“Quite possibly one of the most mysterious and elusive British sports GT prototypes tracing back its genesis to Derek Hurlock and his legendary AC Thames Ditton factory. The AC V8 chassis MA-200 is once again presented in its original glory thanks to an award winning restoration and offered as a private treaty sale for the first time ever since”.
Although the first thing that comes in to mind is Carroll Shelby and his venerable Cobra, the history behind AC is almost as long as the motor industry itself. A little known fact is that AC Cars is Britain’s oldest automobile manufacturer having been in continuous production since 1901.
The Weller brothers set up the AC company as engineers and manufacturers of motorcars and motorbikes in West Norwood, London as well as appointed repair agents for De Dion Bouton vehicles. John Weller was an engineer and a prolific inventor who applied for several patents but unfortunately allowed most of them to lapse. Weller’s first major work concluded with the introduction of the 20 hp Weller Touring Car at the Crystal Palace Motor Show in 1903. In November 1907 the abbreviation AC was used for the first time and a new company Autocarriers Ltd was formed. In 1911 the company moved from West Norwood to the Ferry site in Thames Ditton, Surrey where it was to stay for more than 70 years, after surviving both world wars and with the name finally changing to AC Cars Limited in 1922.
The story of this AC prototype starts at the beginning of the 1960s just when the world-famous Cobra was launched. At this time, their other model, the Ace was already nearly a decade-old thus AC was thinking about possible replacement or successors for this model.
In 1962, the company started development of an open two-seater. Registered on 19 November 1963 and built in Thames Ditton, the MA-200 was engineered by Zdislaw Teofil Marzewski, a former MIG aircraft engineer. The MA-200 was way ahead of its time, with a space frame chassis, inboard F1 style front suspension and inboard rear discs. The body was made from aluminum and the shape was slab-sided and rectangular. It was unlike anything else of that period but in the 1960s and 70s was actually quite contemporary. AC records show that on November 19,1963 the completed car was registered for road use. Rather than receivinga serial number which fit in the AC numbering system, it was assigned the chassis number MA-200.
It was intended to be a front-engined flat-six coupe (however, some sources claim it has never been fitted with such engine), but the Polish engineer was soon instructed to redesign it for Ford 289 V8 mated with a 4-speed Toploader gearbox. The reason for this change was a huge price of the engine. “The flat-six gave 165bhp and cost £2000 to build. For £250, delivered, we could have a 289 Ford V8 engine that gave us 271bhp. What would you have done?”
This is also said to be a present from Ford Motor Company for then AC Chairman Derek Hurlock for his help in preparation of two Cobras for 1963 Le Mans. One of these Cobras finished 3rd in GT class and 7th overall. For this reason Hurlock received one of 5 built race engines.
MA-200 was never put in to production and only the one prototype was ever built. Hurlock used the convertible GT as his personal transportation during its development stage as well as over the next five years. He seemed to prefer it over a Cobra roadster, most likely because it represented a vehicle that was purely an AC design. Although the Cobra was based on the AC Ace, by the time production had begun it shared vey few pieces with its British sibling. Throughout the Cobra production, no one at AC Cars believed they were building a car that was truly “their own”. Every one felt that they were merely supplying a motorcar built to someone else’s specifications. Thus, the MA-200 is an important ‘missing link’ in the lineage of the AC Ace/Cobra.
The MA-200 prototype was first spotted by Road & Track magazine. They published a picture of this car at their December issue of 1964.What concerns the looks of the MA-200, it is AC’s in-house design, but sometimes people think that it is an Italian creation of Carrozzeria Frua. Wheelbase of the car is 94 in (2388 mm), width – 65 in (1651 mm) and track – 54 in (1372 mm). This car was designed and coach-built at the AC factory, years before the ‘AC/Frua 428’ and the Frua Maserati Mistral, both of which share striking similarities to the MA-200 so it is impossible to not draw a connection between these entities.
Probably a spectacular appearance was one of the reasons why Derek Hurlock enjoyed this convertible over several years.
In 1968 the MA-200 was sold by AC Cars Ltd. to Dr. Roger Field from Brickley, Kent and was placed in storage by its new owner until 1983. Dr. Field made one modification that would add to its mystique: he replaced the MA-200 original racing-spec Ford HiPo V8motor. Engines had no collectible value at the time, so there was no anxiety about discarding one of the first, handbill HiPo 289s. The new power plant was a Ford 302ci V8, a rebuilt engine with its own significance. The MA-200 was consequently purchased by AC enthusiast Peter Hague from Chichester in 1983. Mr. Hague maintained the motorcar in original condition and only after several years the car received a new paint and a rebuild of the motor.
