1936 AC 16/70
- Year of manufacture1936
- Chassis numberL370
- Lot number339
- Number of seats2
- Exterior colourOther
- Fuel typePetrol
1936 AC 16/70hp March Special Sports Tourer
Registration no. CLY 126
Chassis no. L370
Having abandoned plans to produce a 20hp touring car, John Weller turned his not inconsiderable design talents to something more mundane - a three-wheeled commercial delivery vehicle. Introduced in 1904, the Auto-Carrier was an immediate success and a passenger version - the Sociable - followed in 1907, at which time the company name was abbreviated to 'AC'. The first four-cylinder AC arrived in 1913 and fours would be catalogued until 1928, whereafter the company offered sixes only.
AC's famous Weller-designed, overhead-camshaft six entered production in 1922, by which time Weller and his financial backer, John Portwine, had been ousted by new owner, S F Edge. A prominent racing driver of the Edwardian era, Edge believed fervently in the publicity value of competition successes and pursued this policy enthusiastically during his stewardship of AC. In 1922 an AC became the first 1,500cc car to cover the mile at over 100mph, and in 1926 the marque's place in motoring history was assured when a 2-litre model became the first British car to win the Monte Carlo Rally.
Financial difficulties saw AC taken over by the Hurlock brothers in 1930, and from then on the firm concentrated on sporting cars aimed at the discerning enthusiast. Successful motor dealers, the Hurlocks had bought AC as a means of expanding their existing business and only restarted the manufacturing side in response to customer demand. Existing stocks of spares were used at first but when these began to run out the brothers had no option but to make a fresh start. This they did using a bought-in chassis from Standard, into which went the Weller designed six and a conventional ENV gearbox, replacing AC's traditional three-speed transaxle. The marque's reputation for producing well engineered and equally well finished cars continued under the Hurlocks' ownership, enabling AC to prosper despite the higher asking prices that these exemplary standards necessitated.
An improved, under-slung chassis of 9' 7" wheelbase was adopted for AC's 1934 range, which was first displayed at the London Motor Show in October 1933. By 1935 a flat radiator with mesh grille had replaced the previous rounded type, only to be superseded for the following season by the classic slatted version. A synchromesh gearbox was standard by this time, while other noteworthy features included automatic chassis lubrication, built-in jacks, and Telecontrol shock absorbers, all of which were incorporated in the 16/60hp and 16/70hp models launched in 1936.
The combination of a generous wheelbase and low-slung chassis made it possible for the six-cylinder AC to accommodate sports-touring coachwork that was both stylish and comfortable. Among the most elegant was the four-seater sports tourer designed by Freddy March, heir to the Duke of Richmond and Gordon, whose design team was responsible for some of the finest sporting coachwork of the period. Its is believed that fewer than 600 of these standard 16hp cars were built before production ended in 1939, of which only 23 featured 'Earl of March' coachwork.
This rare sporting AC was first owned by one V H Holloway in 1936, and by the 1950s had passed into the ownership of Leslie Inwood, the AC Car Club's race secretary. In 1963/1964, the car was owned by Ian McKinnon who sold the car through Branscombe Garage, and subsequently by Tom Burnside, a motoring photographer from New York, USA. Sold at auction to a lady from Boston, USA, the AC was owned subsequently by Mark Gibbons, a resident of Boston, USA and Portugal. In 1995, the current vendor purchased the car, which he had shipped home to the UK from Portimao, Portugal.
The AC's restoration commenced the following year when the engine was rebuilt by Colin Dunn of Solent Vintage Engineering. Phil Whitaker then totally rebuilt the chassis and body over the course of 1998/1999, the interior being re-trimmed by specialist upholsterers J G Luck of Poole. By this time, in excess of £75,000 had been spent on the AC's restoration.
Jim Stokes Workshop looked after the AC's maintenance over the course of the next decade, carrying out various tasks including re-coring the radiator; fitting new splined hubs; overhauling the suspension, brakes, steering, etc, a further £15,000-or-so being spent. In 2008, Rod Briggs rebuilt the engine again around the original cylinder block (stitched by Surelock) at a cost of £25,000, which included an upgrade that increased maximum power to 89bhp, while the wheels were rebuilt in 2010. The only notified deviations from factory specification are the dashboard's leather trim and enamelling to the AC bonnet badge.
Since the initial restoration's completion some 19 years ago, 'CLY 126' has been rallied extensively by the enthusiast vendor. Events entered include the 'London to Lisbon Rally' (2000), 'Angoulême Amble' (2005), 'Pyrenean Challenge' (2006), 'Wonders of Burgundy' (2007), 'Unknown Italy' (2010) 'Wolseley Car Club 1000 Miles of Ireland' and various other tours of Brittany, France, and Belgium. On several of these events 'LC370' was voted 'the car they would most like to take home' by its fellow competitors. Described by the private vendor as in generally very good condition, this handsome AC represents a wonderful opportunity to acquire one of the most exclusive and sought after British sports cars of its era.