1981 Shelby AC3000 ME
AC Cars is one of the oldest independent automobile manufacturers founded in Britain. They are the company that created the AC Ace, the car Carroll Shelby based the AC Cobra on and later the S/C Cobras and CSX-series roadsters.
In the 1970's AC developed the AC 3000ME. The AC 3000ME was a small 2-seat mid-engine sports car. The engine was a transversely mounted Ford Essex 3.0 liter V6. The car featured wedge-shaped styling of its fiberglass body. Its 'bathtub' steel chassis had substantial front/rear subframes and an integral roll bar. It was equipped with front and rear independent double-wishbone suspension, rack and pinion steering, and four-wheel disc brakes. The model boasted a rearward 40:60 weight bias and excellent handling.
Panteramerica was a vehicle importer owned by business partners Barry Gale and Steve Hitter. In 1981 Panteramerica started importing DeTomaso Panteras into the U.S. Panteras were unavailable in the U.S. market after the Lincoln-Mercury/DeTomaso agreement ended in 1974.
Panteramerica wanted to bring an affordable mid-engine car to the U.S. The Belgian dealer they purchased the Panteras from was also an AC dealer. The AC 3000ME seemed the logical choice.
Panteramerica imported a completely assembled AC 3000ME, without engine and transaxle, and unpainted. Their plan was to source an engine and transaxle from a U.S. manufacturer.
However, Panteramerica had problems acquiring drivetrains from either Ford or GM. Barry and Steve then spoke with Carroll Shelby, who had been recently hired by Chrysler. Carroll was on board with their idea and helped them over their engine hurtle by providing a fuel-injected, turbocharged Chrysler 4-cylinder, 2.2 engine.
Panteramerica restyled the body, pulled the molds and replaced the original exterior panels (primarily wings and front end) with the new design. The body was painted blue and silver similar to what was used on the Shelby Charger. New Compomotive split rims replaced the Worfrace alloys along with different tires completed the exterior revisions.
The prototype was presented to Lee Iacocca. Unfortunately, Iacocca, then in the middle of reinventing Chrysler as a front wheel drive manufacturer, didnít warm up to the idea of a low-volume mid-engine sports car, leaving the Shelby AC 3000ME a one-of-a-kind.
The vehicle still exists in a private collection.