In 1955 the President of Venezuela, General Marcos Perez Jimenez introduced sports car racing to Venezuela and over the following years local privateers would enter and race some of the finest 1950’s sports cars from the world’s leading manufacturers. The very best from Ferrari, Maserati, Aston Martin and Mercedes were seen competing on a national and international level and driven by some of the world’s greatest drivers of the time, including; Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss and Mike Hawthorn.
During the 1950’s, Venezuela had the fortune of providing much of the world with oil, leaving wealthy members of the population in a position to indulge in motor sport. AC soon became a popular marque and proved highly competitive in the under 2 Litre class. Local businessman, Juan ‘Jack’ Fernandez was responsible for importing AC cars into Venezuela and during his tenure imported thirty-one Ace-Bristols, four Aces, five Aceca-Bristols and one Aceca. A racing driver himself, Jack Fernandez capitalised on his racing exploits to raise the profile of the AC brand, both on home soil and in the United States.
The car offered here, BEX 148 left AC Cars in Thames Ditton on the 18th April 1956 and was immediately exported to Venezuela to its first owner, Dr Oscar Lupi. Joined by five other Ace-Bristols this would be the first batch of cars imported into the country. Upon its arrival on Venezuelan shores, BEX 148 was turned to competition, and in search of greater performance was sent to the workshop of German ex-patriot and artisan, Karl Pentz. In Pentz’s hands BEX 148 along with two other Ace-Bristols received aerodynamic modifications, namely a lower air intake and cowled lights in order to increase the car’s straight-line speed. The three designs were all different, thus three unique competition Ace-Bristols were created of which only one is known to survive today, being this car – BEX 148.
Lupi and BEX 148 would go on to have an active and noteworthy competition career, with Lupi campaigning the Ace-Bristol throughout Venezuela over the next four years. Always adorned by his race number; ‘139’, BEX 148 was regularly seen competing at race circuits including the Circuito Le Trinidad, La Montana, Valencia, Maracay and Pedro Garcia. The history file contains some wonderful period images, local newspaper cuttings and race results of BEX 148 being used in races, often pitted against much more powerful models from Ferrari and Maserati.
Lupi retired the Ace-Bristol from competition use in the early 1960’s and then sold the car a couple of years later. Two local owners then followed, each using BEX 148 as a road car before it was put into storage in the 1990’s. BEX 148 changed hands again in the late 1990’s when it was purchased by another Venezuelan enthusiast with the view to restoring the Ace-Bristol. Like so many restorations, progress proved slow and whilst still in remarkable original condition was acquired by the current owner in 2010.
Repatriated to the UK, the decision was made to fully restore the Ace-Bristol to the exact specification that Lupi raced the car in the 1950’s. AC specialist Nigel Winchester of Winchester Motorsport was entrusted with overseeing the project, and great effort and expense were paid to ensure that this significant Ace-Bristol remained in as original condition as possible. The car is fitted with its original body as can be seen by the correct stampings in the appropriate places and it still retains its original footboxes, something we seldom see as these are often replaced over time or during restorations. Fittingly the car was repainted in its original period shade of red and retrimmed with a beige leather interior. The restoration would take over two years to complete and the process was beautifully documented in the extensive history files that accompany BEX 148 today.
In 2013, BEX 148 was invited to the Goodwood Revival for the Fordwater Trophy, a race for production-based Sports and GT cars. It proved to be the quickest Ace-Bristol on the grid and was the highest placed Ace in the race – perhaps a testament to those clever modifications made in period by Pentz.
It goes without saying that this very special Ace-Bristol with a charming period competition history is eligible for a long list of Europe’s finest historic events.
Photo Credit: Riiko-Andre Nuud, Riiko Photo