AC Aceca ‘Bluebird’
Brief History

AC Bluebird side view

This AC Aceca, nicknamed ‘Bluebird’, is the first prototype version of 228 coupe cars built between 1954 and the early 1960s.

The ancestry of AC cars dates back to 1899 but it was in 1904 that a young engineer and a butcher began serious car production. The company specialised in motorised three-wheel carrier vehicles for tradesmen to use to transport materials and produce. The vehicle was known as an Auto-Carrier, which subsequently became AC as the company grew into larger and faster forms of transport for people.

During the early half of the 20th century AC Motors built a range of cars based on a series of classic engines. The cars sold well but never achieved the high level of mass production that other  manufacturers managed. The lack of speed produced by the AC Six engine contributed to the low acceptance of AC cars.

AC Aceca on stand at Earls Court Motor Show 1954 rear view

Defining Moment

A new era followed the end of the Second World War and AC Motors decided to appeal to younger, wealthier drivers with the launch of two sports cars. The open-top Ace Sports and the coupe Aceca were acclaimed by the motoring professionals. The Ace was particularly successful, but the Aceca had less appeal and only 228 were ever produced over a nine year period.

The AC Aceca is a defining moment in the history of AC cars, and along with the AC Ace, was the inspiration for what would eventually become the world famous AC Cobra.

AC Aceca on stand at Earls Court Motor Show 1954

Car of the Year 1954

In 1954 the AC Aceca was launched at the Earls Court Motor Show in London. It was the first public showing of the car and it was an immediate success with the public and the motoring media. It was acclaimed the Car of the Year and went on to feature in various motoring publications.

As a prototype for the Motor Show it had distinct features that were not used in later models of the car. The windscreen is flat, not curved, it had whitewall tyres to appeal to the American market. The name ‘Aceca’ is in chrome and positioned on the front wings and the tail-gate of the car. Again, the name of the car in chrome was designed to attract the American market.

Bristol 100B Engine in AC Bluebird

Donald Campbell and the Bristol 100B

During the period from 1954 to late 1956 the car was still owned by AC Cars Limited but was used regularly by the land and water speed world record holder Donald Campbell. It was during this period that the car had the Bristol 100B engine fitted, which then became the standard engine for future Aceca cars, until 1958, when the Ford engine was installed.

AC Bluebird a bit of a wreck in a farmyard

Farmyard Wreck

The car changed hands several times after Donald Campbell moved on to driving E Type Jaguars. Most owners only had the car for a few years before selling it on. By the late sixties VPL441 had become derelict, and was discarded in a farmyard. The car was found covered in brambles and bracken.

VPL 441, AC Aceca part way through restoration 1985

Mrs Nickless, Hill-Climbing

Under the ownership of Mr and Mrs Nickless the car underwent an extensive restoration so it could be used for sprint racing and hill-climbing events.

AC Bluebird with a happy Kev 10-11-18

Comprehensive Restoration

By the turn of the century the car was again changing hands regularly with rudimentary restoration work being done.

It was acquired by Kevin Shilling in 2014 and competed in several sprint racing events at Goodwood, until a Black Flag incident determined that a thorough and comprehensive restoration programme, lasting three years, was needed.

AC Bluebird unloaded at Gunhill Studios

Motoring Celebrity

In August 2018 the restoration team returned the car to its owner and since then it has competed in the ACOC Sprint and has been filmed several times for a new motoring programme to be launched in 2019.

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