Seeking to add verve to its post-World War II model catalogue, AC Cars of Thames Ditton, England acquired a sleek, lightweight open two-seater built by racecar designer and constructor John Tojeiro. Lightly modified, fitted with a 2.0-liter, inline, six-cylinder AC engine, and christened the AC Ace, the car debuted to great acclaim at the 1953 Earls Court motor show in London.
While the Ace offered adequate performance, its initial AC inline-six was, by the mid-1950s, showing its age. And so, beginning in 1956, AC offered the Ace with a more powerful engine sourced from Bristol Cars. Bristol’s design was, in turn, based on the inline-six developed by BMW for its renowned 328 sports and racing cars, which Bristol had obtained the rights to produce following WWII. Breathing through triple carburetors, this overhead-valve engine featured hemispherical combustion chambers and produced over 120 bhp; mated to a four-speed manual transmission, this was enough to substantially elevate the Ace’s performance and boost its top speed to 186 km/h.
According to the letter on file from Club Registrar Tony Bancroft, this particular left-hand drive example – chassis number BEX235 – was despatched from Thames Ditton on 7th December 1956 and delivered to Jack Fernandez in Caracas, Venezuela. As well as being the Venezuelan AC importer, Fernandez was a keen racer and competed with several early Bristol-engined Aces, similar to the one offered here, in both South and North American events. No mean driver, he is known to have taken part in the Sebring 12 hours among other high profile meetings. Although there is no documentary evidence to confirm the supposition, being such an early car it is possible that Fernandez campaigned BEX235 and indeed one American website lists it as having been raced in Venezuela for two years. Competition success obviously gave Mr. Fernandez a great deal of favourable publicity which resulted in Venezuela becoming the third biggest export market for Ace-Bristols, behind only the USA and France and well ahead of anywhere else.
The two-seater eventually ended up in North America and by the 1970s – perhaps earlier – had been fitted with its current, 1965 date-stamped Ford 289 cu in (4.7 litre) V8 engine and T10 gearbox. Pleasingly, the history file contains photographs of the car taken in the early 1980s appearing largely as it does today. By 1991 BEX235 belonged to the US firm Southern Classics and thereafter it passed through the hands of Ron Leonard, well known marque aficionado and proprietor of the AC Exchange in Colorado, and Peter Fisher, while its last American custodian was Tony Carpenter of Marietta, Georgia. The V8 conversion was carried out without any major changes to the body or chassis. Although the car’s original chassis plate has been lost at some time, the chassis number stampings remain clearly visible on the bonnet, boot hinges and both door hinges and tally with the letter of authenticity from Tony Bancroft, official registrar of the AC Owners Club.
Upon its return to the UK, the car benefited from a suspension overhaul including new Spax shock absorbers, kingpins and bushes plus the fitment of a rack and pinion steering conversion supplied by well known Club member Ben Yates (which had been developed in conjunction with John Tojeiro). Drawn to the re-engined Ace’s obvious performance potential not to mention its similarity to an early / prototype Shelby Cobra, the vendor acquired BEX235 for his Scottish collection during late 2009. Despatched to Ian Nuthall of IN Racing not long thereafter, a thorough check over resulted in ‘124 XUX’ receiving replacement propshaft bearings and new Black leather upholstery. Sporting a set of desirable Marchal `Fantastic’ spotlamps and `Le Mans-style’ nose cowl, this tempting AC is offered for sale with the aforementioned letter of authenticity and European Registration Document.