drewett, a well known television producer and long time enthusiastic hillclimber, purchased '659 CGT' in 1975 and sent the Ace 2.6 for a thorough refurbishment at the AC Factory who reverted the bodywork back to standard specification. The engine was suitably 'breathed upon' by the renowned Robin Rew of Reliant Sabre / AC fame, installing triple Weber carburretors in the process, whilst the coachwork was revised to a dark green colour. Interestingly, one of the period AC Cars Ltd invoices on file makes reference to installing "the customer's own engine" so this may be when the 213E-type unit was adopted.

Peter Kirby purchased '659 CGT' through the well known AC dealer Rod Leach of 'Nostalgia' in January 1983 and owned the Ace right up until 1998. He fully utilised the performance in frequent and successful hillclimb appearances. In this era, prior to race-developed Aces transported on trailers to events, this particular machine was probably the quickest and most sorted 'standard' Ace, in this country at least. As the reputation of '659 CGT' grew, it became a regularly featured model in the 'Classic' journals. Extensive articles appeared in both 'Practical Classics' in November 1982 and also 'Classic & Sportscar' in April 1989. The next owner was the well known Jaguar specialist Nigel Dawes who purchased '659 CGT' in April 1998. The Ace was then subjected to a 'no- expense spared' restoration which was extensively photographed and documented in a professional format. When it finally emerged the Ace looked quite simply stunning with gleaming silver coachwork and fully retrimmed with deep blue leather interior. No stranger to promotion, this 'jewel' of an Ace was then utilised by the famous fashion house Versace to promote their new 'Versace Sport' range in the Fall / Winter of 2002-2003 (a copy comes with the car). Rinsey Mills' (with help from Mick Walsh) excellent and highly detailed book 'Original AC Ace & Cobra' also selected '659 CGT' to feature as an Ace 2.6 in the 'ultimate state of tune' with the triple Weber set-up (see page 32).

Simon Holding from Cheshire became the proud custodian in 2002 and used the Ace sparingly over the five years he owned it, including trips to Le Mans and an appearance at the ACOC Keddleston Hall weekend to celebrate 50 years of the AC Ace. This anniversary was recognised by 'Classic & Sportscar' in their December 2003 issue with a superb article by Mick Walsh covering the three types of AC Aces with '659 CGT' appearing both on the front cover and fully featured inside. RS 5003 is also photographed on page 221 of the recently published 'AC Six-Cylinder Sports Cars 1933 - 1963' book which covers the Ace and Aceca 2.6 in Chapter 19. The current owner, a marque aficionado (and previous AC Ace owner) purchased '659 CGT' in early 2007 (having admired the car for many years) and the Ace was displayed at the inaugural 'Cholmondeley Pageant Of Power' weekend in August 2008. A brief visit to the Kirkby Lonsdale Motor Club concours in August 2008 also resulted in a 'Best Sports or GT' concours win. Recent meticulous preparation has included a full new set of Michelin tyres, new ring-gear on the flywheel and new starter motor along with a comprehensive service and careful check-over. The Ace now drives and handles beautifully and with the overdrive gearing provides a superior touring machine in comparison to the under-geared early 4-speed Cobras.

Although many Aces have been converted to rack and pinion steering, this model still retains its original Bishop cam steering and as such it would presumably be straightforward to obtain FIA Papers for '659 CGT' if so desired. This Ace comes complete with attractive dark blue tonneau, hood, sidescreens, hood sticks and matching specially tailored envelope / bags as per original, for storing them in the boot. The mild steel original pattern exhaust system has been retained (rather than the usual stainless steel replacement) because to the discerning ear it provides an exhaust note that is pure music! Naturally a full history file (including an incredibly rare original brochure in mint condition) with photographs, MOTs and tax discs accompanies '659 CGT' and this also contains a host of Invoices from AC Cars Ltd in the 1970s. The two-seater is taxed until the end of May 2010 and its current MOT certificate does not expire until June 2010. It is difficult to imagine a better investment in the current insecure financial markets than an AC Ace 2.6 and certainly, the multi-talented Ross Brawn thought so, with his recent acquisition of RS 5026".

Lot Details
Auction Fine Collectors' Cars
H&H Sales Limited, The Pavilion Gardens, Buxton, Derbyshire
TypeCar
Lot Number68
Estimate£140000-£180000
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price-
Hammer Price (inc premium)£209000
Year1961
Condition rating0
Registration number659 CGT
Mileage-
Chassis numberRS5003
Engine numberS348100E
Engine capacity (cc)2553
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors2