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Lot 64: AC Ace 2.6

Auction of Cars, H&H Sales Limited (26 February 2011)

"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. Only in production for thirty months or so (mid 1961 - late 1963), the 2.6 was the final development and rarest derivative of the iconic AC Ace. A mere thirty-seven Ace 2.6s were built of which twenty-five were to right-hand drive specification (including the prototype). The immediate success of the now legendary 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 exclusivity. The Ace 2.6 came about, just as its progeny the Cobra did, via 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 (plus input from the staff at AC Cars Ltd). This particular example - chassis number RS 5013 - left the Works on 10th March 1962 bound for supplying dealer, K.N Rudd Ltd of Worthing (the home of Ruddspeed). Finished in white with green leather upholstery, its desirable specification included: a Raymond Mays aluminium cylinder head, triple SU carburettors and Laycock de Normanville overdrive (operating on 3rd and 4th gears). Road registered as '88 EPX', the AC remained with its first owner, Mr Shephard-Smith of Austin-Hoy & Co, Station Works, Saunderton, nr High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, for just a year or so before being sold to Timothy Wrey Esq of Petersham Place, London SW7 by the famous Chequered Flag garage. An advertising executive with Foote, Cone and Belding and subsequent resident of Auroville, Mr Wrey used the Ace 2.6 as a road car for some two and a half years. Listed for sale in the September 1966 issue of Autosport magazine, the two-seater was bought by Anthony Mackay Esq and his close friend Alain de Cadenet Esq. The latter owned a sister machine (RS 5016) at the same time and according to the AC Owners Club the two cars were reputedly raced as a pair. In search of greater performance RS 5013 was returned to the AC Works where - under the supervision of Mr Hurlock - its bodywork was augmented with Cobra MKIII / AC 289-style flared wheelarches. To take advantage of its enlarged 'footprint', the car's wire wheels were widened to six-inches by the renowned tuning company J.A. Pearce. While, the adoption of triple Weber DCOE 40 carburettors brought a useful a useful boost in engine power (the Webers were a proven option having formed part of the factory's ultimate 'Stage V' tuning package for the Ace 2.6). Completing the transformation, the AC was repainted blue and had its leather upholstery dyed black. The August 1969 issue of Autosport magazine carried another advertisement for '88 EPX'. Snapped up by renowned enthusiast and collector Paul Kunkel, the ex-racing car was used for a variety of European road trips until 1975. Taken off the road thereafter pending restoration, RS 5013 was still in a dismantled state when Kunkel died during 1999. Consigned alongside several Ferrari, Maserati and Alfa Romeo stablemates to the Brooks Olympia auction in December 2001, the AC was bought by its current (fifth) owner. Carefully pieced back together, the Ace 2.6 returned to the road during September 2006. Pleasingly original and retaining much patina, RS 5013 is understood to boast 'matching' chassis and engine numbers. Bored out from 2553cc to 2640cc (60 thou), the Ford 204E straight-six further benefits from a six-branch exhaust manifold, Raymond Mays alloy cylinder head, high pressure SU fuel pump, triple Weber carburettors, hi-torque starter and lightweight Volvo pistons. The factory fitted Ace 2.6 bodywork has been retained complete with its Mackay / de Cadenet-commissioned modifications. The chassis number appears stamped into the bonnet, boot and door hinges and has also been written on the reverse of the dashboard. Much of the original interior trim has survived, but while the leather seats remain serviceable the carpets are perhaps best used as a pattern and thus are not currently fitted. A single removable roll hoop has been installed (though, its forward bracing means that the rear shroud was left unmolested). Treated to a Cobra specification three-quarter inch front anti-roll bar, all-round Spax adjustable shock absorbers and Avon Turbospeed tyres, the AC retains its Moss four-speed manual plus Laycock de Normanville overdrive gearbox and the aforementioned J.A. Pearce wire wheels. The accompanying Works lightweight fibreglass hardtop requires finishing, but '88 EPX' is presented for sale with a photographic restoration record, numerous bills and MOT certificate valid until September 2011. The boot catch carries traces of all the car's previous liveries and has purposefully been left untouched.

Lot Details
Auction Auction of Cars
H&H Sales Limited, Stoneleigh Park
Lot Number64
Outcome NOT SOLD
Hammer Price-
Hammer Price (inc premium)-
Condition rating
Registration number88 EPX
Chassis numberRS5013
Engine numberS247767E
Engine capacity (cc)2553
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors