Vintage Postbag (Continued), January 1957
Sir, I have perceived here a vintage tourer bearing the name Graf & Stift, Wien,…
THE 16/80 h.p. A. C. “ACE” TWO-SEATER
A REFINED CAR WITH EXCELLENT LINES AND VERY GOOD PERFORMANCE
In this country a steady demand fortunately still exists for hand-built sportscars of considerable individuality and in this category one of the outstanding marques is the A.C., especially interesting because its advanced engine of light alloy construction, with ” wet ” cylinder liners and chain driven single o.h. camshaft, has been in production for very many years. The opportunity recently arose to put an A.C. ” Ace” 16/80 h.p. short-chassis two-seater through its paces, which we did by driving it for over 500 miles
in quite a short space of time. This particular model was introduced towards the close of the 1935 season, as a car having that quality and refinement of former open and closed A.C.s, united with greater performance than had previously been offered by the Thames Ditton marque. The combination, as We have now been able to discover, is a very attractive one indeed. Seated in the A.C. Ace there is every incentive to hasten away in search of deserted roads where sports-cars come truly into their own. You sit very close to the big wheel in a tightly-fitting bucket-seat, and the long, much-louvred bonnet and nicely shaped radiator suggest easy speed in a most subtle manner. The car appears of medium size, neither small nor very large, and although it seems wider than some cars, the fact that both wings are visible is completely reassuring. The central gear-lever, of remote control type with a big flat knob having the positions clearly marked thereon, is very well placed indeed, while the right-hand brake lever is quite easy to find, nestling against the right leg, and only entails stooping slightly to apply. The pedals are properly spaced and those of brake and clutch have swivelling footplates. One becomes used to this action almost at once, and suffice it to say that, although the writer was suffering from badly blistered feet through driving another sports-car in tennis-shoes, he wore the same shoes in the A.C. and had no further trouble after 500 miles driving. The seat cushion is a trifle low in view of the height of the scuttle-cowls, and the aforementioned length of bonnet, and. we made use of a folded mackintosh to provide just the right position, a larger coat or additional cushion placing one outside the full protection of the low screen, although this would be excellent in fog. There is ample room for the clutch-foot and the driver’s door is nicely cut away, though a press-stud on the body occasionally contacted painfully with the right elbow. The bucket-seats provide ample back
support and if they are a trifle tightfitting, this is vastly preferable to being flung about on corners. The clutch takes up the drive smoothly and, very positively, with a moderate pedal movement, and the A.C. moves off to create at once the impression that It is a car in which refinement and supple running have not been in the least sacrificed to a search for high perform ance. Through narrow, twisty streets from Thames Ditton we glided without
effort, free from any sense of having sensitive, temperamental machinery in our care, and finding the six-cylinder engine so quiet that at times we thought it had stopped altogether in 30 m.p.h.
limit areas, for it was inaudible even on the over-run. This is one of those rare power units that somehow conveys its silky functioning to the car’s occupants,
and which only gives an indication of its presence a few hundred r.p.m. from its maximum speed, and then only in a manner suggestive of mild valve-bounce. It is prone to knock even on Discol fuel, but such knocking can be completely cured by retarding the ignition by means of the lever situated on the steering wheel boss, operated by the left fore
finger and thumb. With the ignition retarded there is a noticeable loss of accelerative power, nor does it seem possible to improve matters by “notching up” the advance in proportion to the amount of throttle-opening. However, this is no serious disadvantage, because in town-driving we soon became accustomed to fully retarding, going over to full advance and tolerating a spot of knocking when extra acceleration was needed. Smooth and docile as this engine is, it must not be thought of as a ” woolly ” unit, as we realised on gaining the comparative freedom of the Kingston ByPass. There is a pleasant power-roar when accelerating on the indirect ratios
which persists in top gear when cruising at those speeds to which the A.C. is suited, though this noise never develops to a pitch sufficient to annoy the occupants or to peeve policemen with delicate ears. Normally one starts from rest in first gear, changing to second at 20 m.p.h. (3,500 r.p.m..), and to third at 32 m.p.h. (8,500 r.p.m.), after which it is convenient to go into top at 40 to 50 m.p.h. (3,000 to 3,500 r.p.m.). The central remote gear-lever is very nicely situated and has an outside, flat-topped knob that is pleasant to handle. The synchro-mesh on second, third and top -ratios is extremely good, brutal straight-through singleclutch changes being possible with rather less shock-return than usual, perfect changes, with a very occasional miss, being normal, given the requisite pause in neutral, while the synchro-mesh in no way interferes with double-declutch changes such as a sports-car driver would normally employ. Moreover, the lever goes very easily into any gear-position, which is of great value in traffic-driving and makes a vital difference to time in
Rally and Trial special tests, but which cannot always be managed with synchro-mesh. boxes. The lever lifts to engage reverse, which is fairly easy to select. The indirect gears, including first, are notably quiet, both on drive and overrun.
The right-hand brake lever is clear of the driver’s door and works well, once one is accustomed to sliding up the control to lock the ratchet, the action otherwise being a racing-type fly-off. The brakes are thoroughly in keeping with a car of this performance. At first they came on rather harshly, giving rise to tyre-squeal under heavy application and had a pronounced tendency to pull to the near side, but after 500 miles this harshness had disappeared and they impressed as extremely powerful brakes, working silently save for a slight hiss,
progressively and evenly. There was no loss of effect discernable after a hard week-end’s driving and a light pressure sufficed for all save an emergency stop. The brake-light gave an astonishingly bright warning.
The steering was of the kind that enables one to place the car with complete confidence, winding it in and out through congested pieces of traffic with a minimum wastage of road-space. The big wheel is very nicely positioned and the action is light and smooth in the modem manner without being finger-light. Two turns are required, lock to lock, and a slight improvement might result from slightly higher gearing. There is no return action through the wheel, even on bad surfaces, and the castor-action is adequate and rapid. At first the car was prone to rather more tail-sliding on fast corners than we had expected, calling forth loud protest from the tyres, and, indeed, being rather jolly, as the A.C. responded instantly to the helm. We had an additional passenger in the sternsheets, and were admittedly motoring rapidly. Later, experiment with the Telecontrols and the tyre-pressures effected a vast improvement and. with only two persons in the car the A.C.’s stability was beyond reproach. With front and rear shockabsorbers slack the car rides very comfortably over stone-sets and tramlines, there being a generally supple action, with bodywork movement that is apparently intentional and allowed for, and a tendency for the lamps and ” frontworks ” to work in sympathy with spring
deflections. Screwing up 150 lb. or so front and back has the effect of stiffening things up very adequately, so that the driver secures full control and feels in one with the car. There is then some scuttle movement on rough roads, though the “front-works ” become rigid. Thus it is possible to vary the suspension characteristics over a wide range to suit divers conditions and individual requirements, while pitching has no place in the A.C.’s manner of riding, nor does it roll excessively on corners. Having made • these preliminary impressions the car was garaged in readiness for a fast run up to Shelsley-Walsh and back on the morrow. In the morning It was given choke, started at the first touch on the starter button, and there after opened up at once, to a speed deemed sufficient to sling oil at the cylinder walls, without spitting back or
mis-firing. Normally the engine ticks over regularly at about 500 r.p.m. to the accompaniment of a fascinating exhaust-burble. The long main-road journey brought out the ability of the A.C. to run happily and effortlessly in the upper seventies, the highest speed actually reached being rather better than 80 m.p.h., though at times the plugs resented our heavy right foot, so that we went back to the works to have them changed before doing the Brooklands tests. Perhaps the best cruising speed is 60 m.p.h., when the engine turns over at 3,000 r.p.m. There is plenty of punch on the low gears, especially after the engine has attained
2,000 r.p.m. or so, and second is a very useful ratio for rapid passing, after a holdup. The oil-pressure varies with enginespeed, but is approximately 30 lb. per square inch at idling revs, and maintains 80 lb. per square inch at cruising speed. The normal water-temperature is 70° to 80°, rising rather quickly to 90° after a spell of extra exhilarating driving.
