‘Speeding Officer’ Not in my AC Petite!

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Petite Advert from The Motor Magazine May 1953

Petite Advert from The Motor Magazine May 1953

Way back in 1961 an 18 year old lad and soon to be police officer had £50.00 burning a hole in his pocket and a burning desire to own a Bond Mini-car.  After a fruitless search to find one in his budget along came an AC Petite and a lifelong relationship began and continues to this day. Always on the look-out for the unusual a local classic car gathering was my first glimpse of a Petite, let’s be honest not the most attractive car ever designed it certainly is ‘different’ and I like that a lot. Built in Thames Ditton Surrey, just outside London, the AC works known as the Ferry Factory was just a short distance from the banked circuit of Brooklands. AC Cars (Auto Carriers Ltd) have the honour of being Britain’s oldest car producers; starting in South London in 1901 they had great success and the move to larger premises at Thames Ditton in 1911 was needed to keep up with demand.
The Petite Couple

The Petite Couple

Over the coming decades the company produced sports cars that took you to work during the week and were very competitive come the weekend in all forms of motorsport. Some would consider their greatest moment came in 1953 with the AC Ace, the platform for the mighty Cobra. In the same year production began on a vehicle that was the complete opposite too the AC Ace; the Petite was unleashed on the UK public. AC had produced three wheeled vehicles from their very early days and the name Auto Carriers Ltd was taken from one of their first commercial production vehicles in 1903 called the ‘Autocarrier’. Retired Police Officer Alan Budd (Fishbourne) has owned three of these amazing machines over the years. Produced until 1958 an estimated 4000 of these light steel framed, alloy bodied three wheelers were to hit the UK streets powered by a 350cc Villiers two stroke engine.  They were not a cheap option from new, priced at £400.00 they were the same price as a new Ford Popular. Alan’s desire for something different and within budget all started with RPX 992 his first Petite and the car he and his girlfriend now wife Pam enjoyed great times with. Alan tells of a time when the Petite was pressed into Police duty tailing a shady character, trying not to be noticed in a three wheeler with a two stroke engine cannot be easy. After 4 years or so the Petite was replace with four wheeled transport but interest never left Alan and some 30 years later a chance conversation lead him to Scotland and PVA 556. How many times have you heard a fellow enthusiast say I wish I had not sold that car, or I should have spent more time with that one. This was true of Alan’s second Petite PVA 556 which due to other commitments he never really gave the attention it deserved and regrets selling the car after five years; its last known whereabouts is rumoured to be a museum in Thailand. AC PetiteCurrently 604 JHK resides with Alan and Pam after an interesting life having been owned by a Colonel Bond the Governor of the British Army Prison in Colchester. When Colonel Bond died the Petite was left in a barn to rot for years, finally discovered by Dan Steanson a well-respected micro car restorer and with help from Alan the Petite was returned to its former glory. When Dan moved onto another project there was only one place 604JHK could go.  The Petite story now covers more than 50 years and the chance to recreate a photo from August 1963 is a real bonus. Whilst on a drive with Alan (my first micro-car experience) the Petite speedo clicked over 12000 miles and indicated 36mph but it felt a lot more. The Villiers engine has been completely rebuilt and fires up instantly.  Alan selected 1st gear and we had motion, 1st is quite short and we were quickly into 2nd then on to a comfortable 35mph in top. Registered in 1954, 604 JHK is one of the remaining estimated 17 Petites left, scattered world-wide and so Alan has made it his task to track down every remaining Mark 1 or Mark 2 whether running or not. If you have any information about any Petites it would be greatly appreciated, the retired traffic cop Alan will turn detective to track down the missing ‘tri wheeled’ Auto Carriers.