In 1901, the two Weller brothers came together to found their company as engineers, repairers and manufacturers of motor cars and motor-cycles in West Norwood in London. The origins of the business lie mostly with their successes of servicing other brands, including authorised repairers of De Dion Bouton cars before the creation of their own models; in 1903 the 20hp Weller Touring Car and in 1905, the AutoCarrier- or motorised tricycle that found many successes with traders in London. In 1907, the brand became Autocarriers Ltd and the ‘AC’ abbreviation was used for the first time.
The brand survived reacting to market demands and remained profitable for many years. Purchased in 1930 by the successful Hurlock brothers who had made their money in both car and commercial vehicle dealerships, and saw the merits of AC’s profitable servicing business. They had in fact at the time of purchase, no intention of building cars until William Hurlock needed a new car and had used parts available within the company to build his own.
The international successes of AC came with the Ace. Launched in 1953, it was a revolutionary car for the time. A two-seater sports car with a modern design and a modern tubular ladder chassis. Capitalising on the growth of low-cost British built sports cars after the second world war, the Ace quickly earned the respect of owners and racing drivers alike note who made full use of its versatility and capabilities in everyday motoring. Over the course of its production run, it was equipped with three different inline six-cylinder engines, increasing from 100hp at the start to a handful with 170hp.
In the early 1960s, Ford had found their solution to combatting the Corvette. Having seen the multitude of sustained competition successes carried out by the Ace throughout the late 1950s with the inline-six, Carroll Shelby travelled to the UK to negotiate what would become the American-engined Ford-powered AC Cobra.
In 1962, the Ace was now a decade old and in need of a replacement.
Penned by ex-MIG aircraft engineer Zdislaw Teofil Marzewski in 1962, the experimental prototype MA-200 (MArzeweski) was so far ahead of its contemporary competition both in terms of design and engineering when it was first registered in 1963. An aluminium body cloaked a space frame chassis; F1-style inboard coil-sprung suspension was fitted and the car received inboard rear discs.
From a design standpoint, the car stood apart too. It drew many similarities to the Frua-bodied Maserati Mistral of the same year with many assuming the companies had collaborated. There is little on paper to corroborate this, however, more leaning towards an exclusively in-house design by AC. It wouldn’t be until 1965 that Frua would work with the British company on the AC Frua. Compared to the Mistral, the MA-200 offered a softer side profile and rear three quarters, almost drawing influence for the likes of the bigger AC Greyhound, the Aston Martin DB4 by Touring and seen again in the Gordon Keeble by Bertone of 1964.
Either way, the MA200 was a marked departure in both respects from the likes of the Ace and V8 Cobra siblings. Whilst many reports suggest the car was originally designed to be fitted with a traditional, 165bhp flat-six powerplant; Marzewski received a revised brief during its construction, pivoting to feature a 289 Ford V8 engine providing a much healthier 270bhp. Only a single MA-200 was produced. AC’s chairman William ‘Derek’ Hurlock would use it as his personal car for a number of years after completion before it was sold to a collector in the UK. Whilst it was built to see series production, ultimately Shelby America’s overwhelming demand for the Ace meant the project was shelved.
The MA-200 remained with Derek Hurlock until 1968 when it was sold to its first private keeper, Dr Roger Field of Kent. Field would keep the car until 1983, during which time he had the engine changed for a larger 302ci Ford V8 and the wheels upgraded. It spent a considerable period in storage before moving to its second private keeper, AC enthusiast Peter Hague of Chichester in 1983. During Hague’s ownership, the car received an engine rebuild and fresh coat of its original Princess Blue paintwork. The historical significance of the car had somewhat been undervalued for a number of years, and whilst thoroughly presentable at the time of the current owner's purchase, the MA-200 deserved some attention.
The current keeper purchased the car in 2006. An AC aficionado, SAAC member and significant US-based car collector was searching the UK for a significant Cobra to add to his collection. Stumbling across an advert for a classified advert for a curious AC V8 prototype, he started researching the unknown car. Upon discovering its past, he bought the car and returned to Florida with it.
An avid and meticulous collector with a passion for originality, a decision was made to restore the car to its ‘as new’ specification. This meant removing the incorrect engine and sourcing a replacement, resultantly one, just 218 before the original stamped unit and very likely produced on the same day. Further research was carried out, including a trip back to the UK to meet the son of one of the engineers who originally worked on MA-200; a worthwhile trip that delivered a wealth of factory drawings and blueprints which accompany the car today. The multi-award-winning Creative Workshop in Florida was chosen to carry out the comprehensive restoration; a three-year process from start to finish that is thoroughly documented with photos and videos.
Upon completion, the car was invited to attend the renowned Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance in March 2010 where it received the prestigious Best in Class award. Further Concours successes have since included top honours at the 36th Concours d’Elegance of America. Used sparingly since the delightful MA-200 remains in Concours condition encapsulating a fascinating moment in history. A rare opportunity to own a wholly unique prototype from the famed British brand. This fabulous proposition is available to view at our showrooms outside London immediately.
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