AC Cars Group Ltd, the erstwhile Auto Carriers Ltd, is one of the oldest British independent car manufacturers. It was founded in West Norwood, London in 1901 by the Weller brothers. The company is currently headquartered in Germany as part of Gullwing GmbH.
In 1903, Weller Brothers of West Norwood presented a 20hp touring car at the Crystal Palace Motor Show. Considering the response at the show, they decided to produce an advanced version of the car. But John Weller’s wealthy financial backer Portwine realised that the production of the car would involve a great amount of money and suggested producing a smaller three-wheeler delivery vehicle.
A company called Autocars and Accessories was formed and production of Auto-Carrier started in 1904. The vehicle emerged as a great success and what followed was a passenger version, AC Sociable in which the cargo box was replaced by a seat.
In 1911 the company moved to Ferry Works and was called Auto Carriers Ltd. This was when the AC roundel logo identity came into being.
The company produced its first four-wheeler in 1913 but due to the First World War, the vehicle could not get into large scale production. At the end of the war, the company successfully resumed its motor vehicles’ operations. Meanwhile, Weller worked on designing a new overhead cam 6-cylinder engine that was produced from 1919 to 1963 and is believed to be the “second-longest-lived” production motor ever (preceded by Volkswagen boxer).
In 1921, Selwyn Edge bought the shares of the company while Weller and Portwine left the company within a year.
While AC Cars were quite successful in many car rallies and races, the company’s passenger car sales had been adversely affected and the company went into voluntary liquidation in 1929. The Hurlock brothers, William AE and Charles F, bought the company and launched a new range of cars in 1932. Small scale production of cars continued until the start of World War II.
With recession affecting the business and Hurlock having health problems, the family sold their holdings to William West in 1986. Earlier, Brian Angliss had produced MK IV in 1982 and after gaining all the rights to the AC brand, he set up a new AC company as a joint venture with Ford. In 1996, AC Ace (4942 cc version supercharged) was launched.
In the same year, the company was sold to Alan Lubinsky’s Pride Automotive
Carroll Shelby International and AC Motor Holdings Ltd. together started production of authentic Shelby/AC Cobra vehicles in 2003. But then in 2006, Shelby filed a lawsuit against AC Motor Holdings Ltd. and Lubinsky as the former failed to perform under the terms of its license agreement.
In 2009, AC MK VI was launched. It was the first version of the car that was not built in England.
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