Before the Shelby Cobra was the AC Ace and before the AC Ace was this car: a British barchetta from 1950s pioneer of racing specials, John Tojeiro. Drive into any AC gathering in this car and you’ll upstage the lot of them.
It’s little known and very rare but its claim to sharing DNA with the mighty Cobra is pretty clear. A sister car to the one you see here was lent to AC Cars so it had something to put on its stand at the Earls Court Motor Show in 1953. The Tojeiro prototype was fitted with an AC engine, painted blue and hey presto the AC Ace was born – and with it one of the world’s sports car icons once Carroll Shelby got his hands on it.
Race car builder Tojeiro had been commissioned to build a sports car using the ex-BMW Bristol 2.0-litre six-cylinder engine. Tojeiro, more chassis engineer than designer, gave the chassis to Panelcraft for a barchetta-style body modelled on that of the Ferrari 166 MM. A couple more prototypes were built, one of them – the car you see here – with MG power.
As the Tojeiro-MG Barchetta the car was quick to display its inherent chassis ability on the track, being successful in UK racing up to 1955 when, now giving its best to newer models from Lotus and Cooper, it was sold. It was advertised in Motorsport for £850 with the endorsement that it had “finished in every event entered this year.”
The Tojeiro-MG was to prove its mettle again in latterday historic race events in the US when, after a succession of owners in England, it was shipped Stateside. It’s now a veteran of events including the Colorado Grand, the Copperstate 1000 and, as recently as 2017, the California Mille.
As the pictures show, it’s still impeccably turned out and, says RM Sotheby’s, ready to take on many of the world’s most prestigious driving tours and events. It might not go like a Cobra 289, but this piece of pre-Cobra history won’t cost you as much as one; RM expects it to fetch between $200-250,000 when it auctions it as its Arizona sale.