Some cars are born great, whilst others take a little time to mature. The humble AC Ace was one such vehicle. A feisty little British roadster that was made into a motoring icon via a collaboration with racing supremo Carroll Shelby. The AC Cobra, a burly muscle car, became the fastest production car in the world. But this was just the midpoint of the original AC Ace journey.
Looking to develop the platform even further, AC took the now-legendary Shelby Cobra and, dressing it up in a designer Italian suit, gave the world the AC Frua. Achingly beautiful and wonderfully appointed, it was a work of automotive art.
Classed as one of the rarest grand tourers ever created, the sublime AC 428 Frua was a triumph of styling, mechanical engineering, and artistry whilst harnessing everything that there was to love about speed. This is one classic sports car that should make everyone’s lottery wish list, here are ten things we just learned about the AC 428 Frua.
10 A Snake In Disguise
Peel back the beautiful styling and beneath that gorgeous sheet metal lies the bones of a Cobra. Stretched by six inches to allow for a drop-top, the AC Frua 428 offered up more space, more luxury, and far more panache.
Developed from the Cobra Mk3 chassis, an AC Frua prototype was crafted at record speed. Taking just 6 months to bolt together, the Frua 428 was unveiled at the Earls Court Motor show in 1965 to rapturous applause.
9 Ferociously Fast
Having ditched the more powerful Ford 427 engine from the Cobra in favor of a cheaper Ford 428, the AC Frua still made 345hp. Hooked up to a manual gearbox, the AC Frua was capable of a 145mph top speed.
Burying the throttle into the deep carpet would ensure that the AC Frua hit 60mph in 6 seconds. Those seeking more thrills could spend a little time, and money, enhancing the engine further to generate much higher outputs.
8th It Sticks To The Road
Much lighter than its contemporaries at the time, the AC Frua benefitted from full race-developed suspension. This fully independent setup bestowed the beautiful AC with crisp handling. Plus armfuls of driver feedback through the steering wheel.
Where the AC Frua lost out in top speed against an Aston Martin DB6, it easily clawed back a point by being the better handling car. Able to cruise at speed or knit together a series of challenging bends, the AC Frua was a delight to drive.
7 Wildly Expensive
With each car having its chassis constructed in Britain and then sent to Italy to be finished, costs were very high. In a showroom, the cost of buying an AC 428 Frua would run twice that of a 4.2-liter E-Type Jaguar.
The AC 428 Frua also outstripped the cost of buying an Aston Martin DBS by over a thousand pounds. This put the AC 428 Frua into a new league. Only those with a deep passion for cars and equally deep pockets bought one.
6 Very, Very Rare
Each AC 428 Frua would undergo an extensive build. Once the chassis was returned from Italy, it would be subjected to a lengthy process. This meant cars were drip-fed to the public and very few cars were completed.
In total, only 81 cars were sold, and only 61 can be located. The missing 20 have likely either been written off, stripped for parts, or remain hidden from prying eyes. It’s very unlikely that you will ever see one on the open road.
AC was a very small company and despite its many successes, money was tight. Due to a restricted budget, the AC Frua wasn’t fully developed and suffered several problems. The main ones are rust or engine heat-related.
Even when not on a spirited drive, the rising engine temperature would soak into the cabin. Plans had been laid to introduce new features like pop-up headlamps, but there was little money left in the pot to implement this.
4 It’s All About The Engine
An off-the-shelf Ford product, the mighty 7.0-liter V8 was a sturdy lump that suited the car well. With a fondness for gasoline, it regularly returned a 15 mpg average whilst churning out its 345hp and colossal 462 lb-ft of torque.
So powerful was the engine that the AC Frua would pull away at 15mph in fourth gear. In gear, there were bucket loads of shove when needed. The AC Frua also threw a truly wonderful V8 soundtrack with which to worry the countryside.
3 The Hardcore Beauty Queen
Those taken with the beauty of the car often forgot how fast it was. More sports car than grand tourer, the AC Frua would happily show a clean pair of tail lights to performance cars of the day. At heart, it was still a venom-spitting race car.
Cars that had seen a little tinkering beneath the hood would often turn in sub-6-second 0-60 times. Before they ran out of money, AC was itself looking at improving the engine setup to deliver a solid 400hp from the factory.
2 It Had Some Issues
With each car being hand-built by two different teams on two continents, there were some overlaps in work. A lot of the time the cars needed the Italian welding redoing once received in Britain. Panel fitment was also adjusted.
Ford also stopped supplying engines directly to AC. This, along with emission and crash test problems, sounded the death bell for the Frua. The cost to adapt the car to new legislations outweighed the resale values, and so the AC Frua was killed off.
1 That Star Quality
Way before a giant green Hulk and an Asgardian with a magic hammer graced the silver screen, there was a different type of Avenger. A Popular British TV series, The Avengers pitted 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 upstaged by the drop-top. Fantastic to watch, it stole every scene it appeared in and served as a great marketing tool for the team at AC.
10 Crazy Facts About The New AC Cobra Electric