These cars are rare, as they were slow and costly to build — and they were more expensive than an Aston Martin DB6

Chassis number: CF62

Born on the back of the Cobra two-seat roadsters, AC decided to move up-market and build a larger and altogether more civilized car. They had a fantastic and proven race-bred chassis in the Mk III Shelby Cobra, and their close relationship with both Shelby and Ford ensured an adequate supply of engine and running gear.

The original AC Company had been making sporting cars for more than 20 years, but in 1930 was forced into liquidation. The Hurlock brothers, William and Charles, purchased the AC factory and assets to obtain more depot space for their successful haulage business. As they also serviced cars and trucks, they kept the AC service department running. The sporting owners of AC cars kept asking when they could expect a new model, and seeing an opportunity to clear the parts bin from the liquidation, the Hurlocks built cars on demand. They were fortunate to source a chassis from Standard that was supposed to be exclusive to William Lyons at SS, and on this they produced a lightweight aluminum open tourer that paved the way to further sporting and sales successes.

and sales were slowing. Lyons at Jaguar had the XK 120 roadster and MG had the TC and TD — it was apparent that AC needed a new sports car. Quite by chance they found the small workshop of race car builder John Tojeiro and noticed a tubular chassis sports car with a 2-liter Bristol engine and an open barchetta-like body similar in design to the current race Ferraris. Tojeiro agreed to a deal, and at the 1953 Earls Court Motor Show, AC launched their new Ace with mildly reworked bodywork and their workhorse AC 2-liter engine. This new car was an important addition to the ranks of British sports cars, and after the updated 2-liter straight-six Bristol engine became available in 1956, the Ace blossomed into a successful competition car. In the USA, it became the terror of SCCA racing and dominated virtually every class for nearly ten years. Shelby saw the potential and had a great small-block Ford V8 that would fit right in the engine bay — the rest is history.

Derek Hurlock, who now oversaw the family AC concern, eyed the success of the emerging market for fast sports GT cars and thought AC had the platform to build such a car using the simple-to-maintain Ford power plants. The Mk III Cobra chassis was lengthened by six inches and sent to Italian coachbuilder Frua, who designed an attractive fastback coupe and trim for the new car.

“The 428 fits my image of a true GT car — like anything exclusive, especially hand-built from craftsmen, it costs a lot of money,” Hurlock said. The AC 428 is the only production GT car that offered fully adjustable independent front and rear suspension, a valuable legacy of the Shelby racing heritage. Make no mistake, this is a seriously fast car that lopes from 0–60 mph in six seconds, has a top speed of over 140 mph and is capable of cruising all day at 130 mph if required. An exclusive club indeed!

With just 44,020 miles on the odometer from new, this 428 Fastback coupe is original with the exception of one repaint in 1989 in the U.K., when the color was changed from baby blue to the factory-specification white. The black interior leather and trim remain impeccable, with a wear and patina that only 40-plus years of caring ownership preserves. The engine, transmission, electrical, suspension, brakes, rubber, glass and chrome components are all in fully maintained and excellent condition as befits a car that has lived in a prestigious Florida collection for the past seven years. Fully sorted, this car has been regularly but lightly used with approximately 3,000 driven miles since 2006. A virtually full ownership history file comes with the car, as do many extra parts and spares, articles written about the car and much more.

This car is rare and exclusive by all means. Simple and easy-to-maintain American components, Italian styling from master coachbuilder Pietro Frua and classic British craftsmanship add up to a heady mix. Wrap yourself in style and performance in this seldom-seen gift from the good folks at AC.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1971 AC 428 Fastback Coupe
Number Produced:$8,97249 coupes, 29 convertibles and three special cars
Original List Price:$8,972
Tune Up Cost:Full service for under $1,000
Engine Number Location:On chassis plate

This car, Lot 67, sold for $110,000 at Worldwide Auctions sale at Auburn, IN, on September 2, 2011.

