The 1953 AC Ace Prototype ‘TPL 792’ featured in the October 1953 issue of Autosport

The 1953 AC Ace Prototype ‘TPL 792’ featured in the October 1953 issue of Autosport magazine.  – Graphic supplied

Graphic supplied

A car owner has commissioned the Press Photo History project to help trace any photos of his newly acquired classic as he intends to write a definitive history.
The car is the 1953 AC Ace Prototype ‘TPL 792’ – images will be used for licensing and reference. In particular any shot showing the car interior.

The car was photographed at race meetings – see list below  – and featured in a few magazine issues.
Answers on an email please [email protected]

Known publications featuring the car:

MotorSport Magazine Vol XXIX No.12 December 1953.

Autocar – November 20 1953.

Autosport November 20, 1953. Centre Spread.

Autosport, June 4 1954.

Goodwood meeting programme 7th June Goodwood BARC Basil de Mattos Car 60 2nd.

1955 24th September Oulton Park International Basil de Mattos Car 23 3rd.

Autosport Magazine, 30th September 1953.

Known Racing History:
December Daily Express MCC Rally

29th May Silverstone Eight Clubs Meeting Vin Davison Car 56 – 2nd.

7th June Goodwood BARC Basil de Mattos Car 60  – 2nd.

2nd August Crystal Palace Basil de Mattos Car 32 – 6th.

21st August Goodwood BARC Basil de Mattos Car 96 – 2nd.

19th September Prescott Basil de Mattos Car 41

24th September Oulton Park International Basil de Mattos Car 23 – 3rd

31st March Brands Hatch R D Jennings Car 26 – 1st

22nd April Brands Hatch R D Jennings Car 56 – 3rd

2nd June Silverstone Eight Clubs Meeting R D Jennings Car 144 – 4th

6th July Mallory Park BRSCC R D Jennings – 5th

27th July Silverstone R D Jennings – 1st

5th August Brands Hatch R D Jennings – 4th

18th August Silverstone 6 hour relay R D Jennings

26th December Mallory Park R D Jennings – 4th

1st April Brands Hatch R D Jennings – 1st.

6th April Oulton Park British Empire Trophy R D Jennings Car 41 – 6th.

1st June Silverstone Eight Clubs Meeting R D Jennings.

9th June Brands Hatch BRSCC R D Jennings Car 46

10th June Crystal Palace Whit-Monday R D Jennings

6th October Brands Hatch Sporting Trophy Meeting R D Jennings

If you have images of this car pease email [email protected] or call Will on +44(0)7802437827 and we will put you together with the owner. Thanks.

Car History:

1953 AC Ace Prototype ‘TPL 792’ – THE BACK STORY
Unique Prototype and the first ever AC Ace thus regarded as the beginning of the AC Cobra story. Starting life as the 1953 London Motor Show car, with subsequent ‘works’ race history all over the UK including Goodwood, Oulton Park, Brands Hatch, Silverstone and Prescott.

Chassis AE20 (Given by AC Cars Ltd) Vin Chassis Number ACE 501 (As given by Tojerio)

By 1953, John Tojeiro’s reputation for building competitive sports racers was well- established. When friend Vin Davison approached Tojeiro to build a sports car with a Barchetta body, neither could have predicted that the model would make automotive history, evolving into the AC Ace, and later, the Shelby Cobra. AC Ace #AE20, the car built for Davison and later pitched to AC.

Davison’s car wasn’t the first Barchetta – inspired by Ferrari’s 166 MM – built by Tojeiro. Instead, that honour goes to a Bristol-powered example ordered by Cliff Davies and registered in Britain as LOY 500. Two more MG-powered examples – registrations LOY 501 and LOW77 – were built before Davison placed his order, to be powered by a 2.5-liter Lea- Francis four-cylinder, procured from race car builder Connaught Engineering.

Delivered in the summer of 1953, Davison’s car carried registration LER 371.

At the same time, British automaker AC was desperately seeking a new model to enhance its product line, supplementing the outdated 2-Liter saloon and convertible. Ernie Bailey, whose Buckland Bodyworks occasionally contracted with Tojeiro to paint bodies bound for AC, suggested that the Barchetta may be just what AC needed to revive its business. A meeting was set up by Bailey, and Tojeiro borrowed LER 371 from Davison for the demonstration.

Tojeiro’s sports car impressed the Hurlocks, owners of AC, but an important next step would be to gauge interest from attendees of the 1953 Earls Court motor show. AC wanted one of Tojeiro’s Barchettas in its booth, but there wasn’t sufficient time to complete another example. Instead, AC bought LER 371 from Davison, offering him an engineering job developing the Ace to sweeten the deal. Tojeiro, for his role in designing the car and putting together the pitch, received royalties of £5 per car, but only on the first 100 cars sold. He also agreed to build one more bare chassis for AC, which would serve as a model from which to build the necessary frame jig.

In the transition from Tojeiro Barchetta to AC Ace, Davison’s former car received a 2.0-liter AC inline six engine, as well as new blue paint and registration tag TPL 792.

The car also received a metal-framed windshield in place of the original plexiglass screen, a folding top, interior trim and wire wheels to replace the Turner aluminum wheels typically favored by Tojeiro. The prototype retained its Morris Minor-derived rack and pinion steering, though production models would use a Bishop Cam steering box.

Ironically, the AC Ace wasn’t thought of as a racing car. As Rinsey Mills wrote in AC Cobra: The Truth Behind the Anglo-American Legend, reviewer John Bolster of Autocar magazine penned in the car’s first write-up, “It is not intended as a competition car, and no attempt will be made to develop it as such…” His prediction didn’t prove true for long, since TPL 792 competed in the December 1953 Daily Express MCC Rally, where it was driven by Cliff Davis.

In May 1954, Davison had the opportunity to race his old car – perhaps researching suspension development for the production Ace – at the Silverstone Eight Clubs Meeting, where TPL 792 took second place. Basil de Mattos was the next owner, and he ran the car in five events throughout 1954 and 1955, earning three podium finishes.

In 1956, the car sold to Robert “Bob” Jennings, who traded a Bristol engine for the AC six and campaigned the car, with reasonable success (including wins at Brands Hatch and Silverstone), through the 1957 racing season. The Ace prototype remained in the U.K., passing through four more owners, until the 1980s when it was exported to the United States, powered by a 2.6-liter Ford Zephyr engine topped by a Rudd Speed Raymond Mays head reportedly installed in the 1970s. Actively campaigned on the vintage racing circuit, the prototype later received a comprehensive restoration, during which it was finished in a white livery.

Without TPL 792, there may have been no AC Ace, and subsequently, no Shelby Cobra. At the very least, these cars would have been significantly different from the models that forever shaped the face of open sports cars.

TPL 792 was shown at the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum’s AC Cars Retrospective in February 2017.

If you have images of this car pease email [email protected] or call Will on +44(0)7802437827 and we will put you together with the owner. Thanks.