by Mike –
I attended my first Cars & Coffee this past Sunday at the Blackhawk Museum in Danville, California. I drove the Grifo – it was about a 100 mile round trip drive.
There were some great cars and some interesting people too. I met Robert Krantz who was interested in the Grifo and who brought his beautiful AC Cobra. He heard about the Grifo from me and I heard about the AC Cobra from him.
I asked him to write something about his special car for My Car Quest – here it is.
by Robert Krantz
The AC Cobra was developed from the AC Ace, which first went into production in the early 1950’s. The Ace was built by AC Cars Ltd. at their Thames Ditton plant. AC Cars, in business since 1901, was one of England’s oldest car companies. In 1952 John Tojeiro’s sports racing car formed the basis of the alloy-bodied Ace which, with gently revised lines by AC, was introduced in 1953 with a straight 6-cylinder engine produced in-house by AC, with the options in 1956 and 1961 of 2.0 liter Bristol and Ford 2.6 liter engines respectively. With the introduction of the Ford 6 cylinder engine, the front end of the Ace was re-shaped to the present day “face” of the AC Cobra.
The Ace was particularly successful in competition and used by many racing drivers at the outset of their careers. In the early 1960’s, AC lost its main engine source in the Bristol engine as Bristol ceased production of this power plant. At the same time, Carroll Shelby was looking for a lightweight English roadster to install an American V8 engine in order to take on the Chevrolet Corvette.
Shelby was able to get Ford Motor Company to supply the new lightweight Ford V8 and he approached AC Cars about installing the Ford V8 into its lightweight body and chassis. Thus, the Cobra was born! 1962 saw the introduction of Shelby’s Cobra derivative of the Ace, which initially had Ford’s 260 cid (Mk. I), then the 289 cid V8 (Mk. II) and eventually the 427 cid V8 (Mk. III).
AC supplied the rolling chassis/bodies to Shelby in Los Angeles where he installed the Ford engines. Shelby’s Cobra’s swept the board in international competition, winning the World Sports Car Championship in 1965. The Mk. III Cobra was discontinued in 1968, after which the 7-liter, 140 mph, steel-bodied Frua 428 was offered. During the years that Shelby offered his stateside version of the Cobra (with CSX designation), AC offered its own versions for the European market in England (COB designation) and mainland Europe (COX designation), built in-house at the AC Thames Ditton factory.
AC also produced their own version of the Mk. III Cobra with the 427 wide body style at the end of the production of these cars, which were called the “AC 289 Sports”, with Ford’s small block 289 V8, which are very rare – only thirty-two produced.
In 1982 Brian Angliss was running Autokraft, a Cobra restoration shop, parts supplier and replica manufacturer based at the Brooklands industrial park in Weybridge, UK. To further such pursuits, he acquired some of the tooling from Thames Ditton (where the AC factory was located that produced the Cobra chassis and bodies) and created the MKIV; the car had US-spec 5 mph (8.0 km/h) bumpers, a federalized motor, and a larger interior with modern switchgear. About 480 cars were produced in his factory at Brooklands. He also produced a lightweight model which was more in tune with the original Cobra spirit, though it could not be imported to the US due to Federal regulations.
Early cars were sold as the Autokraft MkIV but eventually Angliss licensed the rights to use the AC name in 1982. Derek Hurlock had been strongly protective of the name, but Angliss’ high standards of craftsmanship won him over. When the Hurlock family finally decided to sell their company in 1986, Angliss fully acquired the AC trademark rights and set up a new AC company and ultimately established a joint venture with Ford in October 1987, selling them a 51% interest. A conflict with Ford eventually followed in the mid-1990’s over the future direction for AC, but Angliss eventually won his independence as well as Ford’s continuing and essential cooperation as an engine and parts supplier.
My 1987 AC Cobra Mk IV
This car is a 1987 AC Cobra Mk IV (chassis No. AK 1216, produced in October 1987) and is a 1980’s development of the original 1960’s Cobra by AC Cars. This car was produced to meet U.S. safety and emission requirements and is fully federalized. AC cars used the original chassis jigs and tooling to create the aluminum body of this and all AC Cobra Mk IV cars. AC Cars Ltd., in business since 1901 and located (at the time this car was built) at the historic Brooklands race track in Weybridge, Surrey, England.
The first owner of chassis No. AK 1216, a San Francisco Bay Area attorney who owned the car for many years imported this car directly from England through the Port of Oakland. He eventually sold it to his law partner and I subsequently purchased the car from the second owner, making me the very happy third owner.
Let us know what you think of the AC Cobra Mk IV in the Comments.
Brochures below supplied by Robert Krantz. Click on the images for a larger view.