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AC 3000 ME MkII Prototype: AC's failed salvation powered by Alfa Romeo engine

PHOTOS AC 3000 ME MkII PROTOTYPE: H&H AUCTIONS

Right off the bat this unit looks like an italian sports car. The intense red color, a V6 Busso engine, some Bertone lines similar to the small FIAT X1 / 9 sports car ... Everything indicates that it is a test with which, for example, Alfa Romeo could have played to integrate into the lineage rear mid-engined two-seater unveiled by the Porsche 914. However, all are mere appearances.

We are really before him 3000 AC 1982 ME MkII Prototype. One of the last ACs assembled at his Thames Ditton London factory, just two years before Derek Hurlock decided to sell the brand to David McDonald. The latter moved production to Scotland, representing a swan song that even the hopes placed on this future model could remedy.

However, that end could be seen coming from the beginning. Why? Because the history of the 3000 ME is one of the most cumbersome and desperate that any car with a good approach but little business base could have. Had it been manufactured in other circumstances it could have been a tough rival for the Lotus Esprit. Even Ford seems to have thought of it as the basis for developing a hypothetical Group B.

But anyway ... All that is data for a biography destined to die with only about 120 copies of the AC 3000 ME built. Of course, this is possibly the strangest of all of them. In the end it is the only one with an Alfa Romeo engine, in addition to having witnessed the transfer and closure of AC. Faced with such a waste of automobile history, it would be better for us to go by parts.

THE DEVIL OF SOME OLD LOLA ENGINEERS

Since the beginning of the century BC, it had distinguished itself as one of those small artisan companies so typical of motorsport in England. However, they gave the bell when they launched the Cobra in collaboration with Carrol Shelby. Without a doubt that was the sweetest moment for the company. After that success, AC sought at the beginning of the 70s to integrate into the GT segment sports.

Although the attempt made with the AC 428 was quite good, the truth is that for an almost artisan company it was impossible to be profitable in terms of production costs by selling a powerful sports car. So things, those in charge of AC were in search of a new concept of car with which they could take the jack to the water. Something away from the big GTs with huge front engines but also from the radical formula of the Cobra.

ac alpha 3000ME mkII Prototype

So at London's 1972 Racing Car Show, former engineers Lola Peter Bohanna and Robin Stables unveiled their Diablo prototype. His concept was very innovative, since was based on a rear mid-engine design. In fact, the first series-produced model to this specification It was the Porsche 914 which had been released just three years earlier. Despite the breakthrough of the prototype, the directors of AC bought the manufacturing license.

AC 3000 ME: SIX YEARS DELAY. A DEVELOPMENT WITH DIFFICULTIES

The Diablo was originally to be powered by English engines, but negotiations with British Leyland went awry. Thus AC turned to its established friendship with Ford through Carrol Shelby to equip itself with Essex 6-liter V3 mechanics with 138CV. With this pact already signed, everything seemed to go smoothly. This is why AC presented what was to be the series model at the 1973 London Motor Show under the name AC 3000 ME.

The reception was so good that in a few months more than 1200 applications for the AC 3000 ME were registered, pointing other sources until 2500. However, the first units were not delivered until 1979. Six years late! And the fact is that the manufacturing process was marked by a multitude of surprises. In the first place, the new homologation regulations forced us to rethink the entire safety of the car. To this was added the constant lack of capital by AC to attend to any unforeseen event and, especially, to pay for a production line that should have assembled about 30 units a day.

As if that were not enough, the owner Hurlock Derek was obstinate in making as many of his own pieces as possible, thus preserving the artisan character of AC. What was the result of all this? Well, check that without excessively healthy capital ... A small brand has it almost impossible when launching to produce by the hundreds. The challenge of combining craftsmanship and mass commercialization resulted in only about 80 units of the 3000 ME assembled before the sale of AC in 1984.

CHASSIS ME301R90000129. UNIQUE PIECE ON HORSEBACK BETWEEN LONDON AND SCOTLAND

Gripped by financial impossibility, Hurlock Derek sold AC to an impetuous David McDonald convinced that he could save the brand by relaunching the 3000 ME. The first thing he did was move it from London to Scotland with the idea of ​​making 40 cars a week. However… Just one year later the reality was that only 30 vehicles had been manufactured. And that is not to mention that the closure of the company was with a judicial embargo included. An absolute chaos in which our protagonist was present.

Assembled in 1982, this prototype served as proof of what was to be the second generation 3000 ME, for which AC was considering an agreement with Alfa Romeo. When McDonald bought the AC licenses, the former manager of the company Charles Hurlock transferred it along with the rest of the materials to Scotland. That is why this unit lived through those two stages of the brand, being also the only proof of that salvation that AC glimpsed thanks to the Italian connection.

A connection embodied in a 6-liter V3 Busso engine. And well, the truth is that to use this very successful engine for Alfa Romeo (it equipped the 75 and GTV among many others) on a light British sports car… It would have been atypical, but probably interesting. In fact, the last dealer to have it for sale said about it that "Sounds like an Italian thoroughbred." Logically. Anyway, a shame not to have seen it produced in series. Although yes, it leaves us a movie story.

P.D. After it was seized by the judicial authorities along with the rest of the AC (Scotland) Plc elements, this 3000 ME MkII Prototype was acquired by the AC test pilot Ray Wilkinson. With him he raced in various places, after which the car changed hands several times until being sold for the last time on May 1. Despite the incredible history of the car, the bid was 18.562 pounds, about 20.000 euros.

What do you think?

Miguel Sánchez

Written by Miguel Sánchez

Through the news from La Escudería, we will travel the winding roads of Maranello listening to the roar of the Italian V12; We will travel Route66 in search of the power of the great American engines; we will get lost in the narrow English lanes tracking the elegance of their sports cars; We will speed up the braking in the curves of the Monte Carlo Rally and we will even get dusty in a garage while rescuing lost jewels.

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