Glen, an Auckland-based business advisor, can’t remember a time when Bristol cars weren’t part of his life, and like many of us his enthusiasm for these cars was handed down to him from his father, Lane. Now on to his sixth Bristol (the first being a 401) Lane has been driving and fettling these quirky British classics for over 50 years. For Glen, childhood memories of his father’s cars are strong – as an instance, he can still recall how the exhaust note of the Bristol 403 could be heard from the classroom if his mother drove it past school during the day. “That was due to all the holes in its exhaust pipe!” says Glen.

Glen discovered these competition numbers stuck to the inside of the Ace's bootlid

Many years later, his passion for Bristols well and truly triggered, Glen travelled to the UK for the traditional ‘big OE’ in 1997 with the task of locating and purchasing a Bristol uppermost in his mind. However, diverging from the saloons his father had owned, Glen had set his sights on a Bristol-engined car rather than a Bristol – in fact, an AC Ace-Bristol. Easy to say, hard to achieve – although the 2-litre Bristol-powered Ace was built to higher numbers than the earlier AC-powered car and the later Ford Zephyr-engined model, only 465 examples had been produced between 1956 and 1963. And of course, where there is rarity, inevitably there is a high price.

As Glen began his search, the advice given to him by a UK bank manager, who also owned an AC Ace, rang in his ears, “If you find one, even if it’s too expensive, you need to buy it now as you’ll never be able to afford one on a New Zealand salary!” A UK lawyer, and yet another AC owner, backed that up with another nugget of sage advice, “Buy one before you get married – no sane wife will agree to you buying that type of car.” Needless to say, he was onto his third wife at the time of giving Glen that advice, with the restoration of his Ace in their small London mews house having resulted in the end of marriage number two.

The one that got way! The red Ace in ' as found' condition (top) and as eventually sold (bottom)

 

The Quest

Although the search for an Ace initially proved fruitless, as Glen began to make contacts within the AC and Bristol fraternity in the UK, he gained the opportunity to purchase various Bristol parts, the first item being a 403 gearbox acquired for £175. He took that back to New Zealand on his next trip home. The bell-housing was tucked away in his suitcase while he carried the gearbox itself onto the plane as hand-luggage. “That was a few years before 9/11,” recalled Glen. The gearbox was subsequently sold for $4300.


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