AC AC History

The AC story begins in 1902, when a London butcher, John Portwine, joined forces with a young engineer, John Weller. They originally built a four seat tourer exhibited at the 1903 Motor Show in the Crystal Palace, South London. While it was very impressive, it was much too costly to manufacture, so never went into production. Instead, the two began to produce a three wheeled delivery vehicle for commercial use. This was introduced in 1904, dubbed the Auto Carrier, and the two individuals formed Autocar and Accessories, Ltd. By 1907 the delivery carton was replaced by a passenger seat and the Sociable, their first passenger car, was born. In 1911 the company was reformed under the name Autocarriers (1911) Ltd and in 1922 the company was again reformed by Selwyn Francis Edge, into AC Cars Limited. The AC emblem itself had come into being as the badge placed on the Sociable, in 1907.

1913 brought about the first four wheel car, a four cylinder called the 10hp AC. This model is also often called the Fivet because it used an engine of French design known by that name. 1914 thru 1918 saw AC devoting their manufacturing capability towards the Great War and even developed an armoured car, but this never really saw service. After the war production continued with the Fivet design, but since the French Fivet engine factory had been destroyed, a replacement engine from Anzani (11.9hp) was used. There were two models, the two seater 11.9hp Sports and the Tourer, a two seater with dickey seat. The Tourer also came in a six cylinder version which Weller had been developing for some time. While several other models, and many specials, were made in the 1920's, the main bread winners for the company were the two cars just mentioned.

1921 found Portwine and Weller seeking additional financing. S.F.Edge had provided this and effectively ousted the two founders by 1922. Throughout these financial activities, from 1919 through 1925, AC had participated in many automotive competitions. Among their many honours, AC holds the record as the first in the 1,500cc class to break 100mph,and also average 100 mph.

In 1930, additional financial difficulties brought several new individuals into the AC picture. Brothers William and Charles Hurlock bought the AC company with the original intent of using it as a trucking depot for their firm and to do some special bodybuilding. "Specials" were unique bodies put on standard chassis to create "one of a kind" models that were very popular during that period.

One unique aspect is that even with the various turnovers of ownership, the employees remained loyal to the company itself. In fact, at least one employee who had been with the company in 1919 was still employed and making leather seats for the AC 428 in the mid 1970's. These employees felt a responsibility to maintain the service on all the AC cars that had been previously sold and convinced the new ownership to continue with the AC service center. During the early 1930's in fact, several new cars were built to special order from spare parts left laying around the factory. William Hurlock took one of the cars for himself, a Light Magna. When the factory began running short of parts, not only to build new cars but to service existing ones, the Hurlocks had to make a decision. Get out of car manufacturing altogether or invest some money and see what happened. Thank goodness that they chose the latter.

The road the Hurlocks decided on was to be a specialty house. The chassis and engine would be the same for all cars, but rather than build for the masses, they would build to individual order specifications. Almost any type of bodywork modifications or trim could be ordered. AC wanted to be more than the massed produced sports models of the day. In fact, the advertising slogan they loved to use was "Thames Ditton, the Saville Road of Motordom".

Around this time (early 1930's), the first AC Ace was produced. There were numerous sports models during the 1930's, like the 16/66 Sports, the 2-4-6 Coupe, the Ace Greyhound and others. There are several very good books on AC that the true AC enthusiast should get for details on all these models.

There is little to say about the early to mid 1940's due to World War II. It was 1947 before AC truly got back into the production of cars. Cars of this era included the Two Litre Saloon and the Two Litre Drophead.

The 1950's saw the continuance of the Two Litre Saloon and the Two Litre Drophead with the addition of a variation, the Buckland. Most significantly, however, was the adaption of the Tojeiro Special which was introduced as the AC Ace in 1953. Quickly after that followed the AC Aceca and the AC Greyhound. One other significant car is the AC Ace Lemans used for the 1958 Lemans.

Of course the most modern fame for AC came in the 1960's with the introduction of the Cobra by Carroll Shelby, who married the brute power of an american eight cylinder engine, to the light weight chassis/body of the AC Ace. There is not much to be said about this since there is already an enormous amount of material to be found on this subject. See the reference books or the cobra home page. One personal observation, however, is that I have been surprised over the years by several Cobra owners who, on seeing my ace, asked me what company made it, or if it was an attempt to make a replica of a Cobra. Apparently there are more than a few Cobra owners who do not know the true parentage of their cars!

Not to take anything from the Cobra, but there were several other AC cars that came about in the 1960's. One was the introduction of the AC 428. The second was the design of the Diablo, which finally saw the light of day as the AC ME3000 at the 1973 London Motor Show.

The next car model released by AC was like a step into the wonderful past. Brian Angliss of Autokraft entered into AC history by continuing the Cobra mystic. The new AC Company, under Brian, brought out the AC Cobra MkIV',s. Not content to continue "just" with the MkIV, a new generation of Ace was introduced in 1995. Although a few new AC Ace's have been sold, production has temporarily been halted. That brings us to the Newest entry in the AC Car Companies History, the AC Car Group Ltd.

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