Impressively documented, original Sebring '56 history, one-owner for over 60yrs, $100k restoration, Buick V-8 powered AC Ace Special.
1955 AC Ace Special
Blue with Black Leather Interior
Legends of motorsports are shaped by grit, determination, and fortitude through teams of enthusiasts captivated by the checkered flag. And while nearly 70 years have lapsed since the 1953 introduction of the AC Ace, the original John Tojiero design, based on Cooper mechanicals and an MG engine, poised this legend to be in the hands of AC Cars. Upon its introduction, the formidable Ace set the standard for a newly derived lightweight, agile, and highly capable sportscar either it the hands of skilled racing teams or eagerly campaigned by privateers with little or no racing acumen. The stunningly beautiful Ace would remain in production through 1963, but in 1961 fate would cast Carroll Shelby and AC motors as partners assembling the first AC Ace powered by a Ford 260 V8 engine. Ultimately the 289 Cobra, and later 427 Cobra would emerge, changing racing history and ultimately welcoming the mighty Cobra to motorsports posterity.
In September 1955 this AC Ace, chassis number AE90, was sold to the first owner, American Joseph H. Dressel. Outfitted with the original in-line six-cylinder engine this AC Ace would become the first of its kind to race in the 12 Hours of Sebring. Although two ACs are known to have been listed as preliminary entrants for the 1956 race, only AE90, wearing #37 qualified, started, and completed the race. Driven by Joseph Dressel and William Woodbury, the duo proved their mettle finishing 4th in class and 18th overall, remarkable placement considering their privateer status. According to documents included with this car, in August 1958 Frank and Mary Morgan, Oakridge, TN purchased AE90 for the negotiated sum of $2,795 from Manhattan Auto Inc., paying for the car in $92.00 monthly installments. Under his ownership, Morgan and former owner Dressel were in contact via written correspondence discussing many technical details around the engine and component parts. On or around this time, Morgan was researching the application of a lightweight V8 engine to use as a suitable replacement for the six-cylinder AC engine. Additional letters include correspondences with General Motors Buick employee Joe B. Guinn in 1962 who Morgan consulted regarding the use of a Buick V8 engine and 4-speed transmission as a suitable powertrain replacement. Further written correspondences from AC Imports, Ed Iskenderian, and other parts sources through 1961 further detail the subject of a replacement or rebuilt engine. By December 1962 an invoice for a Weber Flywheel, exhaust flange kit, and Isky E-2 unit as tested in Hot Rod Magazine (1960) were purchased specifically for the purported aluminum 215 cu. in. Buick Special V8 engine. By 1963 detailed build records indicate that the V8 engine was being prepared with honing, crankshaft polishing, new pistons, balancing etc. The completed build would be topped off by four Weber 45 DCOE carburetors. On the subject of four Weber carburetors, during the development period, documentation with the car includes correspondences from Dr. Morgan regarding the purchase of four Webers that had been previously installed on a damaged Ford GT40.
Concurrent with the emergence of the first Cobra, Morgan continued developing his Ace with the Buick engine. At that time, the young doctor to be was focusing on his studies to become a dental surgeon. No stranger to the racing scene, much of his personal time was spent working on East and Midwest racing team pit crews. As part of his research, Morgan shot numerous photos of cars from the early 1960s, carefully evaluating what details might apply to his personal V8 powered AC Ace, including building a unique dual circuit braking system, predating ones later developed for Cobras. By 1966, Dr. Morgan had completed his Ace, now sporting flared rear wheel arches to accommodate wider rear tires, blue paint, and wearing #56. His first documented outing would be in October 1966 when the car was photographed at Bridgehampton Race Circuit in New York, racing against other notable European cars including a competition Cobra. By 1968 AE90 was moved into long term storage as Dr. Morgan pursued a surgical career developing maxillofacial hardware, achieving numerous titanium mesh patents as well as performing ground-breaking surgery. The revenue from these medical patents subsidized much of Dr. Morgan’s ongoing motorsports racing participation including supporting the G&W Motorsports Grand-Am, and as owners of the 2000 and 2001 GT class winning #81 Porsche.
In 2006, the Morgans decided to restore AE90, returning it to 1966 specifications, as developed by Dr. Morgan. Classic Car Center, Fredericksburg, VA was enlisted along with D&D Fabrications, Altamont, MI (Buick aluminum block engine specialists) to build a new V8 engine while retaining the originally used unit for display purposes. The comprehensive restoration was completed in 2009 and is documented with invoices accompanying the car along with numerous detailed period correspondences documenting the original build.
