Monterey | Lot 309
1938 AC 16/90 Two-Seater Competition Sports
The Feldman Collection
$224,000 USD | Sold
| Monterey, California
14 August 2021
- One of only five supercharged AC 16/90 Competition Sports of 42 built
- The first of its model, displayed at the 1938 London Motor Show
- Contemporary rally history; ideally suited to continue touring
- Restored 1988-1993 by AC specialist Phil Whitaker
As Jim Feldman built his enviable and encyclopedic collection of AC cars, it was inevitable that when offered this unique example of the AC 16/90 Competition Sports he would fall for it instantly. It is one of only 14 of the later Competition Sports series with “Sloping Tail” coachwork—an updated, refined and modern reinterpretation of the original slab-tank Competition Sports.
Beyond that, it is the first of only five such ACs built with an Arnott supercharger, rated 16/90 horsepower—hence the model’s designation—and is the car that introduced the 16/90 at the 1938 London Motor Show.
Brought to Jim Feldman’s attention in 1998 by a frequent collaborator, D. Hescroff, Feldman immediately recognized the importance of its history and specification. Having done business before, a negotiation—aided by a bottle of cognac—ensued and it became Feldman’s in 1989. It is in many respects the crown jewel of his year-long pursuit of AC milestones.
The 16/90 represented the prewar culmination of the John Weller-designed single-overhead camshaft 1,991-cubic-centimenter six-cylinder. Introduced at the 1938 London Motor Show, the addition of an Arnott supercharger raised power even further. Simultaneously AC revealed a revised body with attractive sloping tail and single rear-mounted spare wheel and tire, updating the visual design to complement the added power.
Arnott used a sophisticated vane-type compressor capable of providing some 15 psi (1 atmosphere) peak positive pressure although it was constrained—by some reports—to only 3.5 psi boost on the 16/90 combined with a 5.25:1 compression ratio, well below the naturally aspirated 16/80’s 7.5:1. In any case it is capable of 100 mph, ample evidence of its power.
AC built only five supercharged 16/90 short-chassis Competition Sports out of a total of 42. Being the first supercharged example built and the one used to introduce the supercharged engine at the London Motor Show in 1938, it is by far the most significant of even that limited run of short chassis Competition Sports.
It was sold immediately after the Motor Show to R. Cowell-Smith. Discovered in complete but disassembled condition near Caernarfon Castle in North Wales in 1974, it was acquired from its then-owner, R. England, by Alan Huxley-Jones. Still disassembled, it was acquired by D. Hescroff who immediately called it to the attention of Jim Feldman.
Reassembly and restoration was entrusted to AC specialist Phil Whitaker and was completed in 1993. The outstanding results seen here, nearly 30 years after it was finished. In 2006, it placed 3rd in Class at the renowned Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, a tribute not only to the quality of Phil Whitaker’s restoration but also to the outstanding care it has received in Jim Feldman’s collection.
Finished in bright Snow Shadow Jewelessence that is complemented by bright red leather upholstery, red carpets and a black cloth top, its livery eloquently displays the refined “Sloping Tail” design. It is fitted with silver-painted wire wheels and has a folding windshield, a pair of wipers, dual outside rear view mirrors, a greyhound radiator cap mascot, Lucas Bi-Flex headlights, Andre Hydro-Telecontrol adjustable shock absorbers and a badge bar.
This stunning 16/90 cuts a rakish figure with its “Jewelessence” paint, cutdown doors and sloping tail, but the real story is revealed when the bonnet is raised to expose the rare Arnott-supercharged engine.