On the Sunday we took the A.C. to the hill-climb at Gnatt’s Valley, Kent, organised by the Standard Car Owners’ Club. This involves a climb up a rough path of about 1 in 3. Although the A.C. was not timed, it made several fast and faultless ascents, using second gear for the lower section and first to the summit, the brakes proving thoroughly able to hold the car on this gradient, and the water temperature not going above 95°. A flat rear tyre made no difference to the hill-storming qualities. At 40 m.p.h. in top gear there was a discharge of 2-3 amps. with everything electrical at work.
Later in the month the A.C. was met at Brooklands, where we conducted our usual tests—the Weybridge Track is still the only place where speed, acceleration and the accuracy of a car’s speedometer can be comfortably checked. Preliminary rapid lappery showed that for Brooklands tight shock-absorbers were essential, ‘so the Telecontrols were both adjusted to approximately 250 lb. per square inch, when the A.C. could be worked to within the lower black line half-way round the Bylleet Banking at
85 m.p.h. and held there at that speed, provided one was prepared to meet tail-diversions promoted by striking bumps and to risk a burst tyre. The first flying laps were accomplished in. 121 -Asecs. but, warming to the work, we subsequently got round in 1 min. 59f secs., though having to go higher than we wished on the Members. Banking to pass another car, while, with a clear run, A.C.’s driver managed to clip off another f sec., equal to a lap speed of 83.28 m.p.h. After a deal of fast lappery the oil-pressure showed no drop and the temperature of the cooling water did not reach boilingpoint. The engine remained just as Smooth as ever, though a blown exhaust gasket increased the under-bonnet .noise, and the engine ran for a while with the ignition off. The A.C. held 85 m.p.h.
practically all round the Track in a very consistent manner. The flying quartermile was covered at 86 m.p.h. and the flying half-mile at 84 m.p.h. There were two persons in the car, with the screen folded fiat. Acceleration was tested in this form, to 50 m.p.h. occupying 11f secs., given fairly brutal gear-changes, and with less fierce methods to 60 m.p.h was docked at 18f secs. The remaining figures are shown in the accompanying graph. On first gear the engine runs up to 4,800 r.p.m., equal to 30 m.p.h. approximately, and at the same speed on second gives 47 m.p.h., 70 being just attainable in third at 4,600 r.p.m. At the other end of the scale the A.C. will burble along without recourse to freak driving methods at 400 r.p.m. in top gear, equal to about ,9 m.p.h. The speedometer was dead accurate, even at the maximum timed speed.
Fuel consumption throughout, from a rough check, came out at about 21 m.p.g. All the instruments are well placed. Reading from left to right the facia carries a cubby hole, water thermometer, mixture control and slow-running control below, spot-lamp switches with dynamolight between, Telecontrol gauges below, electric plug point and dash-lamp switch below these, starter button and ignition key, ammeter and oil gauge, speedometer below, rev, counter and fuel-gauge. The Telecontrol knobs are located on the steering column, where they are rather inaccessible, save on a straight road, as one has to dive one’s arm through the wheel to reach them. The mirror in the centre of the scuttle is quite effective, but was prone to swivel out of line. The single pane screen is low, which adds much to the car’s appearance without rendering it in any way ineffective. The licence, as usual, is out of sight when it is folded, which did. not trouble us, but might worry the owner of a good pair of Uncle Lewis’s goggles, who wished in consequence to drive all day with the screen flat—though we have never actually been stopped on this score. The steering wheel centre carries ignition lever, lamp control and half-charge lever and the horn button. On the floor there is an electrical master switch ; a very good feature. The dashlamp gave excellent illumination of the floor, but was not very effective in lighting the instruments. The radiator cap carries the A.C. Greyhound mascot and unscrews easily and the fuel tank has a quick-action cap. The bonnet clips work very easily. The engine is notably clean, with its polished aluminium work, and seems to keep so, and the black-finished, triple S.U. carburetters contrast well. The tool-tray beneath