1959 AC Aceca Bristol Coupé Registration no. PH 237 (To be re-applied for) Chassis no. BE755 Engine no. 100D 21037
The success of Cliff Davis' Tojeiro sports-racer prompted AC Cars to put the design into production in 1954 as the Ace. The Davis car's pretty Ferrari 166-inspired barchetta bodywork was retained, as was John Tojeiro's twin-tube ladder frame chassis and Cooper-influenced all-independent suspension, but the power unit was AC's own venerable, 2.0-litre, long-stroke six. This overhead-camshaft engine originated in 1919 and with a modest 80bhp (later 100bhp) on tap, endowed the Ace with respectable, if not outstanding, performance. A hardtop version - the fastback-styled Aceca coupé - debuted at the Earls Court Motor Show in 1954. The Aceca's hatchback body was constructed in hand-formed aluminium over a tubular steel framework, while the tubular chassis was more substantially built than the Ace's. To reduce noise levels within the cabin, AC mounted all major components on rubber bushes. The result was a well-engineered, light in weight and extremely pretty GT car in the best AC tradition. Very few alterations were made to the Aceca during its production life apart from a change of engines. For the 1956 season the more-powerful (up to 130bhp) Bristol six-cylinder engine became available. The l,971cc Bristol six was based on that of the pre-war BMW 328, which featured an ingenious cylinder head, designed by Rudolf Schleicher, incorporating hemispherical combustion chambers and inclined valves without recourse to overhead, or twin camshafts. Instead, the earlier BMW Type 319 engine's single block-mounted camshaft and pushrod valve actuation were retained, thus avoiding an expensive redesign. Two rocker shafts were employed, one situated above each bank of valves, giving the engine an external appearance almost indistinguishable from that of a twin-overhead-cam design. Downdraught inlet ports contributed to the motor's deep breathing, and its tune-ability made it a popular choice for British racing car constructors, most notably Cooper, during the 1950s. Externally, Bristol's clone of the BMW motor differed little from the German original, the most obvious difference being the adoption of SU, rather than Solex, carburettors part way through production. The most significant changes made by the Bristol designers were metallurgical, their utilisation of the highest quality materials contributing to greatly increased engine life. The combination of a fine-handling chassis and a decent power-to-weight ratio - in Bristol-engined form the car could touch 120mph - helped the Ace to numerous successes in production sports car racing, arguably its finest achievement being a 1st-in-class and 7th overall finish at Le Mans in 1959. This Bristol-engined Aceca offered here was 'Lot 1' in Brooks Auctioneers' very first sale, held at the London Motor Show, Earls Court in October 1989, and remained with its purchaser for the next 16 years. Forming part of a once large collection of cars, 'PH 237' has benefited from various remedial works over the years including a carburettor rebuild in the early 1990s and, more recently, a new fuel pump. In 2005 the Aceca became part a large collection on the Continent, where the non-original leather steering wheel was replaced by an original wooden one (not a reproduction). During its stay in this collection the car was started regularly as part of a strict preservation programme. Possessing a delightful patina, resulting from many years of enthusiastic use, this lively car is said to drive well; the driving position is comfortable and once the revs are up, the performance flows effortlessly. Rare, desirable and offering exceptional value for money, this beautiful Aceca coupé starts 'on the button' and is offered with copies of the instruction manual and Bristol engine workshop manual, old-style logbook, sundry expired MoTs and old Swansea V5 document.