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Sunday, November 20, 2022

The winding road of a rare British turbo sports car, the AC 3000ME

Rare ONES Although it bears the name of a fairly well-known manufacturer, in fact this one British car was not known widely and we're also sure you have never heard of it before. The mentioned car was produced by AC Cars, a British automaker is perhaps better known through its collaboration result car with an American famous automotive designer, Carroll Shelby back in the 1960s named the AC Cobra. Here's she the AC 3000ME, one of sports cars made by the British manufacturer during 1979 to 1985.
The AC 3000ME is started its life story as a sports car prototype called Diablo was engineered by Peter Bohanna in collaboration with Robin Stables back in 1973. (Picture from: AROnline)
The car begins its life story as a sports car prototype engineered by Peter Bohanna, a former Lola Cars employee in collaboration with Robin Stables, a former racing mechanic and Lotus dealer back in early 1970s. As quoted from AROnline, the controversial AC 3000ME sports car is the fruit of the creative thinking of both whose said directly influenced by the legendary motorsport success of the Ford GT40 and Lola T70.
The Bohanna-Stables Diablo concept looked impressive enough to convince AC Cars top brass to put it into production. (Picture from: AROnline)
Uniquely, this glassfibre-bodied two-seater sports car prototype was reportedly created afters hours in Lola's drawing office and concieved as a kit car, and powered by a mid mounted 1.5 liter Austin Maxi engine. However, this was a delicately-styled concept car was far more than a pretty body. Furtermore, it's already featured independent coil springs and wishbones all round, subframes front and rear, and a rigid tub structure.
The AC 3000ME is a two-seater sports car produced by AC Cars during 1979 to 1985, is featured with a wedge-styled, and a unique pop-up headlights. (Picture from: AdrianFlux)
Originally, the mentioned above prototype named the Bohanna-Stables Diablo (nothing to do with the Italian-made Lamborghini Diablo) was first unveiled at the 1972 Racing Show in London, and immediately drew favourable comparisons with Italian exotica, such as the Dino 246GT and De Tomaso Mangusta.
The AC 3000ME is a 2-door coupe introduced at the London Motor Show in 1973, but did not hit the road until 1979. (Picture from: AdrianFlux)
After the exhibition ended, it seems that the Bohanna-Stables Diablo prototype managed to attract the British car maker AC Cars attention due to its design is considered capable of filling the UK sports car market niche. At least that's what Keith Judd of AC Cars believed when he spoke to the car creators and then drove the Diablo prototype over to the AC Cars factory in Thames Ditton to show the car to his boss, Derek Hurlock.
The AC 3000ME later version chassis was a perimeter frame whose central tub was made of folded sheet steel with an integrated roll-over bar.. (Picture from: AdrianFlux)
In short, AC Cars done several car test series upon the one-off running prototype at the time. It seem during the tests, the Bohanna-Stables Diablo concept was appeared impressive enough, so it managed to convince the British company top brass to purchase the car production rights, and as soon as possible put it into the company production lines. All then went quiet, nothing happens until the British automaker shown off a revised Diablo (non-runner) model as the AC 3000ME at the 1973 Earls Court Show. The car named after its 3 liter, mid-mounted engine it has.
The 3000ME’s interior was so well-appointed by the standards of that era that it even featured a gated shifter for the AC-designed 5-speed gearbox. (Picture from: Silodrome)
The sports car appeared in a distinctive wedge-shaped and in accordance with the trends of the time, while the price wasn’t confirmed, although AC management hinted that it would be between £3,000 to £4,000, and that deliveries would begin in July 1974. As a result, during the exhibition the company managed to collect as many as 250 orders for this car. By 1974, the styling was finalised. The shape of the Diablo was retained with some modifications to the nose, a higher roofline and improved air intakes design. During the 1970s to 1980s, many comments that arose related to the 3000ME performance were considered less impressive.
AC-Ghia Concept based on the 3000ME’s running gear looked different from its donor car. (Picture from: AROnline)
So some third parties then make an increase in performance so that the car can run faster. Unfortunately none of those third party work was adopted by AC Cars to be applied to the production car. Besides that it turns out that this 3000ME car design had got a touch of design one of the Italian famous coachbuilders, Carrozzeria Ghia, as part of vague possibility of joining forces with the American manufacturer Ford Motor Company.
AC-Ghia Concept based on the 3000ME’s running gear looked different from its donor car. (Picture from: AdrianFlux)
For the reason then  AC Cars sent two 3000MEs to the Italian coachbulider. In short, the Ghia design studio given a touch of Italian style to the British-made sports car, and called of the AC-Ghia Concept, after completed, the car shown off at the 1981 Geneva Motor Show. Unfortunately, Derek Hurlock was not interested by the Italian-style car, even though the car was actually not disappointing in terms of appearance and performance. Of course this caused the joint production effort with Ford to fall apart. 
