Believed one of three remaining, in single family ownership since 1963 1939 AC 16/90hp Supercharged Tourer Registration no. HPJ 878 Chassis no. L662 Engine no. UBS7.613
Having abandoned plans to produce a 20hp touring car, John Weller turned his not inconsiderable design talents to something more mundane - a three-wheeled commercial delivery vehicle. Introduced in 1904, the Auto-Carrier was an immediate success and a passenger version - the Sociable - followed in 1907, at which time the company name was abbreviated to 'AC'. The firm's first four-cylinder car arrived in 1913 and fours would be catalogued until 1928, thereafter the company offered sixes only.
AC's famous Weller-designed, overhead-camshaft six entered production in 1922, by which time Weller and his financial backer John Portwine had been ousted by new owner S F Edge. A prominent racing driver of the Edwardian era, Edge believed fervently in the publicity value of competition successes and pursued this policy enthusiastically during his stewardship of AC. In 1922 an AC became the first 1,500cc car to cover the mile at over 100mph and in 1926 the marque's place in motoring history was assured when a 2.0-litre model became the first British car to win the Monte Carlo Rally.
Financial difficulties saw AC taken over by the Hurlock brothers in 1930 and from then on the firm concentrated on sporting cars aimed at the discerning enthusiast. Successful motor dealers, the Hurlocks had bought AC as a means of expanding their existing business and only restarted the manufacturing side in response to customer demand. Existing stocks of spares were used at first but when these began to run out the brothers had no option but to make a fresh start. This they did using a bought-in chassis from Standard, into which went Weller's six and a conventional ENV gearbox, replacing AC's traditional three-speed transaxle. The marque's reputation for producing well engineered and equally well finished cars continued under the Hurlocks' ownership, enabling AC to prosper despite the higher asking prices that these exemplary standards necessitated.
An improved, under-slung chassis of 9' 7" wheelbase was adopted for AC's 1934 range, which was first displayed at the London Motor Show in October 1933. By 1935 a flat radiator with mesh grille had replaced the previous rounded type, only to be superseded for the following season by the classic slatted version. A synchromesh gearbox was standard by this time, while other noteworthy features included automatic chassis lubrication, built-in jacks and Telecontrol shock absorbers, all of which were incorporated in the 16/60hp and 16/70hp models launched in 1936.
Also in the range at this time was the 16/80hp Competition model, an entirely new sports two-seater that had first appeared publicly at the 1935 London Motor Show. Weller's 2.0-litre six was installed in a short-wheelbase chassis, under-slung at the rear and equipped with Moss remote-change synchromesh gearbox and Bendix self-energising mechanical brakes. Topped off by a supremely handsome roadster body, the 16/80 combined gorgeous looks with excellent handling and a 90mph maximum speed. Only 28 were constructed before a mildly restyled version arrived for 1937. At the 1938 Motor Show an example was exhibited fitted with an Arnott supercharger, which added £35 to the price, and this 16/90hp model remained available until AC ceased car production in 1939.
One of only a tiny handful of its type made, chassis number 'L662' carries the Surrey registration 'HPJ 878' and was sold new in April 1939 to a Michael B Thomson of Birmingham. It was subsequently sold to Miss Betty Haigh of Bury Gate, Sussex, who is perhaps best remembered for her 2-Litre Class win in the 1946 Alpine Trial driving an AC 16/80, 'EPJ 101'. The accompanying continuation logbook (issued 1952) records the owner at that time as one Alexander Bruce Ritchie of Dundee, who had acquired the AC in September 1949, followed by musician David Tarbet Phin from 1957. Mr Phin is said to have used the car to transport his double base to and from engagements, and the logbook records no fewer than five different addresses for him over the succeeding five years, the last entry being stamped in June 1962. The current owner bought 'HPJ 878' from Eversfield Garage of St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex in August 1963, paying a mere £15 (purchase receipt on file). The cylinder block had corroded and water had contaminated the engine oil leading to bearing failure. Replacement engines being unobtainable, the car was sold for its scrap value. Although the blower had been removed, the fact that the AC had been a supercharged model was confirmed by the boost gauge on the dashboard.
'HPJ 878' remained in storage until some cylinder blocks were remanufactured by Werner Oswald, and its restoration commenced in the late 1990s. In the intervening period the owner had accumulated numerous parts, including some bought directly from the AC factory in Thames Ditton. The restoration was carried out by Bruce and Jim Young between 1997 and 2005, the engine being rebuilt by Tim Abbott who advised that a new crankshaft and rods be made and fitted, given the age of the originals and the risk to the new block if anything failed.
Most of the body frame was kept but new wheelarches had to be made from epoxy bonded laminated ash. The aluminium body panelling was badly corroded wherever it was nailed to the frame, and it was considered more efficacious to re-skin the body rather than make repairs, while the hood cover was missing and had to be remade. Although rusty in places the original steel wings were otherwise sound and were repaired successfully together with the splash deflectors. A complete interior re-trim was undertaken by Graham Williams, who also made and fitted a new hood, hood bag and side screens. Fewer than 1,000 miles have been covered since the rebuild's completion and all invoices relating to the restoration are on file.
Shortly after completion the AC received the ultimate accolade when it was invited to attend the inaugural 'Concours of Elegance' at Windsor Castle in the presence of HM The Queen, joining approximately 60 of the world's finest cars in the Castle's quadrangle (letter of invitation on file). Eminently suitable for historic road rallies such as the popular 'Flying Scotsman', this extremely rare and beautiful Post-Vintage Thoroughbred is offered with the aforementioned old-style logbook, current road fund licence, UK V5C document and two box files of history.