Founded by the Weller Brothers in 1903, AC Cars (Auto Carriers) is one of Britain’s oldest independent car manufactures and gained notoriety for their specialist sports cars throughout the 50s/60s.
Introduced in 1953 the AC Ace was an open top, lightweight sports car built on a ladder style chassis, with independent leaf spring suspension, designed by John Tojeiro and a hand built aluminium body designed and fabricated by Eric George Gray. Initially the car came with a Weller designed 2 litre straight six that produced 100bhp.
In 1954 AC introduced the Aceca; based on the open top Ace the Aceca was a closed Coupé built on a tubular chassis and featured an updated aluminium engine block and the same independent suspension as the Ace that allowed for a perfect 50/50 weight distribution and in turn superior handling. One notable feature was rear hatchback, making the Aceca only the second car, after the 1953 Aston Martin DB2/4, to incorporate this element.
Feeling their cars needed to keep up with the times AC decided to include the option of a Bristol straight-6 from 1956, which offered 120 bhp with 3 downdraught carburettors, a slick four-speed gearbox and an impressive top speed of 116 mph. With the new Bristol engine fitted to the lightweight Ace it became something of an icon in the British racing scene, finally providing the power to match its incredible handling.
So impressive was the performance of the Ace, it caught the attention of an American racing driver named Carol Shelby. In September 1961 he contacted AC with an ambitious plan; he requested some modified chassis that would be able to house a larger V8 engine. Bristol engines had been discontinued for the company and so AC decided to engineer a revised chassis to accommodate the V8 lump. Chevrolet were Shelby first point of call, but refused to supply him engines, and so he turned to Ford in what would be one of the most famous partnerships in the automotive world.
Ford provided Shelby with 2 of their brand new Windsor 3.6l V8s, and less than 8 hours after the first AC chassis landed, they had the engine fitted and began road testing. They were sold to the public in 1962 as the AC Cobra. A stronger 4.7-liter (289-cubic inch) powered Cobra quickly followed, granting the car victories in the SCCA A-Production and the US Road Racing Championship, with only one race lost in three years.
In 1965 Shelby released the Mk III Cobra, dubbed the 427 thanks to its new 7L (427 Ci) V8. The huge new engine required a redeveloped, larger tubular chassis and featured coil spring suspension all around. The new car also had wide fenders and a larger radiator opening but the updated engine was the key to its success. It was powered by the “side oiler” Ford 7.0 L (427 cu in) engine equipped with a single 4-barrel Holley carburettor rated at 425 hp. This meant an increased to speed of 164 mph in the standard model and up to 185 mph in the more powerful semi-competition (S/C) model.
Shortened AC 428 Chassis (To 427 Cobra Spec), 302 Boss V8, Windsor Block, Cleveland Head, Four-Barrel Holley Carburettor, 14″ K&N Air-Filter, Mallory Distributor, MSD Electronic Ignition, 4+1 Richmond Manual Transmission, Limited Slip Differential, AC Aceca Body, MkII Cobra Wheel Arches, Bonnet Louvres, Side Grilles, Front Over-Riders, MkIII Cobra Suspension, MkIII Cobra Disc Brakes, 15” Wire Wheels, Aeroquip Hoses, Competition Cooing Pipework, Built In Fire Extinguisher System, Navy Blue Leather Interior, Bucket Seats, Willians Race Harnesses, Wooden Rimmed AC Steering Wheel, SMITHS Dials, Dash Mounted Rear View Mirror, Green Acrylic Sun-visor, Grey Fabric Headlining, Full Size Spare Wheel.
Meticulously constructed by an enthusiastic owner, the Aceca Cobra is a magnificent representation of possibly the greatest opportunity missed in the working partnership of AC and Shelby.
Using the gorgeous body of the Aceca, the owner decided to amalgamate the elegant styling of the classic British sports car with the more aggressive looks of the 427 Cobra, incorporating MkII Cobra wheel arches, bonnet louvres, side grilles, and front over-riders to produce a stunning wide body coupe. Staying true to the original Cobra the body was mounted to an AC 428 chassis, which was shortened by 5 inches to meet the exact specifications of the original Shelby 427 and house the monstrous V8 that was never originally designed to fit in the sleek proportions of the Aceca.
