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AC 3000 ME

AC 3000 ME Published: 11th Jul 2014 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

AC 3000 ME

Fast Facts

  • Best model: Anything in good nick
  • Worst model: Anything rotten or incomplete
  • Budget buy: Any average car
  • OK for unleaded?: No, you’ll need inserts
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): 3988 x 1651mm
  • Spares situation: Very good
  • DIY ease?: Excellent
  • Club support: Brilliant
  • Appreciating asset?: Only recently and slowly
  • Good buy or good-bye?: Quirky, enigmatic and brilliantly supported, it’s a fascinating left-field classic
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Famous evocative British sports car maker's attempts to make an affordable Cobra that took too long to get on the road and so design was overtaken by more modern rivals. Rare but good survival rate and spares support. Well worth considering


1972 The Bohanna-Stables Diablo, developed by Peter Bohanna and Robin Stables (both ex-Lola), is fi rst displayed at the Racing Car Show. With Austin Maxi 1750 power, would you believe, the Diablo is intended to be an affordable mid-engined kit car for the masses – think of it as a GT40 for those on a budget.

However, AC quickly gets wind of the car and decides it’s just what the company needs if it is to produce a more mainstream 1973 The 3000ME is fi rst displayed under the AC banner at our Earl’s Court motor show, at which point June 1974 is set as the original on-sale date. But the introduction of type approval would slow things to the point where it would be shown at every subsequent British motor show – before the production-ready car is fi nally unveiled at the 1978 NEC event.

1978 The production-ready 3000ME is unveiled at the inaugural NEC motor show, the cars being produced at AC’s Thames Ditton factory. Incidentally, the red example shown here is the original 1978 motor show display car. When the original prototype had been shown in 1972, it was claimed to have attracted 200 orders; by the time the production-ready car is unveiled, there’s little interest in it. Gone is the Austin 1750 engine, replaced by a Ford 3.0-litre Essex V6, mounted transversely behind the cockpit and driving the rear wheels via AC’s own fi ve-speed gearbox with Hewland parts. But with production underway there’s soon a backlog of cars thanks to a raft of cancelled orders and disaffected dealers. 1981 The 3000ME has barely gone on sale and a reclothed model is shown at the Geneva motor show. Designed by Ghia and using the same mechanicals as the 3000ME, there’s speculation that this is to be a new take on AC’s glassfi bre sports car. But AC’s owner Derek Hurlock doesn’t like the car and the concept is pushed quietly into a corner, where it’s forgotten. 1984 Production of the 3000ME stops after just 76 examples have been made, including five prototypes. The project is then sold to a new company, AC Cars (Scotland) Ltd which would go on to build another 30 examples in its Glasgow factory. These cars would sport body-coloured bumpers, air intakes and grille while the previous Hardy Spicer joints are replaced by constant velocity joints.

Prototypes utilising V6s by both Ford and Alfa Romeo would also be produced by AC Scotland, but by the summer of 1985 the 3000ME’s time had finally come and the car would be killed off altogether.


After years of development, expectations (of those who still cared) were high when the production-ready 3000ME was revealed. So it was a tragedy that the car soon gained a reputation for indifferent performance, refi nement and handling along with shoddy build quality. While it’s true that the earliest cars suffered from water leaks and notchy gearboxes – including the press cars – there were very few who actually got to drive one in period.

Motor was first to test the 3000ME, when it borrowed a dealer demonstrator in August 1979; it wouldn’t be until March 1980 that Autocar got behind the wheel of a press car. AC claimed it was building three cars a fortnight by 1979; if it really was, that tailed off pretty dramatically! A low kerb weight and a mid-engined confi guration are a pretty good start point for any sports car, and as the 3000ME has both of these it looked pretty promising. But Motor didn’t fi nd the car all that quick “acceleration is respectable rather than startling”, while a top speed of just 115mph was disappointing; the magazine had predicted another 10mph, while Autocar coaxed 120mph out of its test car. The Ford Essex 2994cc V6 offers reasonable low-down torque, with a peak of 173lbft at 3000rpm, but high gearing means you have to explore the upper reaches of the rev range, and that’s when things get uncomfortable as refinement isn’t a 3000ME strong point.

