The AC is one of the oldest carmakers in the U.K., being established in 1901 in West Norwood, London, and over time it was liquidated or renamed due to financial troubles.
In the beginning, the Weller Bros. started as a small shop where they repaired cars and motorcycles. Since they had to produce some parts for the vehicles, they worked on. Soon they realized that they could build a car from scratch. In 1902, a local investor, John Portwine, became a stakeholder in the Weller Bros LTD.
In 1903, the Weller Brothers unveiled their first prototype at the Crystal Palace Motor Show. It was a four-wheel touring car with a 20 hp engine. Portwine, as a successful businessman, persuaded John Weller to create a three-wheeled delivery vehicle. In 1904, the tricycle was ready, and the company changed its name to Autocar and Accessories.
The tricycle had two wheels at the front and one at the rear with an in-hub two-speed gear. Its small, two-stroke engine sent the power to the rear wheels via a chain. It was an instant success. Portwine was right. Four years later, Autocar and Accessories removed the cargo box and replaced it with a half-convertible canvas and a seat. It was a motorized tricycle that could carry one person, and it stayed in production until 1914. In November 1907, Autocar and Accessories changed its name to Autocarriers LTD and used the abbreviation AC and the rounded logo.
In 1914, Autocarriers made the decisive step toward four-wheel vehicles and introduced its first production car, the AC Light Car. But the production lasted only for two years until World War I started. The War Office asked AutoCarriers to adapt light-armored bodyworks on top of the AC Light Car and also to transform the tricycle into war machines. The latter was used by London Cyclist Regiment and featured a front-mounted Maxim machine-gun.
After WWI, the company was bought by Selwyn F. Edge and appointed as Governing Director (CEO). Weller and Portwine resigned, and the company was renamed AC Cars LTD in 1922. Edge was a racing driver, and he saw the future for the last masterpiece engine designed by Weller. It was an inline-six unit with chain distribution and a patented spring slipper chain tensioner, used later on by most car manufacturers.
With the new racing driver in the CEO seat, AC Cars started to make its name in motor racing and won many races, including the 1926 Monte Carlo Rally. But the best was yet to come. In 1953, AC Cars launched the ACE model. It used a tubular chassis and a light roadster bodywork. The carmaker successfully introduced a coupe version for it in the following year. Its better aerodynamic shape made the 1954 ACE Aceca break the 200 kph barrier and reached 128 mph (206 kph). Its motorsport achievements didn’t get unnoticed, and Carroll Shelby stopped by AC Cars in 1961 to negotiate the design and production process. And that’s how the famous AC Cobra was born.
After the AC Ace, the British carmaker developed new vehicles, but none had the ACE success. In 1996, a South African businessman bought the British company’s remains and tried to revive the brand. In 2003, Carroll Shelby International and AC Motor Holdings LTD announced a new car built together. Unfortunately, the joint-venture produced only the prototype. For three years, between 2004 and 2007, AC built the MkV in Malta with a carbon-fiber bodywork but kept the original design.
After a century of struggles, the British brand still existed, but without a strong investor, the AC might sit next to other special brands from the past.