Before the lightweight aluminium body and 427 chassis were affixed the car was sent for a bare metal respray to complement the AC’s striking new looks; finished using a period correct cellulose coat the car was painted in a traditional shade of Old English White with contrasting Blue Metallic stripes.
Recently re-trimmed in a stunning navy blue hide, the interior of the Aceca Cobra captures all that is wonderful in the world of British sports cars. Appointed within a simple but luxurious manner, the low slung bucket seats provide superb hold and situate the driver at a perfect reach to the thinly rimmed wooden steering wheel which feels wonderfully tactile, allowing an incredible transfer of feel from the front axle. Chrome trim and fixings break up the deep blue surfaces whilst the classic Smiths dials add to the period charm of the AC, racing all the way up to 6,500 rpm to keep up with the immense V8.
Built with the intention of fast road driving, and the occasional track day, the Aceca also features a few modern refinements for some extra security; Williams race harnesses ensure the occupants are adequately anchored into the bucket seats whilst a built in fire extinguisher system sits as a precautionary device should the worst arise.
Engine & Transmission:
Originally never fitted with a V8 from the factory, this Aceca Cobra is an incredible insight of what could have been the ultimate Cobra iteration. Replacing the standard 2L straight 6, the owner opted to fit a 5L Boss 302; using the base of a Windsor V8 block and Cleveland head (with larger valves) the high performance engine was built for just 1 year in 1969, and developed specifically for the American NASCAR series.
The unit was sent to specialist Steve Warrior Motorsport who carried out a £14k rebuild to extract the full potential of what is in effect a race derived V8. Featuring a Four-Barrel Holley Carburettor, 14″ K&N Air-Filter, Mallory Distributor and MSD Electronic Ignition system the end result was a monstrous output of 409 bhp with peak torque arriving at around 4,500 rpm.
Paired to a period correct Richmond 4+1 Gearbox (5-Speed) and limited slip differential the end result is a fantastically fun and furiously fast car, capable of 0-60 in just 4.5 seconds and a top speed said to be upwards of 165mph.
Having covered less than 400 miles since the comprehensive rebuild, mechanical condition of the AC is impeccable, with a few more miles really needed before the freshly rebuilt V8 is even properly run in.
Wheels, Tyres & Brakes:
Wrapping up the period correct details of this meticulous build sit a handsome set of 15″ wire spoke wheels with branded AC knock-off centre caps. Matching 215/60 section Avon radial tyres sit at each corner with good, even tread remaining all around.
Underpinning the Aceca body sits a MkIII Cobra set up; consisting of independent double wishbones with coil springs and adjustable dampers, mounted to a shortened AC 428 chassis (matching 427 Cobra specification) the handling of the Aceca Cobra is an incredible period feel of precision and flamboyance, with the ability to be blistering quick around a track or a sideways hooligan should the feeling emerge.
Having owned a number of AC Aces, Cobras and Bristol engined Acecas this astounding build was conceived as a passion project by an eccentric Swiss collector, who purchased an AC Aceca (Chassis 558) in need of a new engine, and happened upon the chassis from an AC 428. It turned out the chassis for the AC 428 was just an extended version of the chassis used for the 427 Cobra, and so the basis for an incredible build began.
Merging the 2 vehicles began by professionally shortening the chassis by 5 inches, back to original Cobra specification. Meanwhile the aluminium shell was take back to bare metal and fitted with the trademark MkII Cobra wheel arches, bonnet louvres, side grilles, and front over-riders and then fitted with the suspension and underpinnings from a MkIII Cobra, Once completed it matched up perfectly with the now sized 427 chassis.
Once the bodywork and chassis had been adjoined the engine work began. The Aceca was disappointingly never originally supplied with a V8 and while many have tried, none have been done so with the shorter Cobra chassis and underpinnings. Recent engine work was completed in 2019 when it was removed by the current owner and taken to specialists Steve Warrior motorsport for a complete overhaul. Consisting of a Windsor block, which was also the basis for the MkII Cobra, the motor was rebuilt and a series of high performance parts fitted at a cost of nearly £14k, as outlined by a comprehensive invoice in the history file.
As the car sits now it has covered less than 400 miles since the rebuild, and is the ultimate representation of what an extended partnership between AC and Shelby could have been.
Provided with the car is a comprehensive file of recent work and full size spare wheel.