AC CARS HISTORY
The Weller brothers set up their company as engineers, repairers and manufacturers of motor cars and motor cycles in West Norwood, London. The business grows and Weller Bros. is appointed Official Repairer for the Automobile Club.
John Portwine, a local butcher, becomes a shareholder in the newly-formed Weller Bros. Ltd.
John Weller presents his first car, the 20 hp Weller Touring Car, at the Crystal Palace Motor Show. John Portwine convinces him to design a compact three-wheeled commercial delivery vehicle.
The company changes its name to Autocar and Accessories Ltd. and launches the AutoCarrier. It’s an instant success with traders, including Great Western Railway, Boots the Chemist, Selfridges, Associated Newspapers, Carr’s Biscuits, Maple & Co., Dickins & Jones, and The Goodyear Tyre Co which reportedly had a fleet of over 70 vehicles. It remained in production until 1914.
The success of the AutoCarrier leads to the design of a passenger vehicle based on the same design theme. The Sociable had an additional seat in place of the AutoCarrier’s cargo box and was also successful, remaining in production until 1914.
In November 1907, a new company, Autocarriers Ltd., was formed and the abbreviation AC was used for the first time.
The company moves from West Norwood to Ferry Works in Thames Ditton where it stayed for over 70 years.
Autocarriers Ltd. begins manufacturing its first four-wheel car, the 10 hp AC Light Car, but production is interrupted by the outbreak of the First World War.
1914 – 1915
The company’s reputation for quality, reliable, manoeuvrable vehicles leads to the 25th London Cyclist Regiment being equipped with modified AutoCarriers with mounted Maxim guns and others adapted as ammunition carriers. The War Office asks the Weller brothers to design and produce a prototype Light Armoured Car using the AC Light Car chassis.
John Weller designs a new 6-cylinder, 2-litre engine, The Light Six, with an initial capacity of 1477 cc / 40 hp. This was later increased to 1991 cc / 105 hp.
1920 – 1922
Racing driver Selwyn F. Edge buys shares in the company and is appointed Governing Director in 1921. Weller and Portwine resign within the year and AC Cars Ltd. is formed in 1922. Edge eventually puts Weller’s Light Six engine into production. The engine is ahead of its time and remains in production until 1963. Its patented spring slipper chain tensioner has since been used by many other manufacturers.
Driven by Mr Joyce at Brooklands Circuit on 1st December 1922, a car with a 4-cylinder version of the Light Six engine becomes the first 1500cc car to cover 100 miles in 1 hour, with an average speed of 101.39 mph and a fastest lap of 104.85 mph. It shattered another four records along the way: flying half mile (16.66”, 108.4 mph), 2 miles (108.4 mph), 5 miles (104.16 mph), 10 miles (103.79 mph).
In 1926, the Hon. Victor Bruce became the first UK winner of the Monte Carlo Rally and the Mont des Mules hill climb. The following year, his wife Mildred borrowed an AC Six from Selwyn Edge and finished the Rally 6th out of 66 entrants, starting from John o’ Groats and driving 1,700 miles without sleeping.
William and Charles Hurlock, successful car and truck dealers in South London, buy AC for its factory and profitable servicing business with no intention to manufacture cars. Until William Hurlock wanted a new car and used available parts in store to build his own.
The AC Ace is launched. It’s a revolutionary car for its time, both in terms of styling and its 3” tubular ladder chassis design. It quickly gains the respect of racing enthusiasts as a private owner could race it on the weekend and still use it for everyday motoring.
The coupé AC Aceca is launched at the London Motor Show.
By the early 1960s, Ford was trying to find a car that could beat the Corvette and had developed a new light weight V8 engine for that purpose. Carroll Shelby had seen the racing success of the AC Ace from 1957 through 1960 and, in 1961, he went to England to negotiate with AC Cars the design and manufacture of an AC Ace to be powered by the new Ford V8. And the AC Cobra came to be.
Derek Hurlock (4th from left) and AC Racing mechanic Freddie Aylott (opening bonnet)
The Le Mans Coupe was built especially for the race using the Cobra chassis and a 289 engine. Long story short: test-run necessary, newly-completed M1, 4:30 am, 183 mph.
As joint Managing Director Charles Hurlock said “I am unhappy about having to use a public road like this for such tests but British racetracks can’t cope with sustained runs over 160 mph. We had one run – and we checked to see that the motorway was clear.” Another British racing boss admitted that several companies had been using the M1 for similar high-speed tests for the previous two years. The following year saw the introduction of the 70 mph limit. Erm, you’re welcome.
Alan Lubinsky, a South African entrepreneur, buys the company, forming AC Car Group Ltd. After reviewing the AC products, he realised that the company was not selling enough Cobras. He decided that it should take a stand by producing original AC Cobras at an affordable retail price.
AC doesn’t see its workforce as providing an opportunity for cost-cutting and retains its highly-skilled traditional craftsmen, including panel beaters, welders, fabricators and trimmers, in order to maintain the finish quality. Instead, changes are made to the body material and manufacturing process.
The AC Cobra Mark IV CRS is launched at the 1999 London Motor Show.
AC Cars celebrates its centenary at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, home of the Chelsea Pensioners and Chelsea Flower Show, at the invitation of the Governor, General Sir Jeremy Mackenzie, now Chairman of AC Cars (England) Ltd. It was believed to be the largest gathering of AC cars in recent years.
Enter the AC Cobra 140 Charter Edition and the AC Cobra Series 1 electric.
Celebrating 58 years since the first AC Cobra rolled off the line, two new limited anniversary editions are put into production, with just 58 of each being released.
Everything old is new again! This is the year that also sees the 2020 AC Cobra 378, a hand-built, faithful recreation of another legendary Cobra that features a traditional all American driveline – a 6.2 litre 440bhp V8 engine mated to a six-speed gearbox.