Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 5
Another brilliant car to exit the AC workshops. While it does not have the svelt looks of the Cobra, with so few made, the survivors are highly collectable.
The story of the AC ME3000 begins with the end of the Unipower story: Peter Bohanna was asked to build a Mk II version of the popular Mini-engined GT car. The 1970s were not a good period for luxury car manufacturers and AC Managing Director W Derek Hurlock went searching for a totally new smaller car.
Mid-engined designs were in fashion at the time and in 1972 the Diabolo, a prototype
with an Austin Maxi engine and transaxle was built by privateers Peter Bohanna and Robin Stables. However, following considerable investment in development using the British Leyland power unit and transmission
, the engine manufacturers decided that they needed all the E series engines they could make to power their own Maxi and Allegro models, so the Diabolo project appeared likely to collapse for lack of an engine
The Diablo was powered by an Austin Maxi engine, and it was hoped that the car would go into a limited-production run. This did not work out, however, but the car was next seen Ford-powered on the AC stand at the London Motor Show in 1973
. The car's engine was the ubiquitous Ford Zodiac/Capri three-litre V6. This engine had powered sports cars from Marcos to Reliant, and produced a very healthy140bhp and 172lb ft in AC form.
The power from the mid-mounted unit was transferred, via a chain, to an AC gearbox with Hewland gears. One interesting point was that even reverse gear had synchromesh. The car was fairly high geared, so the initial acceleration was not very quick. However, the ME300 had a top speed of 135 mph and was well able to give good mileage for every gallon of petrol consumed.
The ME3000 used a monocoque steel chassis and wishbone front and wishbone/radius arm rear suspension
. Coupled to wide alloy wheels
and 205-section tyres
, this made for good road-holding. Naturally, the mid-mounted engine helped the handling, too. Given the heritage of AC, and the design that went into each and every car, it is stating the bleeding obvious to say the ME3000 was very much a 'driver's car'. Clothing the package was a brutal-looking glassfibre body with a Targa-type roof that could be stowed in the front compartment.
The ME3000 may have been a new departure for the Thames Ditton company, and some considered it as something of a compromise between the brute force of the Cobras and 428s and the delicate handling of a precisron mid-engined super-car. But given AC's long experience, it was a good compromise. After just 71 cars were sold, Hurlock called a halt to production as his health was suffering and the company was struggling in the teeth of a recession. In 1984 production stopped at Thames Ditton and the car and the AC name were licenced to a new company registered as AC (Scotland) plc run by David McDonald in a new factory in Hillington, Glasgow. Here, 30 cars were built, including a development car tested with Alfa Romeo's 2.5-litre V6 engine and a nearly-complete Mark 2 prototype
of the same. Regardless (or possibly because) of these developments, AC Scotland called in the receivers in 1985.
AC ME3000 Quick Specifications:
- Engine: Mid-mounted, water-cooled 60 deg V6. 93.6 mm (3.69 in) bore x 72.3 mm (2.85 in) stroke | 2993 cc (182.6 cu in). Maximum power (DIN) 140 bhp at 5500 rpm; maximum torque (DIN) 172lb ft at 3000 rpm. Cast-iron cylinder block and heads. Compression ratio 9:1. 4 main bearings. 2 valves per cylinder operated, via push-rods and rockers, by a single camshaft at the centre of the vee.1 Weber twin-choke down-draught carburettor.
- Transmission: Single-dry- plate clutch and five-speed manual gearbox. Ratios, 1 st 2.966, 2nd 1.947, 3rd 1.403, 4th 1.0, 5th 0.835, rev 2.901 :1. Hypoid-bevel final drive. Ratio 3.167: 1.
- Chassis: Monocoque.
- Suspension: Front-independent by wishbones, coil springs, anti-roll bar and telescopic dampers. Rear independent by lower reversed wish- bones, lower radius arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar and telescopic dampers.
- Steering: Rack and pinion. Turns from lock to lock 2.7.
- Brakes: Servo-assisted discs.
- Wheels: 6.5 inx 14 in light-alloy.
- Tyres: 205/60x 14.
- Dimensions and Weight: Wheelbase 90.50 in; track-front 55 in, rear-56 in; length 157 in; width 65 in; height 45 in; ground clearance 5.25 in; dry weight 19001b; turning circle between walls 32 ft; fuel tank capacity 12 gals.
- Body: Two-door, two-seater in glass-fibre with detachable Targa-type roof. The car featured a steel chassis making extensive use of square-section steel tube, with a strong monocoque for the central portion of the body.
- Performance: Maximum speed 135 mph. Fuel consumption approximately 25 mpg.