Some cars are born well, while others take a little while to mature. The humble AC Ace was one such vehicle. A feisty little British roadster that became a motoring icon thanks to a collaboration with racing champion Carroll Shelby. The AC Cobra, a beefy muscle car, has become the fastest production car in the world. But that was just the middle of AC Ace’s original run.
Seeking to expand the platform even further, AC took the now legendary Shelby Cobra and, dressing it in a designer Italian suit, gave the world the AC Frua. Achingly beautiful and wonderfully appointed, it was a work of automotive art.
Classified as one of the rarest grand tourers ever created, the sublime AC 428 Frua was a triumph of style, mechanical engineering and artistry while harnessing everything there was to love about speed . It’s a classic sports car which should be on everyone’s lottery wish list, here are ten things we just learned about the AC 428 Frua.
ten A serpent in disguise
Peel off the beautiful styling and beneath that gorgeous sheet metal are the bones of a Cobra. Stretched six inches to allow for a sunroof, the AC Frua 428 offered more space, more luxury and a whole lot more panache.
Developed from the Cobra Mk3 chassis, an AC Frua prototype was designed at record speed. Taking just 6 months to assemble, the Frua 428 was unveiled at the Earls Court Motor Show in 1965 to enthusiastic applause.
9 Ferociously fast
After ditching the more powerful Ford 427 engine from the Cobra in favor of a cheaper Ford 428, the AC Frua still produced 345 hp. Hooked up to a manual gearbox, the AC Frua was capable of a top speed of 145 mph.
Burying the throttle in the deep mat would ensure the AC Frua hit 60 mph in 6 seconds. Those looking for more thrills could spend some time and money improving the engine further to generate much higher outputs.
8 It sticks to the road
Much lighter than its contemporaries of the time, the AC Frua benefited from a suspension entirely developed for racing. This fully independent setup gave the beautiful AC crisp handling. Plus, armfuls of driver commentary via the steering wheel.
Where the AC Frua lost in top speed to an Aston Martin DB6, it easily clawed back a point by being the best-handling car. Capable of cruising at speed or stringing together a series of tricky turns, the AC Frua was a joy to ride.
seven Very expensive
With each car having its chassis built in Britain and then sent to Italy to be finished, the costs were very high. In a showroom, the cost of buying an AC 428 Frua would be twice that of a 4.2-litre E-type Jaguar.
The AC 428 Frua also exceeded the cost of buying an Aston Martin DBS by over a thousand pounds. This put the AC 428 Frua in a new league. Only those with a deep passion for cars and equally deep pockets have bought one.
6 very, very rare
Each AC 428 Frua would undergo extensive construction. Once the chassis was returned from Italy, it would go through a lengthy process. This meant cars were drip fed to the public and very few cars were completed.
In total, only 81 cars have been sold and only 61 can be located. The missing 20 have likely been written off, stripped, or remain hidden from prying eyes. You’re very unlikely to see one on the road.
AC was a very small company and despite its many successes, the money was lacking. Due to a tight budget, the AC Frua was not fully developed and suffered several problems. The main ones are related to rust or engine heat.
Even in the absence of spirited driving, the engine’s rising temperature permeated the cabin. Plans had been made to introduce new features such as pop-up headlights, but there was little money left in the pot to implement it.
4 It’s all in the engine
An out-of-the-box Ford product, the mighty 7.0-liter V8 was a tough block that suited the car well. With a fondness for gasoline, it regularly returned an average of 15 mpg while producing its 345 hp and colossal 462 lb-ft of torque.
The motor was so powerful that the AC Frua pulled away at 15 mph in fourth gear. In the gear there were thrust bucket loads when needed. AC Frua has also launched a truly wonderful V8 soundtrack with which to worry the campaign.
3 The hardcore beauty queen
Those who were seduced by the beauty of the car often forgot how fast it was. More sports car than grand tourer, the AC Frua would happily show off a pair of taillights unique to performance cars of the era. Basically, it was still a venom-spitting race car.
Cars that had seen a bit of tinkering under the hood often spun in under 6 seconds 0-60 times. Before he ran out of money, AC himself was looking to upgrade the engine setup to deliver a solid 400bhp from the factory.
2 He had some problems
With each car being hand-built by two different teams on two continents, there were overlaps of work. Most of the time the cars needed the Italian welding redone once received in Britain. The fit of the panel has also been adjusted.
Ford also stopped supplying engines directly to AC. This, along with the emission and crash test issues, rang the death bell for the Frua. The cost of adapting the car to new legislation exceeded resale values, and so the AC Frua was killed.
1 This star quality
Long before a giant green Hulk and an Asgardian with a magic hammer hit the big screen, there was a different kind of Avenger. A popular British television series, The Avengers pits fashionably dressed spies against a host of corrupt world powers.
Using the AC 428 Frua prototype, the show’s heroine known as Tara King would be dwarfed by the sunroof. Fantastic to watch, he stole every scene he appeared in and served as a great marketing tool for the AC team.