This is one of only seven 428 coupes produced in 1971 (though described in the catalog as a 1968 car), and it’s right-hand drive — left-handers’ chassis numbers are preceded by CFX. Only 49 coupes and 29 convertibles were built from 1968 to 1973. Originally blue, it was repainted white in 1989 and imported into California in 2002.

Production numbers were tiny, partly because of the laborious build process and the cost it generated, which made the 428 more expensive than an Aston Martin DB6.

The chassis is very much like the Cobra’s, with all-independent coil-spring suspension and six-inch-longer twin main tubes constructed at AC’s works in Thames Ditton, southwest of London, before being shipped to Italy to be bodied by Frua.

On return to the U.K., the Ford V8s and (usually) automatic transmissions were installed. So the floor shift lever and quadrant is a period Fairlane piece, and under the hood from the radiator and coolant surge tank back, it’s highly reminiscent of a lightly tweaked ’69 Mustang. The new California owner modified the hood with a scoop to draw more air into the engine bay to combat the warm desert temperatures, and the car has spent the past seven years in a Florida collection.

The world’s most exotic Mach 1

SCM’s B. Mitchell Carlson saw the car, and he rated it a condition 3+, noting light orange peel to the paint, “though time and buffing have eased that a bit.” He noted that the windshield is starting to delaminate (pretty common on these), still with a 1998 U.K. tax disc affixed, and there was noticeable leather cracking on the seats.

The rear bumper is wavy. Overall, he felt the car appears to sit too low, but from some angles the slightly awkward styling around the middle can make the cars appear to sag a little.

“I’m sure to be pelted with rocks by AC and Mustang fans the world over, but this is the world’s most exotic Mach 1 — and isn’t even styled as nicely — big boat 1971s through ’73s included,” Carlson said. “While having a wide, authoritative stature, it comes off as too complex, with too many styling cues — different for the sake of being different.”

All of our recent summaries have said these cars have been creeping up in recent years but remain cheap. And they’re still cheap right now.

Andy Shepherd, vice chairman of the AC Owners’ Club and AC 428 Frua registrar, as ever sticks up for the model.

“Prices have all been pretty good over the past year or two, and I am advising between $120k and $240k depending on condition and whether fastback or convertible,” Shepherd said. “They sell in that bracket, and I know of at least two people with that budget who are looking.”

These must be private sales because auction prices have remained fairly flat in the past few years. Maybe it’s something about the slightly awkward styling in places, or the huge costs of restoration, or that they’re just not as simple or sexy as a Cobra. All these factors conspire to keep the market for these imposing coachbuilt coupes small. The 428’s nearest equivalent is something like a Jensen Interceptor, which is a less-sophisticated bigblock Chrysler V8-powered device that can be bought cheaply for mostly the same reasons, although the very best examples cost about two-thirds of the price paid for this 428. So if you’re looking for a handsome Anglo- Italian GT with big American V8 power, the Interceptor can look a more sensible bet, leaving only rarity on the 428’s side.

Inexpensive to buy — and easy to repair

On the plus side, Shepherd points out that mechanically, these are not hard cars to own.

“Engine parts are cheap as chips, being stock Ford FE. Standard lifters are hydraulic and don’t give much trouble, but some engines have been fitted with solid lifter cams. Inlet manifolds weigh a ton, and are often replaced with an aluminum aftermarket one,” Shepherd said. “The cast iron headers cracked easily, and tubular manifolds are the easy fix.”

Body rust is the curse of many 428 Fruas, and can be expensive to put right. “The sills (rockers) suffer, as do the fender tops near the windscreen,” Shepherd said.

This car appears to be correctly market priced, albeit in a very small market. Here it sold pretty much on the money compared with recent sales — if you ignore the inexplicably high-priced car at RM London in October 2009 — and for as much as WWG was hoping for.

So, in spite of the ACOC’s hopes, the 428 market seems to be steady as she goes. As we often say, it’s a wonder more of these haven’t been made into Cobras, which are worth four times as much.

(Introductory description courtesy of Worldwide Auctioneers.)

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