20-21 January 2011


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Lot 135

1959 AC Ace Bristol Roadster

Sold for $217,250

125 bhp, D2-specification 1,971 cc inline six-cylinder Bristol engine, triple carburetors, four-speed manual gearbox, Laycock de Normanville electric overdrive, four-wheel independent suspension with wishbones and transverse leaf springs, and hydraulic front disc and rear drum hydraulic brakes. Wheelbase: 90"

- One of only 465 Ace Bristols built

- Concours-level nut-and-bolt restoration

- Fully sorted mechanically and driven in the Colorado Grand

- Equipped with the top-specification D2 engine and overdrive

Based on a sports racing car designed by John Tojeiro and introduced at the London Motor Show in October 1953, the Ace remains the signature product of the AC marque. Equipped with a four-wheel independent suspension and sleek bodywork reminiscent of contemporary Ferrari Barchettas, the Ace garnered praise from magazine testers, including John Bolster of Autosport who wrote, “the machine does all the right things all the time.” He continued, “no emergency or advanced driving technique will ever catch it on the wrong foot.”

In 1956, the highly regarded 1,971 cc Bristol ‘six’ became available, upgrading the standard Ace to “Ace Bristol” specification. Initially producing 103 hp and rising to 125 in its ultimate D2 specification, this state-of-the-art power unit traced its origins to BMW’s advanced prewar 328 design and continued to be successful in racing well into the 1960s.

Bristol-powered Aces were brilliant in competition, winning three successive SCCA E-Production championships between 1957 and 1959, followed by two D-Production championships in 1960 and 1961. The Ace Bristol also scored very well at Le Mans, where it finished second in class in 1957 and 1958 and achieved a sterling class victory and seventh overall in 1959. This performance no doubt left an impression on overall 1959 Le Mans champion Carroll Shelby, who later created his 289 and 427 Shelby Cobra derivatives of the classic Ace.

Chassis BEX 1090

This left-hand drive Bristol-powered Ace, chassis BEX 1090, was originally finished in white with a black-trimmed cockpit and equipped with factory-original options including a heater, oil cooler and oil-temperature gauge. It was purchased directly from the AC works by Charles Kaleta as a gift for his son Charles Jr., who planned to study in Switzerland. However, his program was cancelled and the young Mr. Kaleta returned with the Ace to complete his studies in the USA. Mr. Kaleta raced the Ace in one club-level event in Southern Wisconsin, and in 1962, he sold BEX 1090 to a University of Chicago professor. A number of owners followed, and eventually, respected AC marque specialist Jerry Bensinger found BEX 1090 in a Northern Ohio barn. Although it required complete restoration, the Ace remained wonderfully complete and unmolested.

While the car’s original VIN plate shows the engine number as 930 D2, the current engine is numbered 1000 D2. Through correspondence with AC Owner’s Club historians and following a search of their archives, the current owner has learned that the engine number “1000” was never factory-assigned to any Ace chassis. As a result, it is believed that the original Bristol engine was damaged early in the car’s lifetime and that the factory replaced it with the currently installed Bristol D2 engine, numbered 1000 D2.

The current owner purchased BEX 1090 with the objective of restoring it for extended and reliable touring, as well as for concours events and shows. Accordingly, equal attention was paid to its running and handling, as well as its cosmetics, with the suspension, steering, springs, shocks, brakes, instrumentation and wiring either replaced or restored. The respected firm, Marcovicci-Wentz of Long Island, New York, rebuilt the Bristol engine with work including all-new bearings, pistons and valves, and a 0.020-inch overbore. Upon completion, the Bristol was dynamometer-tested and tuned, with detailed reports produced.

Mark Wehrman, also of Long Island, rebuilt the four-speed gearbox and replaced all the bearings and worn parts. A proper Laycock electric overdrive unit, complete with correct switchgear, was sourced from England and provides extended highway-cruising capabilities. The original tail-shaft and miscellaneous transmission parts are also included with the sale of the car.

During restoration, the entire car was completely disassembled, but the body was not removed from the car’s tubular chassis to avoid the loss of critical alignment points. A rotisserie was fabricated to allow work on the body and chassis from all possible angles. All aluminum body panels were repaired or replaced, with work completed by the staff at Automotive Hammer Art of Indianapolis, Indiana. Once prepared, the Ace was refinished in dark blue and re-trimmed with black upholstery.

Once completed, which was approximately two years ago, the Ace was methodically road-tested over about 1,000 miles and thoroughly sorted in preparation for its entry into the Colorado Grand, where it performed brilliantly. Everyone admired it for its stunning appearance and strong performance on the mountain roads covered during the event. At present, there are only a little over 2,100 miles on its odometer since restoration.

An authentic and correct restoration, the car features such original-specification items as flocked rear-boot side panels, proper corrugated radiator hoses and clear, corrugated fuel lines, plus heavy, grease-impregnated covers for the front and rear leaf springs. The car is offered complete with a new top and tonneau cover, rebuilt and re-glazed side curtains, the original jack with handle, a grease gun and a “T” key. Correct storage bags for the top and side curtains, as well as the tool kit, were authentically created using patterns from a set of original items.

A comprehensive file accompanies the sale of the Ace and includes extensive restoration receipts and photographs. With its authentic and stunning high-point restoration and mechanical excellence, BEX 1090 is also very rare as one of just 465 Ace Bristols originally produced. A joy to drive, it can also be detailed easily for display on the concours field.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

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Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig

+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

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United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

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Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

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Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

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California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

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California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

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California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

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United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

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United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

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United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

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Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more