One of the oldest and most infamous names in independent British auto manufacturing is that of AC Cars Group Ltd. AC who was formerly known under the name of Auto Carriers Ltd. is an independent auto manufacturer with no ties to any of the major companies around the world. Furthermore, they are also one of the oldest and longest running names in the independent car manufacturing industry around the world in which one of the latest plants to open manufacturing AC cars was in Malta.
The history of AC can be traced back to the turn of the 20th century when they first presented a model at the 1903 Crystal Palace motor show. This particular car was showcased under the name of Weller and featured a 20 horsepower power plant. The Weller Brothers had wanted to produce this advanced car but unfortunately their financial backer had other ideas. After some suggesting, the Weller Brothers opted to produce three-wheel cars under the name of Auto-Carrier in 1904. This car proved to be important to the advancement of the company as it became quickly popular and proved to be a financial asset to the company’s future.
By 1911, they officially became Auto Carriers Ltd. when they moved their plant to Surrey. It was also at this time period when AC would first begin using the famed round AC logo. Within 2 years of the move, they were finally able to produce their first sporty roadster which was a two-seater that featured the gear box right on top of the rear axel. However, the production of this car would be interrupted by the First World War.
Instead, during World War I, the Surrey AC plant produced fuses and bomb shells as a means of helping with the war efforts. Furthermore, they were also able to get back into their true manufacturing when they designed and produced a special vehicle for the War Office.
With the ending of the First World War, the AC plant quickly returned to manufacturing as normal and began to showcase a number of influential and popular cars of the era. The cars proved to be so popular that they soon had to expand their facility and took over a balloon factory near the River Thames.
It was not long after the end of the War when John Weller started designing an overhead cam six cylinder engine that would first make its way into an AC car in 1919. This particular engine proved to be so popular that it continued in production from 1919 until 1963 and is considered to be the second longest-running engine ever produced next to the Boxter engine.
By 1922, Selwyn Edge over took the company through the purchase in the company’s shares and soon appointed himself as the chief officer. As such an appointment through hostility, he obviously did not get along well with the Weller brothers and instead opted to outright purchase the company in full by 1927. He then chose to change the company’s name to Acedes, and even though this was an attempt to recover the faltering sales, it was an unsuccessful one. This was an unfortunate mistake of his as shortly after his takeover of the company, Weller opted to resign from AC and left him with no lead designer.
With the looming Great Depression growing near and sales on a gradual downfall, by the 1929 crash, AC was forced into liquidation and although production ceased temporarily, the company was soon picked up by the Hurlock Family. As a family who owned a hauling company, they acquired AC for its factory space and seeing as they did not need all of it, they opted to allow the AC name to continue on leading to a bigger income through the market than they previously could have dreamed from haulage.
With the onset of World War II, once again the AC manufacturing facility was utilised to assist the war effort. By 1947 the full-scale production of cars by the AC market was an eminent one as they began to produce a hybrid between the original six cylinder engine and an updated body which was originally produced with a BSA engine. These were known as the invalid carriages seeing as though it was a simple single seat saloon.
It was in 1953 that the auto manufacturer would begin to produce the famed AC Ace which was an extremely light-weight sports car which was designed by John Tojeiro. Then taking the Weller 2 litre engine the AC name was well on its way again. The first real racing action seen by the AC Ace was when Ken Rudd picked one up and fit a 135 horsepower BMW six cylinder which led the way to the AC Ace-Bristol which was released to the public in 1957.
By 1962, Bristol stopped producing the six cylinder and as a result, Ken Rudd suggested the Ford Zephyr engine which was fitted with a 12-port head and Webber carbs that made an amazing 170 horsepower. This second Ken Rudd AC Ace became known as the AC Ace2.6 in which only 37 were ever built. The fitting of the Zephyr engine in the AC Ace required some changes in the chassis and as a result, would lay the groundwork later for the infamous Carroll Shelby Cobra.
While Ken Rudd was making the suggestion of the Ford Zephyr engine, Carroll Shelby made his way to AC and also suggested the use of another Ford engine; a Ford V-8. He wanted a car that could compete against the Chevrolet Corvette and the lightweight aluminium body of the AC Ace coupled with the massive horsepower of an American V-8 was the perfect choice. The result of this merging of Ford and AC components was the AC Cobra. This particular car proved to play a pivotal role in driving laws both in Great Britain as well as in the US when for the first time speed restrictions were placed on roads as a result of the AC Cobra’s ability to do almost 200 miles per hour.
The AC Cobra soon got outpaced though on the racing circuits by the Ferrari and as a result the decision to go with a big-block Ford V-8 became an eminent one. Unfortunately, simply dropping the big-block in the old AC proved to be to powerful and too scary and as a result, the car was redesigned and released as the AC Cobra MKIII. In terms of production runs, the AC 427 Cobra was considered to be a failure at the time, but today it is one of the most sought after cars in the world and easily fetches a price tag of more than a half of a million U.S. Dollars for an all original car.
Original Authors: Nick (Globel Team)
Edit Update Authors: M.A.Harris
Updated On: 26/08/2008