AC-Ghia Concept based on the 3000ME’s running gear looked different from its donor car. (Picture from: AdrianFlux)
It's not only Ford who is interested in the 3000ME rescued, it turns out that there are other potential applicants from America who are also interested, namely Barry Gale of one of the US De Tomaso Pantera importers with the aid of Carroll Shelby. They considered selling the AC 3000ME in the US under the named of Shelby ME is powered by a 2.2-litre Chrysler turbo engine. Nothing came of the plan, and only a single car was made in the end of 1980.
Barry Gale was attracted to the AC 3000ME with aid of Carroll Shelby to sell it in the US under the name of Shelby ME, and powered by Chrysler drivetrain. (Picture from: AROnline)
But what happened next, no one had ever imagined before, the car failing its first 30 mph frontal impact test, and that led to changes to the structure and underpinnings were needed to be re-engineered in order to allow the car passed the test, that's a time consuming process. Apparently it did not affect the company to continue promoted the 3000ME at several major auto shows at the time, but deliveries were no longer being promised. As a result until 1976 the company managed to get 1,200 orders for the car. AC's engineers worked hard to get the 3000ME into production by re-engineering it for the Ford Essex 2,994 cc V6 drivetrain.
The AC 3000ME weighed about 2,487 lbs and had a 40/60 front-to-rear weight distribution. (Picture from: Silodrome)
Unfortunately the large number of orders was not a blessing for AC Cars, rather a new problem, because their finances were not able to handle all of those orders. Not to mention that most of them have an unusually high bespoke content, which makes the conditions even more difficult to deal with. After extensive delays, the first 3000MEs were delivered in 1979, six years after its debut, and at the time, AC Cars could only produced just 76 examples. The first production car rolled off the line in 1978 (there were 11 prototypes before that), and the initial reactions in the media were very positive indeed.
The AC 3000ME featured an in-house suspension system comprising upper and lower A-arms with coil springs and telescopic shock absorbers both front and rear. (Picture from: Silodrome)
Once again the bitter pill must be swallowed by the company, it didn't seem like the right time to market a new car, because it was in 1979 that later known as the Second Oil Crisis, fuel prices were rocketing, and the world heading towards a rather unpleasant global recession. It’s therefore unsurprising that AC was struggling to sell the 3000ME in anywhere near enough numbers to allow it to break even. In 1984, and after 76 cars had been built, Derek Hurlock decided to sell the company, and immediately looked for a buyer.
The AC 3000ME is powered by a mid-mounted Ford Essex 2,994 cc V6 engine coupled with 5-speed Hewland gearbox. (Picture from: AROnline)
In his search for the company buyer at the time, Derek Hurlock had experienced health problems. Shortly thereafter a Scottish entrepreneur David MacDonald stepped in and made an offer for the 3000ME production tools and the rights to license the AC name with it. Finally an agreement was reached, so all production equipment including the molds and jigs were immediately moved to north.
The Ecosse Signature prototype built in 1988 based on the AC 3000ME Mark 2 prototype. (Picture from: AROnline)
The new company of AC (Scotland) plc, was established in a new factory in taken over from the Scottish Development Agency at Hillington in Glasgow. And from the Glasgow-based factory, 30 cars were built, while development on an updated car was set-up. A prototype powered by Alfa Romeo’s excellent 2.5-litre Busso V6 engine prepared, followed by a nearly-complete Mark 2 prototype. But luck is unachievable and misfortune is unavoidable, this Scottish company was forced to cease its car production as well in November 1985. 
The Ecosse Signature prototype is powered by a Fiat twin-cam from the Croma Turbo. (Picture from: AllCarIndex)
So once again, AC Cars operational returned to Thames Ditton until the Hurlock family sold their holdings to William West a year after AC (Scotland) closed its doors. The rights to the AC marque then were then aquired by Brian Angliss. From the ashes of the AC (Scotland) venture then came the Ecosse Car Company Ltd, in which the 3000ME tried to make a comeback under new name of the Ecosse Signature
The Ecosse Signature prototype debuted at the 1988 Birmingham Motor Show, several potential customers came in. (Picture from: AllCarIndex)
It started when John Parsons and ex-BRM Technical Director, Aubrey Woods, joined forces to buy the remains of the company, and moved it to Hertfordshire in England. They took the former Mark 2 prototype, removed the Alfa V6 engine, and replaced it with a Fiat twin-cam from the Croma Turbo. With that much power, it will definitely have a lot of performance. Then they brought the prototype to show off at the 1988 Birmingham Motor Show, several potential customers came in.
Unfortunately, the restyled Ecosse Signature sports prototype was dissapeared shortly afterwards launched, due to Parsons and Woods couldn’t secure the investment funds needed to get the car into production. It was a sad end to the 3000ME, a car that promised so much back in the heady days of 1973 but, in the end, it proved too ambitious a venture for such a small company.😢 *** [EKA | FROM VARIOUS SOURCES | ARONLINE | AC3000ME | WIKIPEDIA | SILODROME | ADRIANFLUX | ALLCARINDEX ]
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