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The AC 3000 - too dear and too late

The AC 3000ME was a long time coming.

It was first conceived as a prototype that was shown at the London Racing Car Show in 1972. It had been built by two engineers called Peter Bohanna And Robin Stables but they didn't have the funds available to put it into production. They looked around for a company to sell the design to and eventually Derek Hurlock of AC Cars took it on. The project immediately ran into difficulties.

Bohanna and Stables had originally designed the car around a 1.5 litre four-cylinder engine designed for the Austin Maxi. Sadly British Leyland announced that they were not prepared to provide this engine since they needed as many as they could produce for their own cars. A new one had to be found. A Ford 3 litre V6 was chosen; this necessitated extensive changes to the chassis.

A prototype was shown at the 1973 London Motor Show. AC gave the impression that they were going to build between 10 and 20 cars per week, at a price of between £3000 and £4000. Both claims proved to be wide of the mark.

Disaster then struck. After some restyling another prototype failed a 30 mph crash test so yet another chassis redesign was necessary. Numerous prototypes were built before the car could finally be offered for sale after the 1978 motor show at the National Exhibition Centre. By then however the price had risen somewhat – it was now about three times the original estimate at £11,300! Even then the car was not ready for delivery to the first customer and it was 1979 before the first lucky owner picked up the keys. This was probably just in time since the price was reputed to have risen by another £1000 by March 1980.

By this time it was a full seven years since the car's debut, so it was already out of date. To make things worse the handling was suspect at high speeds. There was worse to come for the company though.

AC cars had had a very lucrative government contract for building invalid cars. This had come to an end in 1976, which had made a considerable hole in the company's cash flow. It had taken so long to bring the 3000ME to market that it now had to compete with the new Lotus Esprit which proved very popular. By now Hurlock's health was suffering, there was an economic recession and the decision was made to pull the plug on the car after just 71 had been sold.

In the end the 3000ME simply wasn't good enough to compete by the time it was ready for market. Yes it had a top speed of 127 mph and it could go from nought to 60 in 8.5 seconds but it was overpriced, outdated and handled poorly. Had it been put into production several years earlier it may have survived; but it wasn't and it didn't.

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