Highlights of the restoration and engine build include detailed specifications for the Buick V8 including a long six-vane water pump, high volume oil pump, Isky valve springs, stainless steel intake and exhaust valves, Diamond forged pistons, Crower cam and lifters, four 45 DCOE Weber carburetors, racing fuel liners and Aeroquip fittings, and Delta Pertronix ignition. Other items of note include stainless steel bridge pipes, hush power mufflers, rechromed front and rear unique period construction bumpers, a new AC wiring harness, an aluminum radiator, a custom chronometric tachometer, and Dayton 72 spoke wire wheels fashioned in the style of 289 competition wheels with four new Borrani knock offs. Under current ownership the car has been recently freshened with the tops of the carburetors cleaned including the jets and accelerator pumps, fresh fuel, and minor carburetor adjustments.
Today, with very few miles logged since completion, AE90 presents confidently as a notably unique competition sports car now boasting a professional restoration. The paint and body are remarkable in finish and construction. The alloy body surfaces and details are expertly finished in high gloss metallic blue with excellent fit to all body panels and beautifully articulated rear fender arches seamed into the original aluminum body. The competition windscreen, gloss black roll bar, headlights, outside fuel filler, and correct lenses, all reflect the harmony of AC Ace features and cleverly derived competition features. Every aspect of the configuration is just right with both historic accuracy and design balance. Exterior fit and finish far surpasses original construction delivering exquisite results befitting the dedication and pride of the original construction and the cleverness involved in the period V8 development.
The interior is finished as originally intended with contoured black leather bucket seats, wide competition style seat belts, and an accurate array of switches and Smiths instruments. The quality of the interior finish, while appropriately sparse, is representative of the original AC build combined with modest period updates that reflect the 1966 build. The 4-speed manual gearbox, raw alloy door inner surfaces and alloy footboxes, AC foot pedals, and wood rim steering wheel convey the character and quality of a true vintage sports competition car very much in keeping with the themes that were concurrently developing in the Shelby Cobra.
Under the hood, details and historic delights of the V8 engine continue with beautifully finished components, trumpeting quad Weber air horns, and white coated headers emptying down and weaving past the twin rail tubular frame design that so perfectly suited the development of the 260 and 289 Shelby Cobra. The beautifully constructed tubular intake manifold tubes feed each of the intake chambers directly from the contemporary 45 DCOE Weber carburetors, fed by braided stainless steel Aeroquip fuel lines. The trunk is properly finished, outfitted with a Fuel-Safe fuel cell and a modern dry cell technology battery. The undercarriage is reflective of original AC Ace construction with some modifications afforded during the period build, an added oil cooler, and other minor modifications to suit the V8 engine.
In addition to the exceptional documentation offered with this car, it’s important to note that privateer sports cars from this era rarely converge with historic participation at Sebring, documentation, and period correspondences to and from the factory, and long-term ownership. Every aspect of this exceptional car reflects thoughtful construction, careful stewardship, and detailed documentation worthy of Doctor Morgan’s reputation and demands for excellence.
This AC Ace-Special comes with the original V8 215 aluminum engine and rolling dolly, multiple binders of historical documentation, numerous vintage period literature items, a set of carburetor air horn caps, two skeleton keys from the Kenilwood Lodge, Sebring, FL, AC Ace general instructions booklet, AC Ace sales brochure, AC owner’s club literature (dating back to 1964), various spare parts, and a UK license plate.
Beautifully restored by marque experts with careful attention towards original AC construction and respect for the innovative 1960s installation of the aluminum V8 engine, this exciting AC Ace stands shoulder to shoulder with icons of performance from arguably one of the most exciting periods in modern racing. With competition 289 Shelby Cobras valued in the millions of dollars, most of which have been sequestered to museum status, this stunning and unique AC Ace is an exceptional value for anyone who enjoys a superbly restored, documented competition sports car. Eagerly awaiting both road or track use, this AC Ace Special is ready to reward the driving ambitions and motorsports passions of the next fortunate owner.
Please note, as a racecar this vehicle is sold on a bill of sale only.
The above vehicle information is complete and accurate to the best of our knowledge at the time it is posted to this website. Corrections or additional information is always appreciated. All advertised prices exclude government fees and taxes, any finance charges, any dealer document preparation charge, and any emission testing charge. Vehicles are subject to prior sale. All advertised to be true but not guaranteed. We assume no liability for errors or omissions.
Fantasy Junction • 510-653-7555 • 1145 Park Ave, Emeryville, CA 94608