Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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AC Cars: Aceca

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ImAC Aceca.jpeg

AC Aceca

1,991/1,971/2,553 cc six cylinder water cooled

357 made from 1954-1963

Engine made by AC or Bristol (1971 cc) from 1956 or Ford (2553 cc) from 1961.

Front disc brakes from 1957.

Two seat aluminium sports coupé bodies with hatchback.

The Aceca (pronounced "A-See-Ka") is a closed coupe from AC Cars, produced from 1954 through 1963. The similar Bristol-engined Aceca-Bristol was also available starting in 1956. Both were hand-built GT cars in the British tradition, with ash wood joining steel tubing in their construction. One notable feature was the hatchback at the rear, making the Aceca only the second car, after the 1953 Aston Martin DB2/4, to incorporate this element.

The main difference between the Aceca and Aceca-Bristol was the engine. Both were straight-6 engines, but the Aceca shared its 90 hp 2.0 L (1,991 cc/121 in³) engine with the lighter AC Ace, while the Aceca-Bristol used a 125 hp "D-Type" 2.0 L (1,971 cc/120 in³) unit sourced from Bristol Cars.

The Aceca-Bristol was also available with a milder "B-Type" Bristol engine of 105 hp.

151 Acecas and 169 Aceca-Bristols were built when production (and all of AC Cars) halted in 1963.

The front-end styling of the Ace and Aceca reportedly traces back to a design done by Pinin Farina for AC in the late 40s. The curves are exquisitely executed along the long bonnet and around the headlights and simple grill. Exceptional light weight (owing to tubular frame, aluminium engine block and aluminium body panels), large 16" spoked wheels, and almost perfect fore/aft weight distribution allowed exceptional handling on loose, dirt tracks. Front-wheel disc brakes (added in 1957), transverse "de Dion" leaf rear suspension, articulated rear half-axles, worm-gear steering, an optional overdrive on 2nd, 3rd & 4th gears, curved windshield, and well-designed leather bucket seats all added to the superb engineering exemplified by AC in this 1950s vintage auto.

The Bristol engine was also an engineering marvel for the 1950s, having come originally from BMW. This inline six featured cast iron block with aluminium cylinder head. There was a single camshaft with pushrods running vertically to a rocker shaft on the inlet side of the engine. Further horizontal pushrods ran in 6 tubes over the top of the engine in order to reach the exhaust rockers. The two inclined rocker covers give the engine a similar appearance to an overhead - camshaft arrangement. There were three inline Solex downdraft carburettors bolted directly to the cylinder head casting via small adaptor plates.

One who has driven many thousands of miles in an Aceca reports that the car is a true pleasure to drive. It rides a bit hard, owing to the stiff suspension, but that gives excellent feel of the road. It holds well in corners, perhaps slightly prone to oversteer, but solid and predictable. The narrow wheelbase is noticeable, though. On the downside, the 90 hp (67 kW) engine is a bit "doggy" on the low end, so 0-60 mph is not exceptional (however, passing was never a problem, because one could drop to a high-rev in 2d or 3rd for the early acceleration and then simply click in the overdrive to get the passing boost). Other weaknesses include inadequate rear mirrors, even though the hatchback window affords a large rear view, a heating system that might pass muster in Britain but isn't suited for cold winters, and inadequate soundproofing for easy passenger conversation when cruising above 75 mph (121 km/h). The gear-shift is more solid than smooth and has synchromesh on 2nd, 3rd and 4th gears, only. It must be remembered that in the 1950s many British cars featured neither a heater nor any sort of external rear view mirror as standard equipment.

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