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2009 HAWK AC Ace

Background

In stark contrast to the later Carroll Shelby AC Cobra, the original AC Ace of 1953 was a delicate, understated little thing. Fitted with an elderly straight-six engine, the car’s 100bhp gave it a top speed of 103mph and an acceleration time of around eleven and a half seconds to 60mph. It was sprightly, but nothing more.

Until, that is, British racing driver Ken Rudd (yes, the AC history appears to be littered with racing drivers sticking their noses in…) built the very first Ace with a two-litre Bristol engine in it, a 20bhp leap in power that slashed around two and a half seconds off the 0-60mph time and added 13mph to the top speed. The modification so impressed the factory that it adopted it itself in 1956.

The Bristol engine wasn’t only more powerful than the AC engine, it also responded to tuning much better, something that the Ace’s sweet chassis was able to exploit to giant-killing effect on the track. So a new 2.6 litre Ford Zephyr engine was made available, a straight-six developed by Rudds, from 1961. Using triple Weber or SU carburettors and either a ‘Mays’ or a cast-iron head, up to 170bhp was available, giving a potential top speed of 130mph alongside a 0-60mph time of just over eight seconds.

However, Carroll Shelby’s effective-but-brutal V8-powered cars had drawn the factory’s attention by now, leading it to neglect the six-cylinder cars. Production ended in 1963 after just 37 examples of the 2.6-litre Aces had been built.

This means that original examples now command a hefty price, something that has encouraged dozens of kit car manufacturers to build replicas, some of which even look similar to the factory cars.

Hawk, on the other hand, has built an enviable reputation over the past two decades and builds beautifully engineered AC-inspired cars that are widely acknowledged as being the best in the business.

Gerry Hawkridge, the founder, is also so widely acknowledged as a pre-eminent AC guru that his firm usually has a genuine Ace or Cobra onsite for maintenance.

Oh, and because everyone goes for the mighty AC Cobra when they’re buying a Hawk, we’re told that the Ace you see here is actually rarer than the car it is based upon…

The Vehicle

First registered on the 18th of June 2009, this wonderful Hawk Ace has been in the care of the vendor since 2016. Supplied to him by marque experts Total Headturners, Alex there remembers it well and confirms that it’s a good example of a very rare car.

Built by a talented aircraft engineer who had built up more than 30 years of experience restoring a variety of British sports cars prior to embarking on this project, the Ace is finished in British Racing Green. Fitted with a rebuilt 2.5-litre Triumph TR6 engine too, and mated to a Triumph GT6 four-speed gearbox with overdrive, features that ensure this car's specification and power closely matches that of the car it emulates.

The rest of the vehicle’s mechanical specification balances the engine’s performance so it drives brilliantly. It looks terrific too, with its wire wheels, high-profile tyres, rollover hoop, and black tonneau cover.

Still having covered fewer than 1,000 miles since being completed in 2009, it’s still much like new and in need of nothing other than a sympathetic owner who is prepared to thrash the pants off it on a regular basis.

On the Outside

As with the interior, there isn’t a lot to the Ace’s bodywork – but what there is looks bloomin’ lovely. As we hinted at in the ‘Background’ section, the quality of AC-inspired replicas varies tremendously and no-one does it better than Hawk.

Of course, being built by an experienced aircraft engineer helps and he clearly took an inordinate amount of time getting everything this neatly aligned. British Racing Green is an iconic colour for a car like this too, and it’s been well applied and has weathered the intervening years impressively well. Mind you, given it’s only covered a little over 800 miles in those 11 years, the fact that it sports only the odd stonechip shouldn’t come as any surprise.

The tonneau cover fits very well covering both the steering wheel and rollover hoop very neatly. The rear view shows both slim hips and twin exhaust pipes, the latter peering shyly from under the rear in a very attractive fashion. (We’re fans of twin exhausts, but then aren’t we all?)

The limited chromework is very good, and the black wire wheels – and it’s always good to see them painted rather than chromed, something you’d expect an aircraft engineer to appreciate – are still all but pristine. They’re shod with 185/80R15 Hankook Centum K702 tyres too, whose high sidewalls make a lovely contrast to the low-profile ‘rubber band’-type ones we’re more used to seeing. They’ve also got plenty of tread left on ‘em.

