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 centre. 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
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
adaptation 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.
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 Mk IV',s. Not content to continue "just"
with the Mk IV, 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.