1954 AC Ace


The AC story is a fascinating one. In 1903 a 20hp four cylinder motor vehicle, known as a Weller, was built. It was the brainchild of John Weller, a talented engineer and designer, and John Portwine, a butcher and talented businessman who financed the venture. The Weller never made it into production and the duo decided to focus their attention on building a cheap and reliable three wheeled commercial vehicle. The Auto-Carrier as it was known was powered by a single cylinder 631cc engine, it had chain drive from the engine to the single rear wheel and it had tiller steering. The Auto-Carrier proved to be more efficient than the traditional horse and cart of the day and the vehicle was a resounding success.

In 1907 a passenger version of the Auto-Carrier was built and it was called the Sociable. The Company was renamed Auto Carriers Limited in 1911 and had to relocate to new bigger facilities in Thames Ditton in Surrey. The company went from strength to strength and whilst the First World War temporarily derailed the car business it was post war that really defined AC. Weller designed a six cylinder alloy overhead cam engine that with ongoing development remained in production from 1919 to 1963.

AC continued to grow and it built some wonderful cars throughout the 1920’s, 1930’s and 1940’s. During this time AC’s cars achieved a number of significant time and distance records as well as race results.

It was in 1953 that the John Tojeiro designed AC Ace was first introduced. Powered by AC’s proven two litre six cylinder engine this elegant aluminium bodied two seat sports racing car proved to be a huge success. It was soon joined by a coupe or hard top version called the Aceca. By the mid 1950’s the AC power plant was seen as inadequate and by 1956 AC offered the car with the option of Bristol’s two litre six cylinder engine with triple carburettors giving significantly improved performance. By 1961 Bristol had ceased to build their two litre six cylinder engine and subsequent discussions between AC and Carroll Shelby resulted in AC fitting a Ford 289 V8 into their cars . . . enter the AC / Shelby Cobra and the rest they say was history.

Whilst the Cobras are seen today as the penultimate version of the original AC sports car, the original AC Ace and AC Ace Bristols have become extremely sought after by collectors and enthusiasts the world over. They are light and nimble to drive and always very competitive in their class in motorsports events.

Oldtimer Australia is delighted to offer a very interesting and unique AC Ace. This particular car is chassis number AE34, a factory RHD example that was built in 1954. It was sold new to Roy Stanbridge who successfully raced the car in 1955 and 1956. Stanbridge then advertised the car for sale in Autosport in 1959 “AC Ace 1955 one owner 26,000 miles, in immaculate condition, £850.00”. There is a short gap in the car’s history until it was purchased by a Mr Simon Bathurst Brown in July 1967. The car was then sold to Australia in 1970 where it passed through a number of owners before being acquired by well known motoring identity Mr Lance Dixon from Melbourne, Victoria in 1990. Dixon carried out a mechanical restoration using a spare AC engine (# UMB 1559), a Toyota 5 speed gearbox and other high performance modifications including a Sprintex supercharger and SU carburettor to side of the block. The engine was fitted with purpose built crankshaft, roller rockers, purpose made camshaft to suit supercharger, modified ignition and remote water and oil pumps. Further modifications were made to the head studs to ensure head gasket survival. Suspension modifications used by Ken Davies, Surrey in the UK (which were common in UK historic racing at the time) were added. These consisted of front and rear anti roll bars, spring adjustments, stiffer dampers and 15” wire wheels.

Dixon owned the car for some ten years before it found its way to a new owner in Brisbane, Queensland before being acquired by Oldtimer Australia in 2002. In March 2002 the mileage is noted as 37,105 miles.  The cars then owner Terry Healy ran the car in the Classic Adelaide and recalls the car being every bit as quick as an AC Ace Bristol.  The engine was then overhauled with new rings, bearings, reconditioned head, supercharger, reground camshaft, new exhaust and more. At that time the mileage was 37,949 miles. The car was then sold to a collector in Hobart, Tasmania in September 2003, at 38,540 miles. The car has been used sparingly in his thirteen years of ownership, travelling only 540 miles in this time.

The car just been recommissioned for sale and the following work undertaken: the braking system was refurbished, the carburettor was stripped and rebuilt, the fuel tank was removed, cleaned and repaired, a general service was completed which included changing all fluids & the spark plugs and other miscellaneous works.

Today the car is still running the supercharged AC engine (#UMB1559) and Toyota 5 speed gearbox, however, the car has retained its original matching number AC engine (# UMB2122W) in pieces and there is the long engine with two heads and its original gearbox. The condition of the engine and gearbox is not known and it would benefit from these being restored and fitted along with a set of original 16” wheels.

The car retains just the right amount of patina. The paintwork is generally very good. It has a high gloss finish with the odd scratch or stone chip evident. The chrome and exterior trim is also very good, though there is minor pitting evident on some of the chrome and there are a few tonneau clips and an engine lock cover missing. The cockpit is ‘just a nice place to be’. The seats, carpets and dash are all in good condition as are the instruments and gauges. The engine bay is also clean and tidy.

Turn the key and push the starter . . .  the engine hesitates momentarily before bursting to life. It is somewhat grumpy when cold, though it soon settles down as the engine warms. Out on the road the car makes an almighty noise that has one smiling from ear to ear! The more you drive it the better it gets. The car changes gears smoothly and it handles and stops as it should.

The car has an excellent soft top, side curtains and tonneau. The original UK registration plates PRU 342 remain with the car. Additionally the following spare parts will accompany the car: engine parts – one complete short block with sump, two heads (one complete with valves and rocker gear, the second less valves but does include some disassembled rocker shafts), one set of SU carburettors with ram tubes, fuel rail and manifolds, one original engine fan assembly, one complete original distributor and leads, flywheel and clutch assembly, bell housing and rocker cover. There is also the gearbox (1289).

The decision confronting the new owner is whether to use the car and enjoy it ‘as is’ or do you rebuild the original engine and reinstall it back into the car. All in good time . . .


  • AC Ace
  • 1954
  • Roadster
  • Manual
  • 38542 miles
  • 1991cc


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