And, as we will never tire of explaining, our experience shows that matching high-quality tyres are an infallible sign of a caring and mechanically sympathetic owner who is prepared to spend the appropriate amount in maintaining their car properly. Their presence does not, of course, preclude the need for a thorough inspection - something the vendor would welcome, by the way – but it does perhaps give you a shortcut into their attitude towards maintenance.

That said, the tyres are dated from 2007, so are age-expired if you’re going to be using the Ace as it was designed to be driven. Other problems are limited to the inevitable stonechip and minor mark that even the most carefully curated car will collect over the years.

Oh, and the Union flags you can see on the front wings? They’re actually hand-painted, the work having been done by an ex-Rolls-Royce sign writer. Impressive, aren’t they?

On the Inside

The Merlin Motorsport low-backed seats aren’t only exactly the sort of thing we like to see in our classics, but they’re ultra-supportive and still in fabulous condition.

There’s a huge wooden Mota-Lita steering wheel in there too, plus a pair of inertia reel seatbelts. The latter might look a bit clunky but they meet modern IVA/SVA safety standards and we’re very conscious of the fact that if you insist on using period-style safety equipment then you’re going to get period-style accident injuries.

Not a lot else in there though but that’s okay because that’s how they were in period – and nothing weighs less than nothing, does it?

Speaking of which, the boot is purposeful rather than pretty. There’s a plywood wheel spinner tool in there, plus a handy dipstick for the fuel tank. (Bet you wished you tried that out on the test drive, eh boys?) A Facet fuel pump and a spare wheel, too.

We can’t help but think that some carpeting might finish it off, which will at least give you an excuse to hide in the garage for a few evenings while you make a template to send to your favourite car trimmer.

Other work to do? Well, the fuel gauge is a liar near empty but other than that everything seems to work as it should.

Mind you, the dials do look a bit modern and if it were ours we’d be tempted to change them for something more period appropriate, something that should be an easy job as they’re Smiths jobbies. Alex, at Total Headturners, suggests that replacing them would cost around £500.

Underneath

The 2.5-litre Triumph TR6 engine was fully rebuilt prior to being fitted. Fitted with a gas-flowed, ‘Big Valve’ head and a fast-road camshaft, it is mated to a Triumph GT6 four-speed gearbox that was reconditioned before being installed, this time by Hardy's of Leatherhead. The two are joined with a new clutch and flywheel and supplemented by a working overdrive.

The Hawk also benefits from a '123' electronic ignition system and triple 40 Weber carburettors from Webcom, a high-pressure fuel pump, and Pacet cooling fans. Some of the nicest carburettor linkages we’ve ever seen too, and while this sort of complexity often introduces sloppiness, these have been installed with an unusually high degree of care and skill and are slack-free. But then it was, as we keep mentioning, the car was built by an aircraft engineer, so you’d expect him to get this sort of stuff right, wouldn’t you?

The hydraulic brake and clutch pedals were supplied by Gerry Hawkridge, and they operate uprated brake discs and pads. The engine exhales through stainless-steel TR6 downpipes that lead to a bespoke middle and rear section, both of which have also been made from stainless-steel too.

The rear axle and steering rack are MGB items, so well-proven and readily available. Oh, and whereas most other manufacturers use an MGB chassis as a base, Hawk uses a properly engineered chassis that emulates the original in appearance while being reinforced to be both stiffer and safer.

We took it on an extended test drive (well, you would, wouldn’t you?) and apart from uncovering the fact that the fuel gauge is more misleading than a Donald Trump tweet, we found nothing to worry about. Phrases like “the Ace is fabulous, its engine in particular. It looks fabulous and makes a stunning noise. There is a nice, subdued rumble at low revs and then an addictive hard-edged note at higher revs or under load” were the result of a very pleasant autumnal drive.

Please take the time to listen to the engine on both tickover and being revved. It shows good oil pressure too, and really is a jewel-like thing and one of the nicest engines of 2020 we’ve had the pleasure of getting to know.

