AC Cars, originally known as Auto Carriers Ltd., is a long-standing British automobile manufacturer and one of the oldest independent car makers in the country. The company has faced financial difficulties over the years, undergoing several name changes and liquidations. However, in 2022, AC Cars began producing new models of the AC Cobra with modifications to meet modern safety and technology standards and obtain European road homologation.
The roots of AC Cars can be traced back to 1903 when the Weller brothers showcased their 20 HP touring car at the Crystal Palace motor show. Initially, the vehicle was displayed under the Weller name, but their financial backer, John Portwine, convinced them to develop a smaller three-wheeler delivery vehicle instead. In 1904, Autocars and Accessories was established, and production began with the Auto-Carrier. The vehicle gained popularity and financial success, leading to the introduction of the passenger version called the A.C. Sociable in 1907.
Over the years, AC Cars went through various name changes, becoming Auto Carriers Ltd. in 1911 and adopting the iconic "AC" roundel logo. The company continued producing commercial three-wheeler tricars and the A.C. Sociable, also known as the Mighty Atom. In 1913, they produced their first four-wheeled car, a sporty two-seater. However, World War I interrupted production, and the company shifted its focus to manufacturing shells and fuses for the war effort.
After the war, Auto Carriers resumed vehicle production and expanded its operations. They developed a new overhead-cam six-cylinder engine, which remained in production until 1963. In 1921, Selwyn Edge joined the company as governing director and promoted AC Cars through motorsport competitions. The AC Ace, based on a lightweight chassis designed by John Tojeiro, was introduced in 1953 and gained recognition for its performance. The company also produced the AC Aceca, a closed coupe version of the Ace.
In 1961, AC Cars collaborated with Carroll Shelby to create the AC Cobra. Shelby sought a car to rival the Chevrolet Corvette in American sports car racing and fitted the Ace chassis with a small block Ford Windsor V8 engine. This partnership resulted in the powerful AC Cobra, which made a significant impact in the automotive industry.
Despite financial challenges, AC Cars has produced various models throughout its history. The company manufactured fibreglass-bodied Thundersley Invacar Type 57 invalid carriages for the government after World War II. They also produced the 2-Litre, Greyhound, Petite (a three-wheeled microcar), and Bag Boy golf carts.
AC Cars' legacy includes unique prototypes such as the AC Ace LM Prototype, AC Ace Bristol Zagato, and AC Ace-Aigle, which showcased different design approaches and participated in racing events.
In summary, AC Cars has a rich history dating back to the early 1900s. While facing financial difficulties and going through name changes and liquidations, the company has produced iconic vehicles like the AC Cobra and participated in motorsport competitions. Today, AC Cars continues to manufacture automobiles, including new models of the AC Cobra adapted to modern requirements.