Smart Roadster reborn as an AC
It was only axed last year, but the Smart Roadster has sprung back to life as this – the all-new AC Ace. The band of British enthusiasts behind the project aim to start production of the rebodied sports car in mid-2007, with prices from £12,000 to £19,000. A deal to buy the rights and tooling jigs for the axed two-seater from parent company DaimlerChrysler is about to be signed, and there will also be a convertible version. The pair will be known as the AC Ace and Ace Roadster.
It looks great, but will it be true to the AC badge?
That’s the big question. Power will come from the same Mitsubishi-sourced 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine that’s in the second-generation Smart ForTwo, on sale next spring. Don’t expect fireworks in the engine department, then. There will be three different versions of each Ace, both naturally aspirated and turbocharged. Performance and fuel economy should be at least on a par with the scrapped Smart versions.
Who’s behind the rebirth of AC?
The team has so far only been known as Project Kimber – the ones who previously tried to buy MG Rover, but lost out to the Chinese. They’re no amateurs; Gordon Murray, small car fan and designer of the McLaren F1, is on board as a technical advisor. The big debate at the moment is where the cars will be built. The Welsh Assembly has offered grant aid of around £5 million for redevelopment of a specific, but as-yet-unidentified, site in Wales. However, more investors are needed before the project gets the final nod. A deal has been done to sell the ACs through a major UK dealer group, and there are plans for launches in Europe, America and Japan. We’ve learned there’s every chance other AC-badged vehicles will follow – this isn’t a one-model strategy and bosses want to develop the brand further.