In the mid-1970s, AC’s owner—Derek Hurlock—was looking to produce a mid-engined two-seater sports coupe, similar in concept to a more powerful Fiat X1/9. The initiative gained momentum in 1973 when privateers Peter Bohanna and Robin Stables showed their Austin Maxi-powered Diablo prototype at the London Motor Show. Hurlock recognized the model’s potential and purchased the concept as the basis of AC’s new model.
Hurlock thought development on the 3000ME would be brisk enough to get the car into production within a year, but it was not to be. As progress was slow, AC continued to show the 3000ME at motor shows for years without a production date, and deposits were taken from eager buyers. Nearly five years late, production of the AC 3000ME began in 1979. Mid-engined and tranverse mounted, the chosen engine was the Essex Ford 3.0 V-6 from the Ford Capri but mated to a five-speed gearbox designed by AC and driving the rear wheels. An aerodynamic spoiler was also fitted under the front bumper to aid stability and a pop-out roof panel was included for sunny days. The car carried an initial price of £12,432.
By 1976 the car was ready for the new 30-mph Type Approval crash test, but a prototype subjected to the test failed and the chassis had to be altered for a successful pass second time around. AC claimed speeds of 120 mph and 0-60 mph times of 8.5 seconds, with the standing 1/4 mile in 16.3 seconds, with 138 bhp at 5,000rpm. By 1979 the first cars were delivered, selling as a practical and comfortable car with brisk performance. The plan was to sell 250 cars annually, but it was not to be. Just 82 AC 3000MEs were sold by 1984 before failing health determined that Derek Hurlock would sell the company he had originally bought with his brother in 1930. A further 24 were built at the new works in Scotland.
Plentiful Ford and Triumph parts are around to maintain an AC 3000ME, and difficult parts like the wheel bearings and components for the AC gearbox are available from the AC Owners Club. The glass fibre body on the monocoque chassis is strong and any repairs can easily be done professionally. Rust can be a problem in the steel tub area on well used examples, and a check on the fuel tank location is advised as this is also a rust spot. Front subframe bottom wishbones mounts are another area to check.
Engine access is good and the engine easy to work on. Of note, the Weber carburettor is sometimes repositioned fore and aft to counter possible fuel starvation on heavy cornering. Transmission whine can mean gearbox wear, oil supply being remotely pumped in. Water can get in behind the seats and from below if the chassis-to-body seal is poor. Worn leather or cloth seats can easily be repaired along with worn out sill carpets. Early handling issues to do with adjusting the rear suspension toe-out can easily be sorted, making for a pleasant car to drive. All this said, nearly all the production run still exists.
The active AC Owners Club caters for owners well, with plenty of events. There is also a Registrar and the www.AC3000me.com www.AC3000me.com website and forum. The 3-litre engine can also be tuned to bring the 3000ME owner an even broader smile.