16th Mar, 2022 13:00

Imperial War Museum, Duxford

Lot 81

1963 AC Ace 2.6
No Reserve - The mortal remains of '032'

Sold for £202,500

(including buyers premium)

Lot details

Registration No: Un-Reg (was '150 PH')
Chassis No: RS5032
MOT: None

  • Hillclimbed by its first and second keepers, W.J. Williams Esq and Dr Stuart Saunders
  • Current family ownership since 1969
  • Taken off the road in 1979 and stripped awaiting a restoration that has yet to happen
  • Chassis scrapped due to an unfortunate sequence of events but original engine, gearbox, differential, bonnet, boot, doors, dashboard, keys, hardtop, seats, internal body panels etc, etc

A driver new to the car has little difficulty in judging just where the limit of adhesion comes and fast main road curves can be taken at full throttle . . . the adoption of the Zephyr engine endows the AC Ace with a more attractive performance on the road and, when in racing tune, it should go so quickly that it stands a good chance of being banned from BARC marque races!’ (Motor Sport magazine, August 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 OHV unit proved durable, free revving and surprisingly potent. Notably shorter than its Bristol predecessor and just 40lb heavier, 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. The ultimate development of the iconic AC Ace, the 2.6 would also prove by far the rarest. Produced for just 30 months or so, from mid-1961 until the end of 1963, a mere 37 examples were made with only 24 being to right-hand drive specification. As fast and well balanced as it was, the 2.6 became a slightly oddball choice once the brutally potent and now revered AC / Shelby Cobra came on stream in 1962-1963. The earlier design’s cause not being helped by its near identical looks.

According to the AC Owners’ Club, chassis RS5032 was despatched from the Works on 29th May 1963. Finished in Pearl Black with Red leather upholstery and originally road registered as ‘150 PH’, the car’s impressive specification included a curved (Cobra style) windscreen, Raymond Mays alloy cylinder head, triple SU carburettors, fibreglass hardtop and Ford Zephyr MKIII four-speed manual gearbox. A keen amateur driver who also campaigned a Kieft-Ford Formula Junior single-seater, first owner W.J. Williams used the Ace 2.6 for hillclimbing as did his immediate successor Dr Stuart Saunders. Acquired by the vendor’s late father during 1969 whose first job coincidentally had been in AC’s technical department, the two-seater was taken off the road a decade later and stripped pending a restoration that has yet to happen. A friend kindly agreed to store the chassis and front and rear clips in a barn he was renting but failed to notify the family when his landlord chose to develop the site. Previously shorn of its bonnet, boot, doors, interior, engine, gearbox, back axle, suspension, brakes, wheels, interior body panelling and all badging etc, the unidentified assembly was thus consigned to the W.J. & D.J. Mills scrapyard in East Suffolk. A recent conversation with a member of the Mills clan has confirmed that the chassis and front and rear clips caused quite some bafflement but were ultimately dismembered. Although, if the condition of the tubular steel chassis was anything like that of the remaining suspension components then its reusability, had its survived to the present day, would have been very doubtful!

We cannot guarantee that everything shown in the website photographs relates to an AC Ace 2.6. However, we believe that the mortal remains of ‘150 PH’ comprises the following original components: engine (complete with Mays cylinder head), gearbox, differential, chassis plate, bonnet / bootlid / doors (all correctly stamped with ‘032’), much of the internal body panelling, steering column / box, wheel spinners, bumper overriders, fuel tank, washer bottle, heater, headlamp rims, tail lights, pedals, radiator grille and assorted brake / suspension parts not to mention the factory-fitted seats, door cards, carpets, dashboard, instruments, hardtop, soft-top, tonneau cover and side screens. Even the original ignition key and barrel are present, while the odometer shows a credible 58,423 miles. Several manufacturers including W.O. Bentley regarded a car’s chassis as a replaceable service item and there are no shortage of companies that could fabricate a new once including AC Heritage of Brooklands who have access to the original factory tooling. Coming to market for the first time in fifty-three years, there is no doubt that the mortal remains of ‘032’ require a huge amount of work before they can constitute a complete car again. However, this is surely a project worth tackling especially as one of its sister cars, ‘030’, sold for $500,000 at Monterey last August.

For more information, please contact:
Damian Jones
07855 493737


Auction: Imperial War Museum, Duxford, 16th Mar, 2022

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Tuesday 15th March 2022 from 12pm to 6pm
Wednesday 16th March 2022 from 9am

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