Despite a modern design and a favourable press reception, it was launched in the wake of a massive oil price surge and development was delayed by supplier problems. It was not a commercial success.
The 1970s were not a good period for luxury car manufacturers and AC Managing Director W Derek Hurlock went searching for a totally new smaller car. Mid-engined designs were in fashion at the time and in 1972 the Diabolo, a prototype with an Austin Maxi engine and transaxle was built by privateers Peter Bohanna and Robin Stables. However, following considerable investment in development using the BLMC power unit and transmission, the engine manufacturers decided that they needed all the E series engines they could make to power their own Maxi and Allegro models, so the Diabolo project appeared likely to collapse for lack of an engine.
The car featured a steel chassis making extensive use of square-section steel tube, with a strong monocoque for the central portion of the body. This framework supported a glass fibre body.
In much the same way as they had taken up the Tojeiro prototype and turned it into the Ace, AC acquired the rights and at the 1973 London Motor Show showed their own version, the mid-engined ME3000 with the 3.0-litre Ford Essex V6 engine installed transversely over a bespoke AC-designed gearbox. Press releases of the time indicated that the company hoped to be able to build and sell the car at the rate of 10 - 20 cars per week, although it was at this stage apparent that the model was in many ways not yet ready for serial production.
Development was virtually complete in 1976 when new Type Approval regulations were introduced. A prototype failed the 30 mph (48 km/h) crash test, and the chassis had to be redesigned. On the second attempt, the car passed with flying colours. This was a huge achievement for a tiny firm - Vauxhall had to make several attempts before the contemporary Chevette passed.
For AC, such delays meant that the first production cars (now renamed 3000ME) were not delivered until 1979, by which time they were in direct competition with the Lotus Esprit. Although comfortable, brisk, nicely built and practical, AC's ambitions of selling 250 cars per year were a distant memory.
After just 71 cars were sold, Hurlock called a halt to production as his health was suffering and the company was struggling in the teeth of a recession. In 1984 production stopped at Thames Ditton and the car and the AC name were licenced to a new company registered as AC (Scotland) plc run by David McDonald in a new factory in Hillington, Glasgow. Here, 30 cars were built, including a development car tested with Alfa Romeo's 2.5-litre V6 engine and a nearly-complete Mark 2 prototype of the same. Regardless (or possibly because) of these developments, AC Scotland called in the receivers in 1985.