- Post is under moderationCar #AC-2-Litre / #AC
Name Gary Southee
From Hawkhurst, Kent
First classic Reliant Scimitar SE5a
Dream classic AC 2 Litre drophead or a Jaguar XK120
Best trip I love journeys around Suffolk and France
A TRIUMPH FOR THAMES DITTON
I have been fiddling with cars since my teens. A Mini gained an MG 1100 engine, an Anglia 105E was fitted with a 1500GT motor and, as I got older, a Scimitar was given a Rover V8 and flip-front, while a Land-Rover Series III also got a V8. Then I had kids and got sensible.
Later came a Toyota Celica GT and a Dodge Dakota truck, which was quick and loud. Then there was a Minion Jackal, a replica in the style of a ’34 Riley. That gained a 3.9-litre Rover V8 as well as Jaguar independent rear suspension. It weighs 740kg and produces 225bhp.
I’m now much older, but more sensible? My current cars are both alloy-bodied, separate-chassis, leafsprung beauties. The first is a 1949 AC 2 Litre saloon and the other is an 88in Land-Rover SIIA with a V8. One cruiser, one bruiser. While looking for a classic to replace the Minion, I decided upon something not needing much work, just routine maintenance. I looked at Riley RMs and Alvis TA21s but couldn’t find anything inspiring. Then, while surfing the internet, I spotted the AC. It belonged to an engineer who had owned it for 14 years. I viewed it, went on a long test drive and all seemed good so the deal was done. I then drove it 150 miles home, no problem.
The car had received a full body restoration in the late 1980s, been garaged since, and came with loads of history and pictures. It had been raced and rallied during the ’50s and had clocked up 106,000 miles. It had been given an engine rebuild in 1965 at a cost of £140, six pistons costing only £21. I’m not sure what that would buy nowadays.
It seems that because the AC had not been used much – 12,000 miles in 14 years – the head gasket had corroded and it subsequently blew. That meant a new copper replacement (£160), plus lots of blood, sweat and tears to get the head off and back on. I got great assistance from members of the AC Owners’ Club forum, though, one of whom wrote the book on the 2 Litre.
All seemed well, but 200 miles later the gasket had blown again. It appears that the copper item is not up to the job, so an alternative was sourced from Robin Woolmer (www.ac-project.co.uk), who builds modern versions of the AC engine that are VSCC compliant. Made from superior composite material, it has a special beading and reinforced liner bridge; more expensive but worth it. This time I was up to speed, so the head was off and the gasket replaced within a day.
Dog in back and wife in passenger seat, it was off to France for a trouble-free two-week tour. Everywhere we went, the AC was admired and sometimes I would find people standing next to it for a photo. I also took part in the 2016 London New Year’s Day parade, the old girl getting lots of praise. Since then, there have been a couple of drives to Suffolk plus another trip to France. The AC gets regular use (unless the roads are salty) and always has people asking what it is. It is a great driving car, smooth and, for its age, is relatively quick. Unfortunately, after 4000 miles in 14 months the engine has developed serious problems and a rebuild will be £10-14k.
Ouch! For now, I’m replacing it with a Triumph ‘six’ at far lesser cost than repairing the AC unit. It will be ready for 2017 to celebrate the model’s 70th anniversary. The Land-Rover came about because I needed a runabout in the meantime. ‘Olive’ is a different sort of thing – a bit bumpy but lots of fun.
I think the AC is an underrated and much-maligned car. It’s lovely to drive, with a nice leather and wood cocoon for a cabin. It’s rare, too: I understand that fewer than 60 are on the road. In my eyes it is a good-looking design, and without the 2 Litre the Ace and Cobra may never have come about. Keep an eye out for me in Kent and Suffolk.
‘It had clocked up some 106,000 miles and been given an engine rebuild in 1965 at a cost of £140’ The car features a particularly graceful tail. Few people recognise this elegant nose. A proud Southee with two faithful friends. AC ‘six’ is to be replaced with Triumph unit. Alongside the Somme in northern France.
The AC pauses for a photo in the mediaeval village of Saint-Valery-sur-Somme during a trouble-free excursion to France.Stream item published successfully. Item will now be visible on your stream.
- Post is under moderation#AC-Buckland Better to have loved and lost...
‘Parting is such sweet sorrow,’ wrote Shakespeare but, as life changes, so too do the contents of your garage. He didn’t write the last bit - that’s my way of admitting that the #AC has moved to pastures new.
If I’m being honest, its departure had been a possibility for a while. Having played with the restoration for years, the enormity of the task sat heavily on my shoulders. With each bit of wood I replaced, I found myself cutting out even more. Deep down, I knew that PAR 419 needed more than the odd lunch hour if it were ever to see the light of day again - and dreams of returning it to Goodwood would remain just that for the foreseeable future.
Wanted: Austin Seven Special project. A sad day, but at least the Buckland left in style bound for a new home at Brooklands.
I’m pleased to say, however, that the Buckland has gone to a good home. Steve Gray at AC Heritage has taken a keen interest in it over the years and always said that he would help if he could. So, when I mooted the thought of having to move the car on at the NEC show last November, he urged me to keep it, but said that I should call him if there was no other option.
Run by Martin Port
Owned since October 2007
Total mileage 9499
Miles since May report none
Latest costs nil
And so it came to pass that, on 15 July, the Buckland was loaded onto the firm’s suitably period Bedford lorry, bound for its Brooklands base.
It was a hugely sad moment for me and, as it was winched onto the flatbed, I was still trying to justify to myself a way of keeping the AC.
Steve was pretty blunt, though: “Even with our expertise, it’s a mammoth task... like eating an elephant one bite at a time.” So perhaps I have done the right thing.
I’m pleased that I took a car with virtually no history and unearthed its impressive competition back- : ground. I’m also happy that my name has been added to the list of previous owners on the logbook, but importantly I’m overjoyed that its future has been guaranteed.
Now I’m a little lost, though. There was something heart-warming about tinkering with a project, so, even though my bank balance dictates otherwise, I can’t ignore my desire to build or restore an Austin Seven or similar. I might regret this, of course, but if anyone has an unwanted project or something that could form the basis for a Special - in many bits and boxes in the corner of their garage - then let me know.
It will have to be ludicrously cheap, I’m afraid, but I’ll consider almost anything. Time to empty your lock-ups: there’s only about two years until the #Le-Mans Classic.
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