What disappointed Motor’s Peter Dron the most though was the AC’s handling – to the point that he approached even the factory to voice his concerns. The blame was attributed to the 205/60 Dunlop tyres; another car with different rubber behaved itself rather better. Other criticisms included a lack of refi nement, the force needed to operate the non-assisted brakes (discs all round), the poor gearchange and the sealing of the standard lift-out roof panel. The weekly also questioned the value of the 3000ME; at £12,432 it was up against some stiff competition, but despite this verdict was that “AC have themselves a sound, well-engineered product, and they should be able to shift all that they can make” – despite production supposedly being ramped up to six per week. When rival Autocar sampled the AC the following spring, many of the criticisms still held. The gear ratios were awkwardly spaced, some extra power wouldn’t have gone amiss, the handling was disappointing, the gearchange too baulky and high-speed refinement was an issue.

But the magazine’s testers were far more upbeat about the “Ferrari-like exhaust sound”, the excellent traction, the strong brakes and the comfy cabin. The magazine didn’t comment on the AC’s price though; by this stage it had crept up to £13,300 with cloth seats or £13,465 if leather trim was specifi ed (£13,600 with a radio too). This was at a time when a new Fiat X1/9 was just £5533, a Mazda RX-7 was £8549, the Triumph TR7 FHC was £6176 (the DHC was £6559) or a Ford Capri 3000 Ghia could be yours for just £6833. If you fancied something less mainstream, a Morgan Plus 8 was pitched at £8191 (albeit with a lengthy waiting list), a Lotus Esprit S2 was £14,175 and a Panther Lima Turbo was £10,950 – a Reliant Scimitar GTE was pegged at £10,324 wh


The 3000ME has never enjoyed a high profi le, but sterling work on the part of the AC Owners’ Club and the 3000ME Register in recent years has led to a greater the awareness of its existence than ever. The result is a noticeable climb in values in the past year.

Terry Webb is the magazine editor for the AC Owners’ Club and custodian of the world’s largest collection of 3000MEs; as well as four production cars he also owns the original Diablo prototype and one of two Ecosse Signatures – the car that the 3000ME was set to become at the point when AC (Scotland) Ltd was wound up. Says Terry: “Despite the 3000ME’s rarity, around five per cent of the surviving cars come onto the market each year – so around five or six.

“Some of those will be projects, but already this year there have been two concours cars sold – but somebody wanting a decent, usable car should also be able to track something down without having to wait too long”.

Those projects typically sell for between £7000 and £10,000; they’re unlikely to need a full rebuild, so expect little more than recommissioning to be required. However, the amount of recommissioning needed can vary, and if the car was laid up with gearbox problems you can expect to pay around £2000 for a rebuild – the Owners’ Club recently commissioned Hewland to remanufacture the necessary parts. If you’d prefer to buy a car that can just be used, but which isn’t up to show standard you should budget somewhere between £12,000 and £15,000, or a bit more if it’s really nice. If you want nothing but the best that money can buy, expect to pay at least £18,000 for an ME – or as much as £20,000.

Terry continues: “Cars tuned in period by Robin Rew (see ‘Improvements’) don’t command any kind of a premium – indeed, many have been returned to factory spec in the intervening years. There’s also no difference in values or desirability of Thames Ditton and Glasgow cars; it’s the condition that dictates a 3000ME’s value. Whatever you buy should come with plenty of history; the clubs know each of these cars very well and they’ll know about anything signifi cant that’s happened to any of the surviving examples. That’s why club membership is so important”.


You can spice things up a bit by fitting a Rover V8. At least one owner has done just that, having to widen the subframe in the process. In period though, the preferred route to more power was to fi t a turbocharger; Robin Rew did just this to 17 Thames Ditton cars to increase power to around 200bhp. Noise levels increased substantially too, so another popular modifi cation was a tuned and balanced engine. Offering a 25 per cent power increase, the £1500 project also offered improved fuel economy.

