Not A Cobra! 1959 AC Ace-Bristol

Gleaming in bare aluminum, this 1959 AC Ace with the storied Bristol inline six engine has already topped $200,000 in its auction listing here on eBay. It’s originally from California but is now located in Salem, Oregon. A largely complete history and many spare and duplicate parts are included in the auction.

You’re quite right if you thought “Cobra” when you first saw the car. The Ace begat the Cobra, while it came from some Tojero specials, and those cars could look at Ferrari barchettas for their ancestry. So while by this point the basic design was getting a little long in the tooth, AC-Bristols were still competitive sports cars and provided a nice place for Carroll Shelby to insert Ford’s new small block V8.

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a non-kit Cobra with the top up, but then again, how many AC Aces have you ever seen at all? It’s amazing to me that the top & side curtains fit as well as they do, and there’s a hardtop included as well. I can’t see anything wrong with the body at all! Would you paint it or keep polishing?

Naturally, the underside looks good as well. The Ace appears to have been refurbished with an eye towards building a really nice driving condition car–not a bad ambition in my opinion!

The interior has not been completely finished yet, although the dash looks nice and the seats have a nice patina to them. I don’t think it will be difficult to complete the job, though.

The heart of an older sports car is usually its engine, and this one is no exception. The seller explains that despite being off the road since 1978, the car now has a completely rebuilt engine featuring Cosworth (!) pistons and that the gearbox was also rebuilt using parts from the UK. There are a ton of spare parts included along with documentation and what I think is every relevant book ever published. So what do you think? Is a non-Cobra worth this kind of money? Would you rather have a kit Cobra for less than half the money?


Fast Finds


  1. Neal

    Among the coolest cars ever, in my opinion.

  2. Dolphin Member

    If this Ace really just has interior work left to do, and if the engine/transmission rebuilds were really done properly and the car runs and drives well, it’s easily worth the current $200K bid, and more. The SCM Guide says the recent median auction price paid for these has been $327,500. There were only 466 made, which is about half as many as there were Shelby Cobras produced, making these rarer.

    I like the Barchetta-copy body design but I’m not sure about the bare polished aluminum. It’s striking, but I wonder how the bare metal will hold up given that aluminum does corrode.

    This is a car you don’t see often, and it would be fun to drive and talk about when people ask about your ‘Cobra’, but the cost is significant. If I had that money to spend I think I would diversify with a few less expensive cars that I could choose from to drive on a given day.

    • Brakeservo

      Actually there were far Cobras made with this body and chassis – the very early 260 powered cars with worm and peg steering were like this. The later 289 Cobra had advanced features like rack and pinion steering. The 427 cars are of course an entirely different design.

  3. Billy

    200K would be me a new house and a new Miata as well, plus leave cash left over. People who buy something like this live in a totally different world than I. With that said, I do love the car, just wish a regular guy could buy it and love it, not just a rich mans toy.

  4. Chris

    Really cool but that is Ford GT money.

  5. alphil

    Hey Billy,You can have one of these,(sort of),and keep the house,the Miata,maybe some money,and your job!,as the Canadian company Aurora made replicas of these early,”slab side”? Ace Cobras in the 80s’,(I could be wrong about the year,but not later).That’s not a kit,factory made with tube frame,small block Ford Holman & Moody blueprinted engine,but fiberglass bodies.A friend had one,it was awesome.I think they’re in the $25K-$40K range,and personally,much nicer looking than the later,everyday flared fender 427s’.Just my old guy 2 cents

    • Don

      I owned an Aurora. Factory built with a V.I.N. outside Toronto. Body mold done off original Slabside Cobra, by C&C Yachts. Full Independent suspension, Salisbury/Jag rear end, 4 wheel discs, 302 Ford with 4speed. They were in negotiations with Ford to be sold at some Ford dealers. Great, fun cars, but had to meet emissions, so performance was moderate.

  6. alphil

    Guys,That last comment is not accurate,my apologies.The Aurora sports car is not an exact replica of the Ace,just close.

    • Dr. D

      Like I you I much prefer the slabside early Cobras. No hood scoop, no side pipes, no stripes, no roll bar. That’s what I like to see. And wire wheels of course.

      ERA makes a pretty good looking slabside replica, which I think you can also purchase as a completed car if you don’t want to assemble it yourself. Their basic kit starts at $22,900 but if you want a deluxe kit, a nearly done roller with everything but the motor and transmission and wiring, it’s $47K+.

  7. skibum2

    I bought AEX 127 for $1500.00 in 1975.. my oh my.., yep, 20/20 kind of thing..

  8. Cargirl

    This car has been posted about five times on ebay. The description is full of red flags. I especially love (well after the fact that he is trying to sell what could potentially be a 300k car without using spell check) that the seller calls the car unmolested and original. Really? Did someone change the meaning of the description with out telling me? I wouldn’t touch this with a ten foot pole.

    • Brakeservo

      Seller is a professional “flipper,” I’ve met him in Independence, Oregon. He also ran a restaurant, maybe still does, not that that matters. Bentleys and Rolls-Royces are his usual fare. Caveat Emptor has so never more applied. Hey – wanna hear something neat!! I GOT KICKED OFF OF BRING-A-TRAILER by Randy for posting accurate details about one of their auction listings I’d seen firsthand!! Apparently he doesn’t want anything negative said about mis represented listings if it might result in a lower auction commission to him. I think that stinx and if you agree, tell him

      • olddavid

        What is “bring a trailer”? Some Goodwill hauler? Don’t waste a click.

