1959 AC Ace-Bristol Roadster  Chassis no. BE 1059 Engine no. 10002-948

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Lot 611
1959 AC Ace-Bristol Roadster
Registration no. BYE 536 Chassis no. BE 1059 Engine no. 10002-948

Sold for £ 254,620 (US$ 345,901) inc. premium
1959 AC Ace-Bristol Roadster
Registration no. BYE 536
Chassis no. BE 1059
Engine no. 10002-948
• The most desirable Ace variant
• Formerly the property of Peter Taylor
• Extensive ownership history
• Good history file
• Purchased in 2009

'Of them all, the Ace was the truest sports car: it could be used for daily commuting or for high-speed long-distance touring, but it could also be driven to a race meeting, campaigned with distinction, and driven home again - even if that race was the Le Mans 24 Hours.' - AC Heritage, Simon Taylor & Peter Burn.

The success of Cliff Davis's 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-litre, long-stroke six. This single-overhead-camshaft engine originated in 1919 and with a modest 80bhp (later 100bhp) on tap, endowed the Ace with respectable, if not outstanding, performance.

In 1955 AC added a hardtop version - the fastback-styled Aceca - and from 1956 onwards both models became available with the more powerful Bristol 2-litre, six-cylinder engine with its ingeniously arranged, pushrod-operated inclined valves. Although taller and heavier than AC's own engine, the BMW-based Bristol was considerably more powerful thanks to its superior cylinder head design and down-draught carburettors. Up to 130bhp was available from the Bristol unit in road trim, in which form the Ace could touch 120mph (195km/h), while around 150bhp could be wrung from it for racing.

In 1955 AC added a hardtop version - the fastback-styled Aceca - and both models became available from '56 with the more-powerful (up to 130bhp) Bristol six-cylinder engine. 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. Downdraft 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 Bristol-engined Ace was not only more powerful, it was also considerably more expensive, costing £2,011 in 1957, an increase of 22% over the price of the AC-engined version. For that you could buy two MGAs, and even Jaguar's XK140 was cheaper than the Ace Bristol. Nevertheless, by the time Ace production ceased in 1963, more than half the 723 cars built had left the factory fitted with Bristol engines.

The combination of a fine-handling chassis and a decent power-to-weight ratio helped the Ace to numerous successes in production sports car racing; arguably its finest achievement being a first-in-class and seventh overall finish at Le Mans in 1959. Indeed, its basic soundness and versatility were reflected in the fact that relatively few major changes were found necessary when the Ace was endowed with Ford V8 power to create the legendary Cobra.

Finished in blue metallic with red leather upholstery, this Bristol-engined Ace has the desirable (factory fitted) overdrive gearbox and comes complete with hood and tonneau cover. 'BYE 536' was supplied new to one Ian Mann in Maidenhead, and on 1st April 1996 was acquired by its former owner, racing driver the late Peter Taylor, from a Mr John Mackinnon of Dalkeith, Scotland.

The car comes with a substantial file of history, including much correspondence with previous owners and bills for servicing, some of which date back to the late 1960s and relate to work carried out by AC themselves, while there are many bills relating to its ownership by Peter Taylor between 1996 and 2008. Major works were carried out by Solent Vintage Engineering of Lymington in 1996 shortly after purchase by Peter Taylor. The engine is understood to have been overhauled by a firm in Aylesbury and converted to run on unleaded fuel. Higher lift, 'fast road' camshafts are fitted and the car has always been well maintained mechanically as Peter Taylor used it for the less demanding forms of motor sport. An excellent example of its type, the Ace featured in the BBC 2 television series 'Clarkson's Car Years - Why do people like British Sports Cars?', broadcast in 2000.

Robert acquired the Ace-Bristol in October 2009. In October 2015, the car was sent to Malton Coachworks for extensive servicing and a full body restoration. The bodywork was stripped of its ancillary components and then hand block sanded back to provide a solid base for the full repaint over reinstated primer. The wheels were found to require refurbishment, and again these were completed by Malton Coachworks' in-house team. Mechanically, the Ace benefited from a full brake overhaul that included new fluid, cylinder seals and hoses where required. A general engine service was undertaken, with fresh spark plugs and antifreeze. An MoT test was successfully completed. Related bills totalling in excess of £7,000 are on file, and the car also comes with instruction/workshop manuals, a V5C Registration Certificate, and a quantity of expired MoTs.

Presented in beautiful condition, 'BYE 536' represents an exciting opportunity to acquire the most sought after Bristol D2-engined version of this classic British sports car, eligible for just about every historic event. If you want an Ace, this one ticks all the boxes.

Saleroom notices

  • The engine number is 100 D2 948. According to the AC Ace Bristol register this is a matching chassis and engine vehicle.
Contacts
1959 AC Ace-Bristol Roadster  Chassis no. BE 1059 Engine no. 10002-948
1959 AC Ace-Bristol Roadster  Chassis no. BE 1059 Engine no. 10002-948
1959 AC Ace-Bristol Roadster  Chassis no. BE 1059 Engine no. 10002-948
1959 AC Ace-Bristol Roadster  Chassis no. BE 1059 Engine no. 10002-948
1959 AC Ace-Bristol Roadster  Chassis no. BE 1059 Engine no. 10002-948
1959 AC Ace-Bristol Roadster  Chassis no. BE 1059 Engine no. 10002-948
1959 AC Ace-Bristol Roadster  Chassis no. BE 1059 Engine no. 10002-948
1959 AC Ace-Bristol Roadster  Chassis no. BE 1059 Engine no. 10002-948
1959 AC Ace-Bristol Roadster  Chassis no. BE 1059 Engine no. 10002-948
1959 AC Ace-Bristol Roadster  Chassis no. BE 1059 Engine no. 10002-948
1959 AC Ace-Bristol Roadster  Chassis no. BE 1059 Engine no. 10002-948
1959 AC Ace-Bristol Roadster  Chassis no. BE 1059 Engine no. 10002-948
1959 AC Ace-Bristol Roadster  Chassis no. BE 1059 Engine no. 10002-948
1959 AC Ace-Bristol Roadster  Chassis no. BE 1059 Engine no. 10002-948
1959 AC Ace-Bristol Roadster  Chassis no. BE 1059 Engine no. 10002-948
1959 AC Ace-Bristol Roadster  Chassis no. BE 1059 Engine no. 10002-948
1959 AC Ace-Bristol Roadster  Chassis no. BE 1059 Engine no. 10002-948
1959 AC Ace-Bristol Roadster  Chassis no. BE 1059 Engine no. 10002-948
1959 AC Ace-Bristol Roadster  Chassis no. BE 1059 Engine no. 10002-948
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