Fast forward, 23 years later and while searching in UK for a significant Cobra, collector extraordinaire and SAAC member Mark Gold came across a cryptic classified ad for an AC V8 prototype. What at first appeared to be just another automotive relic did not deter Mr. Gold from performing some forensic research only to realize that the “AC missing link” was the advertised motorcar.
The story that follows is reminiscent of an Indiana Jones film in typical archeological fashion. After the deal was consummated and the AC MA-200 was finally transported to Miami, FL, Mark engaged on a mission to bring the car back to its former original glory.
Mr. Gold’s obsession with originality and passionate preservation of some of the finest automobiles took him back to England to meet the son of the AC engineer that was responsible for the genesis of MA-200 and who kindly passed on his father’s original factory workshop photographs, signed and dated engineering drawings and a galore of notes and schematics.
Prior to proceeding with the restoration of the automobile Mr. Gold was faced with the dilemma of the swapped motor. When the fitted V8 was pulled out of the engine bay, it carried an odd serial number. As it turned out, Dr. Field’s rebuilt motor was actually an 289 Ford V8 that was originally used in the beginning of GT40’s racing program.
As historically significant as the second engine was, Mark decided that it would not be used in the restored roadster. Mr. Gold was determined to return the MA-200 to the condition of the day in 1963, when Derek Hurlock first hung a license plate on it. The HiPo 289ci V8 was long gone but Mark was able to hunt down the next best thing. The original production order number was 1664, signifying that it was the 1664th HiPo 289 produced. He was able to find order number 1445, which meant the two motors were only 218 blocks apart and were probably cast on the same day.
Mark commissioned Jason Wenig and his company to undertake this most challenging project with the aim of reviving the MA-200 to concourse standards with the outmost attention to detail and originality. In 2006 the roadster arrived at The Creative Workshop in Dania Beach, FL and Wenig immediately commenced on planning and cataloguing the task at hand. Starting with the lightweight aluminum body that was ideal on fighting corrosion but with the steel chassis in tandem, precautions had to be taken in order to stop the galvanic reaction of the two metals.
To accurately disclose in a detailed manner all the research, preparation and work that took place is beyond the scope of this listing but after 3 long years and at a prohibitive cost the resurrection of the AC MA-200 was complete and the final product was a testament of the passion and expertise of the people responsible to accomplish such an endeavor.
Since it would be unfair for such a historically important automobile to be constricted in a private collection or spend another decade concealed from the public eye, Mr. Gold decided to showcase his prized possession at Amelia Island and an invitation was secured in March, 2010.
You may safely assume that the unofficial launch of the AC Prototype happened forty-six years after its birth, at the Amelia Island Concours d’Eleganceand not-surprisingly enough the MA-200 was awarded the prestigious “Best In Class – Sports & GT Cars (1962 – 1970)”.
In July 2014, the AC roadster was invited again at the 36th Concours d’Elegance of America at St. John’s in Plymouth, MI to be showcased under the “Evolution of the Sports Car 1900 to 1975” Class and received top honors.
The fascinating story of this incredible automobile has been portrayed in numerous publications, including the aforementioned premier article of the Road & Track in 1964 and it is accurately recorded in John McLellan’s book AC’s, Auto-Carrier to Cobra. What is most notable, is that the MA-200 has its very own chapter in the Shelby Registry as “The Lost Prototype”.
During Mark’s custodianship the automobile enjoyed top-shelve care and maintenance by Mr. Gold’s collection curator and was sparingly used for Sunday coastal driving.
After a lot of deliberation Mark Gold decided to place the MA-200 in the market, making room for his next automotive adventure. The task of promoting and displaying this magnificent specimen was trusted upon his long time friend James Hondros and his company Speedart Motorsports.
We will be delighted to discuss an ownership possibility of this investment grade roadster as well as arrange a private viewing in our gallery of what arguably is destined to be one of the most significant chapters in the British sports car pantheon.
Speedart Motorsports is proud to showcase this historically important motorcar and it is presented in concours form both mechanically and cosmetically.
The sale of the AC MA-200 is accompanied by volumes of documentation pertaining its provenance and restoration.
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