At the mere mention of the AC Motors, the first car that would spring to mind would be the Cobra. A wild Ford V8-powered two-seater sports car and brainchild of Carroll Shelby that combined a British-made body with American horsepower. A marriage made in heaven, with the awesome Shelby Cobra 427 slaying its rivals and being a lusted after example.
However, a deeper look at the British company’s history will also result in the discovery of the two-seater AC 3000 ME. Like a number of cool cars designed in the seventies, it had its own unique look and approach to delivering sporty road-going thrills.
A lightweight V6-powered coupe that was often compared to the Lancia Stratos, the AC 3000 ME never found the sales success that it so rightly deserved, having been blighted by financial issues and company failures. Often forgotten and very much overlooked in favor of its much more famous, and faster, older brother, the little AC is a rare sight on today’s roads. Considered something of a hidden gem, here are 10 things everyone forgot about the AC 3000 ME.
10 AC Cars
Initially founded as Auto Carriers Limited and then shortened to AC Cars, the sports car specialist is one of Britain’s oldest independent motoring companies, with its history spanning back to 1903.
The company has been plagued with financial issues throughout its lifetime with ownership having passed through many hands and numerous many owners, with the company now being owned by a joint concern based out of St. Kitts.
9 Project Diablo
Based on a prototype vehicle designed by the Bohanna Stables, known as Diablo, which debuted at the London Racing Car Show in 1972, the resultant AC ME 3000 wasn’t an immediate choice to build for the company.
Having initially been offered to both TVR and AC Cars, the Bohanna Studios project Diablo failed to find a backer until the prototype vehicle was driven to AC headquarters and the company owner physically showed how good it was.
8th The AC 3000 ME
Having acquired the rights to project Diablo, AC cars swapped out the prototype’s underpowered 74 hp 1.5-liter engine borrowed from the Austin Maxi in favor of a much more potent 3.0-liter V6 unit.
In addition to the power plant change, the car suspensions and spaceframe was adapted to accept the new V6, with further revisions to bodywork being needed when the original car failed the 30 mph crash protection testing.
7 Powered By Ford
Equipped with the venerable Ford Essex 3.0-liter V6 and generating 138 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque, the transversely mounted engine, located behind the seats, would allow the AC 3000 ME to hit 60 mph in 8.5 seconds.
Providing plenty of torque, the Essex V6 made rapid progress across favorite stretches of road relatively easy, and pushing the AC 3000 ME to its limits would result in a top speed of 120 mph.
6 The AC Ghia
Once touted as a possible replacement for the awesome MK2 Escort rally car, attention was turned to the AC 3000 ME, a vehicle that Ford, via its Ghia division, would redesign with possible aspirations of Group B racing.
As the arrival of high-powered turbocharged AWD rally monsters swept through the sport, it wasn’t long before the planned V6 Ghia became a non-feasible and obsolete idea, with the changes needed to make it competitive not financially viable.
5 The Italian One
With the world economy playing a large part in the companies own financial difficulties, AC stopped production at its Thames Ditton plant and moved to a new factory site in Glasgow under the guise of AC (Scotland).
In addition to manufacturing 30 cars, a special factory mule was developed to launch a second generation of the car, out went the Ford lump, and in went a glorious 2.5-liter V6 Alfa Romeo Busso. Only one car was made before the company was liquidated.
4 The Shelby & Turbo Versions
Having gained interest from several third parties throughout its short life span, the AC 3000 ME was eyed up as a potential joint Shelby/Chrysler coupe with revised bodywork and a 2.2-liter turbocharged engine before being panned.
Even way back in the mid-seventies there were speculative notions of sticking a turbo onto the little AC to boost its power, with a Rooster Turbo conversion lifting power to 200 hp being offered.
3 financial failure
The little coupe seemed to be doomed to failure from the outset, with nearly every version of the car suffering from financial issues of some kind. Whether it was down to the world economy or simply project-based, the money just ran out.
Several revisions required to finally bring the AC 3000 ME to the market also resulted in the sales price having to be raised to try and recoup losses. As it competed with the much more capable and cheaper Lotus Esprit, it didn’t sell well.
2 failed revival
Due to the poor sales and worsening financial situation, the company was liquidated, with assets later purchased by former Ford racing driver John Parson and Ecosse director Aubrey Woods with a plan to revive the brand.
Using the newest prototype as a development car, they dumped the Alfa Romeo-sourced V6 in favor of a turbocharged twin-cam Fiat unit from the Croma, again a failure to finance the project failed.
1 Classic status
Hampered by the times in which it was born, the AC 3000 ME is a rare and sought-after car that will not break the bank to purchase, with decent examples selling at auction for circa $25,000.
While mechanically simple, finding parts can be very difficult, with replacement bodywork proving to be almost impossible. Despite these obvious drawbacks, though, the AC 3000 ME is a unique and wonderful creation.