the bonnet is of wood and well finished. There is a D.W.S. four-wheel jacking system and the twin-spare wheels are held by a triangular strip-steel clamp. The doors have pockets and the space behind the adjustable bucket seats is available for an extra passenger or any amount of luggage, while there is a very substantial luggage-grid over the rear tank. This tank holds 20 gallons, giving a range of approximately 420 miles. The tonneau-cover is of good material, of full length, and secured by very easily detachable press studs, being zip-fastened in the centre to cover the passenger’s seat when the driver is alone in the car. The long, sweeping front wings contribute materially to the sleek appearance of this A.C., and the running boards are
wide with rubber-ribbed upper surfaces, which aids entry and exit. The wings have a patented stoneguard that also damps mud and water slinging. The rake of the steering column is easily adjustable. The body has aluminium panels over an ash framework, and upholstery is leather or cloth to choice, likewise any colour scheme save white, cream or ivory, for which an. extra charge of L5 is made. All bright parts are chromium-plated and the side-screens have metal frames, while the hood is of the fully concealed pattern. On the car tested a large spot-light was fitted above the dumb-iron apron between the twin Lucas horns, the extra charge for which is .43 12s. 6d. Turning to the specification of the chassis, the engine is the well-tried A.C. six-cylinder unit with a bore and stroke of 65 x 100 mm. (1,091 c.c.), calling for a tax of £12, and treasury rated at 15.7 h.p. It develops 80 b.h.p. in sports form, and is available in 70 b.h.p. and. 60 b.h.p. forms. The cylinder block and crankcase are of aluminium-alloy with ” wet ” cylinder liners and the inclined overhead valves are operated by a chain-driven o.h. camshaft. Lubrication is by submerged, gear-pattern oil-pump, the filler cap being in the camshaft cover, and the sump holds 11 gallons of lubricant. The crankshaft runs in five bearings and carries a vibration damper. Three S.U. carburetters are mounted on the near side, but a single Stromberg pump-type is optional. Cooling is by belt-driven pump and fan, with thermostatic flow control. Ignition is by coil, the distributor being set transversely and driven by shaft and spiral gears from the crankshaft. Advance and retard has a hand control. The compression-ratio of the 16/80 h.p. unit is 7.5 to 1. The clutch is of single dryplate type enclosed in the flywheel. The unit gearbox gives four speeds and reverse, with synchro-mesh on second, third and top and lower axle ratios than those quoted in the accompanying panel are available at no extra charge, i.e., 5.1, 4.66, 4.5 and 4.25 to 1. A Wilson pre-selector box is available at £5 extra. The drive passes via a Hardy-Spicer propeller-shaft, balanced and having double universal joints, to a spiralbevel rear axle. The frame is of doubledropped pattern, with half-elliptic suspension. The deep members are of hightensile steel, and there is a double cruci
form system of bracing. Tecalemit automatic chassis lubrication is used. The front axle is an H-section forging with rounded ends to resist brake-torque. The brake-drums are ribbed and actuation is on the Bendix duo-servo system, pedal and hand-lever operating on all wheels. Fuel feed is by electric pump. The Rudge Whitworth splined wire wheels have knock-on caps and carry Dunlop 18″ x 5.5″ low-pressure covers. The electrical system is 12 volt Lucas and, as mentioned, a master switch is incorporated, which is a fitting too rarely
encountered. As tested, the “Ace ” two-seater costs kin’ and, apart from the extras already detailed, the second spare wheel is L’6 6s. extra, and wheeldiscs, radio, dual fuel pumps and ignition coils and central arm rests, etc. can be supplied when the car is delivered if desired. Summing up, this A.C. has real sportscar performance, yet it impresses as a docile, refined car that should hold its tune indefinitely and which contributes the minimum of effort to drive with the
maximum of open-car enjoyment. In particular, the alloy-constructed engine had established itself as long ago as 1925 and since that date it has been modernised, but not substantially altered. The makers are : Messrs. A.C. (Acedes) Cars, Ltd., High Street, Thames Ditton, Surrey. ‘Phone : Emberbrook 2340-1.
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