The test drive also revealed “good brakes and steering”. In fact, the only issue we found is a slightly high idle. That’s it.

Funnily enough – and you’re ahead of me here, aren’t you? – the engine bay is magnificently clean and beautifully detailed. As is the underside.

History Highlights

The Ace’s MOT certificate, which is valid until July 2021, was gained without a single advisory point, something it’s been doing for a few years now.

It has a number of expired MOT certificates plus an invoice for an oil and filter change, having the valve clearances set and the exhaust manifold refitted on the 19th of May 2015 and 389 miles by Witley Station Garage Ltd at a cost of £282. We’re told that a lot of the paperwork it was supplied with was lost in a flood a few years ago, so while its maintenance over the years is probably impeccable it can’t be verified.

It still has its original spec sheet, and the V5 registration document.

Please visit the documents section of the gallery of this listing where you will find photos of this and other paperwork.

If you’d like to inspect the car prior to placing a bid – something we would encourage – then please use the Contact Seller button to arrange an appointment.

What We Think

AC Cobra kit cars are ubiquitous, something that detracts from their appeal, no matter how well they’re engineered or finished. Not that this is of immediate concern because you, like us, are discerning folk, folk who tend not to run with the herd. Folk who favour delicacy and good engineering over cubic inches and brute force.

So, buying an AC/Hawk Ace instead shows an uncommonly high degree of good taste and mechanical sympathy; the boss, no stranger to the road less travelled and a decent helmsman on the track, is slightly obsessed with this one, raving about the handling, performance, steering - and noise.

Dials aside, everywhere you look speaks of diligent engineering, an obsessive attention to detail, and remarkably good taste. It is possibly the nicest sub-£30k traditional roadster we’ve seen in a very long time – and we’re spoilt for choice here at The Market HQ.

And sub-£30k? Maybe, we estimate it’s only going to sell for somewhere between £20,000 and £30,000, a sum that strikes us as so absurdly small we might just have to take a punt ourselves. However it is being offered by the vendor at No Reserve so is on sale from the first bid, and will genuinely find its own price.

Viewing is always encouraged, and this particular car is located with us at The Market HQ near Abingdon; to arrange an appointment please use the Contact Seller button at the top of the listing. Feel free to ask any questions or make observations in the comments section below, or try our ‘Frequently Asked Questions’.

EU & BREXIT - If you are bidding from overseas & planning to export your vehicle abroad, you should be aware of two important things: 1) There is no VAT on used cars in the UK. 2) After Brexit, you might have to pay import tax in your country.

If needed, please remember we have a network of trusted suppliers we work with regularly and can recommend: Classic & Sportscar Finance for purchase-financing, Footman James for classic car insurance Thames Valley Car Storage for storing your car and an array of regional providers for transporting it.

BORING, but IMPORTANT: Please note that whilst we at The Market always aim to offer the most descriptive and transparent auction listings available, we cannot claim they are perfect analyses of any of the vehicles for sale. We offer far greater opportunity for bidders to view, or arrange inspections for each vehicle thoroughly prior to bidding than traditional auctions, and we never stop encouraging bidders to take advantage of this. We do take a good look at the vehicles delivered to our premises for sale, but this only results in our unbiased personal observations, not those of a qualified inspector or other professional, or the result of a long test drive.

Also, localised paint repairs are common with collectable and classic cars and if they have been professionally carried out then they may be impossible to detect, even if we see the car in person. So, unless we state otherwise, please assume that any vehicle could have had remedial bodywork at some point in its life.

Additionally, please note that most of the videos on our site have been recorded using simple cameras which often result in 'average' sound quality; in particular, engines and exhausts notes can sound a little different to how they are in reality.

Please note that this is sold as seen and that, as is normal for used goods bought at auction, the Sale of Goods Act 1979 does not apply. See our FAQs for more info, and feel free to inspect any vehicle as much as you wish.

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  • Location: Abingdon, Oxfordshire
  • Odometer Reading: 800
  • Chassis Number: HAWKS1SLC0208192
  • Engine: 2500
  • Gearbox: Four speed with overdrive
  • Color: Green
  • Interior: Leather

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