What To Look For

  • Most of the instrumentation is sourced from the Triumph parts bin, so bits should be easy to obtain from any decent autojumble.
  • The switchgear is generally taken from Jaguars of the period and pretty much all of it is available through specialists or at a good autojumble.
  • Windscreens have been remanufactured – complete with heating elements – at £160 each.
  • Electrical bits such as relays and fuses are available thanks to them being standard items, so they’re available from any auto electrical outlet worth its salt.
  • Pop-up headlamps sometimes have earthing problems, but it’s easily fixed by adding an extra earthing wire.
  • The removable roof leaks on early cars, so check the condition of all interior trim for dampness and rot, paying particularly close attention to the carpeting. sports car than the expensive 428 and Cobra models.
  • Don’t worry about a noisy engine – make sure its noise shields are in place. There’s also nothing to worry about in terms of engine parts availability, as it’s all stock Ford except for the cast rocker covers which incorporate the AC logo.
  • Be very wary of problems with the AC-built gearbox, which while reliable is expensive to overhaul – especially as the engine also has to be removed to do it. Fifth gear is the weakest link; the club has had fresh fi fth gear and fi nal drives made, at £945 and £1012 respectively (£820 and £880 for AC Owners’ Club members).
  • If the gearchange is particularly poor, the chances are the plastic bush at the base of the gearlever has seen better days – it’s a very cheap fi x though, at under £20.
  • AC’s original speedo cables were unreliable, so make sure the mileage showing on the odometer bears some resemblance to the mileage covered.
  • Many bits were taken from contemporary mainstream cars, so you don’t have to pay infl ated prices for unusual parts. For example, the sidelamps and rear lamp clusters are Triumph Toledo.
  • Not all bits were taken from elsewhere though; the brake discs were produced in-house for example. However, they’re available through the AC Owners’ Club at £300 per pair.
  • Rear suspension uprights are a complex casting and bespoke. If the car you’re looking at has bent rear suspension it’s not going to be cheap or easy to fix.
  • Check for tired wheel bearings, which are bespoke and expensive to replace at £295 apiece.
  • Spring and damper units are available, thanks to them being remanufactured by Spax.
  • Pinion teeth can break on the rear axle – with a new crownwheel as well you’ll pay £180 for the parts or £600 for a specialist to do everything.
  • 7Jx14 Wolfrace alloy wheels are normally retained – if they’re not, sourcing originals can be somewhat tricky and costly.
  • The glassfibre bodyshell is tough, but as with any plastic panelling the spectre of crazing and poor repairs is omnipresent. Check everything carefully for microblistering, sunken paint and cracking from low-speed impacts.
  • The chassis doesn’t rot too readily, but you need to keep a close eye on the bottom wishbone mountings of the front suspension as well as the cross members where the fuel tank is located.
  • You also need to look at the centre tub beneath the door sills; remove the rubber sealing strip between the glassfi bre and the bottom rail of the tub (some cars already have this removed to facilitate drainage). With a fl at steel rule probe along the gap – you should be hitting the solid edge of the tub within half an inch. If the rule penetrates to about two inches before you feel anything solid (which will be the inner edge of the box section) there’s severe corrosion. This will mean separating bodyshell from chassis to replace the tub, which will have to be made specially.

Three Of A Kind

The 3000 series (built 1972-1979) used the body and chassis of the 1600M/2500M (there was also the rag-top 3000S), but with the 3.0-litre V6 of the 3000ME. Replacing the 3000 series, the Taimar was available in Turbo or normally aspirated versions. Body and chassis parts are available, but chassis swaps are costly while engine maladies can also be expensive to put right.
With a mid-mounted V6, two seats and values only a bit higher than the AC, the De Lorean has much in common with the 3000ME. Thanks to its stainless steel construction you don’t need to worry about rust in the bodyshell, while the Douvrin V6 is well supported. What you do need to watch out for is accident damage to the stainless steel bodyshell along with chassis corrosion.
The closest rival to the AC in terms of price, configuration and market, if you're after something that excels dynamically this could be the answer. Early cars were fragile but later models – especially the S3 and Turbo – are true supercars with performance and dynamics still ahead of the pack. Well supported by clubs and specialists, it’s arguably the easiest classic supercar to own.


If you’re after a prestige classic the AC makes a huge amount of sense – especially as they’re more readily available than you’d think, as owners move up to more exotic cars once they’ve enjoyed a taste of ownership. As all 3000MEs are known to the club your best bet is to speak to them as they’ll be able to tell you the history of any example, whether owned by a club member or not. The club gets involved in remanufacturing to keep the cars mobile.

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