AC Cars 16/90 Two-Seater Competition Sports

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AC Cars


16/90 Two-Seater Competition Sports





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 By 1935 a flat radiator with mesh grille had replaced the previous rounded type, only to be superseded for the following season by the classic slatted version.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.

16/90 was supercharged with an Arnott blower. Transmission by four-speed ENV, Moss synchromesh or Wilson pre-selector gearbox. Longer and wider than previous Six chassis. The 14 of the later Competition Sports series with “Sloping Tail” coachwork, refined and modern reinterpretation of the original slab-tank Competition Sports. The first of only five such ACs built with an Arnott supercharger, rated 16/90 horsepower—hence the model’s designation—and is the car that introduced the 16/90 at the 1938 London Motor Show. The 16/90 represented the prewar culmination of the John Weller-designed single-overhead camshaft 1,991-cubic-centimenter six-cylinder. Introduced at the 1938 London Motor Show, the addition of an Arnott supercharger raised power even further. Simultaneously AC revealed a revised body with attractive sloping tail and single rear-mounted spare wheel and tire, updating the visual design to complement the added power. Arnott used a sophisticated vane-type compressor capable of providing some 15 psi (1 atmosphere) peak positive pressure although it was constrained—by some reports—to only 3.5 psi boost on the 16/90 combined with a 5.25:1 compression ratio, well below the naturally aspirated 16/80’s 7.5:1. In any case it is capable of 100 mph, ample evidence of its power. AC built only five supercharged 16/90 short-chassis Competition Sports out of a total of 42. Being the first supercharged example built and the one used to introduce the supercharged engine at the London Motor Show in 1938, it is by far the most significant of even that limited run of short chassis Competition Sports.

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.

An agreement was reached with Standard to supply new chassis, the ancient three-speed transaxle was replaced by a modern four-speed gearbox (built in unit with the engine), and by 1932 a new range of cars was finally launched. Production continued on this small scale, averaging less than 100 vehicles per year, until the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. The final pre-war car was delivered in June 1940, after which the factory was fully involved with war production.

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