  9. Bernie H.

    Cargirl, I would have to agree with you. Of the photos I see, the body appears slightly “out of shape” at the rear end, and the “bonnet” is off also. The $200,000 price still leaves some room for corrective repairs/completion and be close to market value. Yup, I own one of these, 1958 BEX 494, D2 engine-stage II with slightly over 12,000 original miles. I have the factory tires, even the original spark plugs. I see your comments on the ACOC forum website. I dropped my membership years ago, too much $$ for dues.

    • Dolphin Member

      Bernie, the bodies on these and other low production cars with aluminium bodies were hand-cut from sheets and formed by hammering and using an English wheel, and I would expect that an aluminium body this old would have some problems that would need addressing, aluminium not being the strongest metal long-term. It doesn’t necessarily mean the car took a hit, although it might have, which is why a buyer would need to look at it closely.

      Some cars built in that way came from the factory with a lack of symmetry built right in. One example is a 275 GTB that was road tested by ‘Car and Driver’, who were scandalized by the lack of perfect bilateral symmetry when looked at head-on, and they said so in no uncertain terms in the road test report. IIRC it was a short nose so that would probably have been in a 1965 issue. And it was a new car.

      I don’t know whether AC built cars in a way that was superior to Ferrari, but I think hand built cars like this can be a bit ‘off’ and not necessarily be fundamentally flawed.

      • Brakeservo

        Even Jensen Interceptors had bodies that were far from symetrical. I found that out with a tape measure when I measured various parts of different cars on the showroom. The boss was not amused!

  10. Cargirl

    Do you want to sell:)) Sorry couldn’t help myself. But I did just have an AC Bristol with a Ford engine (BEX 231) available. $175,000 the car was a nice car not Cobrasized and butchered. But the best part of the story is I managed to find the original engine and transmission and that owner is now buying 231. Now he has a numbers-matching car. How awesome is that?

  11. Cargirl

    @Brakeservo I quit bring-a-trailer because every response I made was met with derision. Not a nice crowd. I can comment here and be treated with respect. And the comments from contributors on this site about the cars are very knowledgeable. Not to mention how humorous the write-ups are. I’m a big fan of Barn-finds.

  12. Brakeservo

    @Cargirl – What you describe is was/is certainly true, particularly several years ago when many commentators seemed to be overly impressed with themselves and wanted to publish their words to demonstrate just how clever they were, whether or not there was any relationship between what they said and reality (hmmm, sort of presaged American politics, did it not??? But I digress . . . ) And for a while, B.A.T. seemed to clean up some of the meanness for meanness’ sake but along with that, it got “too popular” particularly when Randy moved from exclusive listings to auctions and now it’s simply a mini eBay with the option of commenting on listings.

    As a one-time frequent seller it had been extremely effective early on simply because of it’s small size – when it comes to marketing a specific collector or speciality car, the best buyer is always the guy who isn’t looking for one, but suddenly comes across an interesting car he’d never considered owning before and buys it on impulse. So, when B.A.T. was relatively small, many readers (myself included) would read each and every listing so that we were exposed to cars we’d either never seen before or had never considered buying. Now it’s so big, with so many cars I suspect many readers are like me – I only read those listings that specifically appeal to me and ignore the rest. The effect of this is that you’ve really limited the potential bidding pool and the hobby doesn’t grow either. For example, the last Bentley I sold on B.A.T. went to a man who had never even seen one up close before, never considered owning one, and certainly didn’t know much about them. But he loves his car (he successfully drove the 65 year old vehicle across the country from California to Florida when he bought it) but now there are so many cars on B.A.T. that another Bentley isn’t going to get nearly the exposure to potential buyers that this one did as it’s only going to be looked at by an existing Bentley enthusiast and most of those guys don’t buy more cars, they just like to denigrate the ones that appear on B.A.T. so we can see how smart they (think) they are! Interestingly enough, I turned that very Bentley buyer onto Barnfinds and he’s commented that Barnfinds seems pretty close to what Bring-A-Trailer used to be. I’m sure he finds it to be the more fun site now too. Clearly, Randy has sold out simply for the $$$ – he kicked me off for stating facts in opposition to a grossly mis-represented car that I’d personally seen. Apparently he saw my unbiased commentary as a potential cause for limiting the bidding on the car and thus his commission could be threatened, so in response – he kicked me off! Oh well, I don’t regret “telling it like it is” in spite of the people I’ve pissed off – years ago I was a student at a well-known theological seminary and my group leader described me as the “most brutally honest” person he had ever known . . . and I’m not sure that was supposed to be a compliment either!

  13. Spiderman

    Back in the mid 60’s a local engineer had one of these with the 215 Buick or Olds engine. I was high school at time but Henry was approachable. Asked when he would get a real Cobra, he replied when the Cobra had better HP to weight ratio. He went on to a string of plastic bodied Porsches starting with a 904. I saw him win a local autocross with a very modified Mini Moke.
    The buyer of his Ace soon flipped in into a ravine because he didn’t know or appreciate the road grip characteristics of then new radial tires.

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