The roots of the Cobra go back to early post-war Britain where car trader Cliff Davis was enjoying some success in racing with his Cooper-MG special. To expand on this he commissioned John Tojeiro to build a new race car with a larger engine in 1952. Tojeiro was a gifted engineer who built racing specials as a sideline to his small business in painting and repairing bodywork. He constructed a lightweight tubular chassis with steel boxes in front and rear to support an independent suspension system. It was fitted with a 2-liter Bristol engine which was placed in front but near to the middle of the car for optimal balance. Then this chassis was finished with a nice barchetta-style 2-seater body by Gray and Rich Panelcraft, inspired by and similar to the barchetta body of the Ferrari 166MM made by Touring of Milan.
The match between the Tojeiro-Bristol special and AC Cars was both rapid and somewhat confusing. Tojeiro was ordered to build a car similar to the Cliff Davis car by Ernie Bailey, but this one was to be fitted with a more powerful Lea Francis engine. This Bailey had a coachwork company that manufactured the 5-seater tourer bodies which were offered on the venerable AC 2-litre chassis under the name of "Buckland" and were painted by Tojeiro in his regular line of business. Another man who got involved was Vin Davison, a garage owner who also owned the shed (which was next to his garage) rented by John Tojeiro for his business. Bailey was confronted with the dwindling sales of the AC 2-litre model, a very outdated car, and he and Davison saw an opportunity for the Tojeiro design at AC, who badly needed a replacement. So they introduced John Tojeiro to AC.
This was solved by taking the Tojeiro car ordered by Bailey, fitting the AC 2-litre unit in it and naming the model "Ace", after a sports car AC produced before the war. In return John Tojeiro was offered 5 pound per car sold for the first 100 cars (a lousy deal in hindsight) and Vin Davison was offered a job with AC, assisting in modifying the Tojeiro design so it could be manufactured with the parts in stock and making it street legal for both Britain as for the export markets (mainly the US).
With the redesign of the Ace undertaken by Alan Turner in 1954 the model line was also expanded with a coupe. It received the name Aceca (pronounced "ah-seeka") and it was expected to further enhance sales because it was far more practical in the usually lousy British weather than the open Ace, which didn't offer any shelter against the elements. But unfortunately it never really caught on, though it was a very pretty car.
After being paid a fee for the first 100 Aces sold John Tojeiro and AC more or less went their separate ways. Tojeiro continued to manufacture one-off racing specials in a wide variety until well in the 1960s and was even commissioned to build a special racing version of the Ace by AC in 1958, which finished second in its class at the Le Mans race that year. In later years Tojeiro switched to running a plastics business and it wasn't until the 1980s and the Cobra replica and kit-car boom that he really came to regret his naive deal with AC, which dissociated the creator from his creation that became an automotive icon and obscured his rightful place in car history.
...continue by clicking the arrows pointing right...