Prototype For Sale: AC Ace

This incredibly historic motor car started life as a two seater roadster built by John Tojeiro for Vincent Davison but was soon acquired by AC cars and thereafter became the development prototype for the AC Ace.

In early 1953 John Tojeiro was asked to build a new sports car for his friend Vincent ‘Vin’, Davis. Of a similar design to the barchetta previously provided for Cliff Davis (LOY500) this example had a tubular chassis and pleasing Italianate aluminium bodywork built over a lightweight frame but unlike the earlier car was powered by a 2.5 Litre 4 cylinder Lea Francis engine obtained from Connaught. The new car was finished in the summer of 1953, registered LER371 and delivered to Davison, although no sooner had he taken delivery than Tojeiro asked him to return the car so he could show it to AC Cars at their Thames Ditton factory. So impressed were AC that a deal was quickly struck passing ownership of LER371 to AC Cars in return for a royalty payable to Tojeiro and suitable recompense for Davison, who joined the AC company as development engineer soon afterwards to help transform his car into the smooth high speed sports tourer that the Ace would become.

Externally the transformation involved replacing the Turner aluminium disc wheels with wires, installation of full trim and weather equipment, fitting a proper windscreen, giving the car a professional re-spray and re-registering it TPL792. Mechanically the car received a 6 cylinder AC engine in place of the Lea-Francis unit and a Moss gearbox, although the Morris Minor rack and pinion steering originally fitted by Tojeiro was retained for the prototype (later production cars would be fitted with the Bishop Cam steering box).

In this refined form the car was displayed at the Earls Court Motor Show in October 1953 where the newly cream with brown trimmed prototype was accompanied by a brand new rolling chassis. Both were described either as the “AC 2-litre two-seater Special Sports” or “Ace two-seater Sports” and had a basic price of £915. The initial reception to the car was very favourable and this positive impression was backed up by John Bolster’s road test in January of 1954. Just prior to this, in December 1953, the car had also had its Rally debut by participating in the MCC Daily Express Rally, where it was driven by Cliff Davis, who finished but did not win any awards.

Following its use at AC cars, the car was briefly returned to its original owner Davison who campaigned it in 1954, including an appearance at the 8 Clubs race meeting held on 29th May at Silverstone, before passing it to Basil de Mattos. Mr de Mattos raced it with some success through the remainder of the 54 season, achieving two second places at Goodwood, and again during 1955. By the later 1950s the car had passed to Robert ‘Bob’ Jennings who fitted a Bristol engine (which required minor modification to the bonnet) and continued to campaign the car with appearances at Brands Hatch (where he scored a 1st place in April 1957), Silverstone, Oulton Park and Crystal Palace. Following Jenning’s period of ownership the car found its way to Roland Duce who in turn sold it to Jonathan Bradburn who won a sprint at Curborough with the car.

Following two more owners the Ace moved to the United States in the 1980s by which time it had been fitted with a Ford Zephyr engine and Ruddspeed Raymond Mays head. During this period in the States it was actively campaigned and received a full professional restoration when it was repainted white. Recently acquired by JD Classics it is currently being repatriated and will be offered in full race ready condition. With a fantastic history and world class provenance it offers a unique opportunity to acquire a truly historic sports racer that boasts a fantastic competition history in its own right and is the ancestor not only to the AC Ace but also the legendary AC Cobra.

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