As Britain’s oldest independent automobile marque, AC first enjoyed success with the utilitarian Auto Carrier 3-wheeler and progressed to 4-wheeled vehicles just before the outbreak of WW I.
Soon after the Armistice, AC expanded into sports cars, featuring power by the company’s signature “Light Six” engine designed by John Weller. Based on a light-alloy cylinder block and iron head with single-overhead cam architecture, this highly advanced powerplant would power every AC model and continue with select updates through the Ace roadster of the 1950s, which would eventually morph into Carroll Shelby’s Ford V8-powered Cobra by 1962. The company quickly built excellent sporting credentials as the first British make to win the arduous Monte Carlo Rally, along with setting new speed records throughout the 1920s. Another key development in AC’s success story was the company’s 1930 buyout by the Hurlock brothers, who breathed new life into the brand with emphasis on sporting models riding short and long-wheelbase chassis and powered by the Weller-designed 6-cylinder engine in 70hp or 80hp tune, with the old 3-speed gearbox replaced by a new, synchronized 4-speed unit by 1932. These advanced specifications, along with the company’s reputation for building high-quality, well-appointed automobiles by hand in small numbers meant that prices would reflect the premium characteristics of these very fine prewar cars.
During 1935-1937, AC produced just 38 examples of the dashing Sports Tourer, a 4-seat, 2-door open sporting car built on the long-wheelbase chassis, powered by the 70hp or 80hp Weller engine. Each was fitted with central chassis lubrication, built-in central jacking system, and Telecontrol shock absorbers. In 1937, three cars were built specifically for offer in the U.S. market that featured a widened and more spacious body. All three examples were sold, but due to a lack of parts availability and no supporting dealer network, these were the only ones built specifically for America until after WW II.
According to the seller’s details, this beautiful 1937 AC 16/80 Sports Tourer, Chassis L550, was sold new in April 1937 by English Motorcars USA to Mrs. George Amory, and it was reportedly used through the 1950s when it was registered with the Long Island Sports Car Club and thought to have even raced at Bridgehampton! The second owner eventually brought it in for service, but due to unknown reasons, left it abandoned and was never to return. In 1967, the car was purchased by its third owner for $499.80 to clear the mechanic’s lien and was retained for nearly the next 40 years until 2004 when it was purchased by the current owner, a well-known AC collector, who had it restored by Waitsfield Motorcar Co. Following completion, the AC was invited to be shown at the 2007 Pebble Beach Concours and it then went on to earn awards at Amelia Island and First Prizes with both the Classic Car Club of America (CCCA) and Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA). L550 retains its original 80hp engine and features desirable dual spare wheels. Colors are excellent, comprising red paint and tan leather upholstery, complemented by red carpets and a tan soft top. According to the seller, all restoration photos are available, and a complete toolkit is included.
Given their excellent specifications, style, and limited production, AC cars – especially those built under the Hurlock’s – enjoy strong prices in today’s collector-car market. This 16/80 Sports Tourer is a particularly delightful ancestor to the better-known Ace/Aceca of the 1950s-1960s and seems ready for continued showing and enjoyable classic touring. While the multiple show-winning restoration is now older, the car still looks fabulous in the seller’s online photos. Valuations are difficult to pinpoint given the low production of the 16/80 and its rarity today. The only comparable sale in recent years we could locate was the sale of a 2-seater short-chassis ‘competition’ model, which sold at Bonhams’ Zoute auction in October 2016 for some $310k. Our 4-seater subject carries most of the same virtues, with the fun of extra room for a friend or two to enjoy the experience of this multiple award winner, leading us to consider it fair market.