My Car Quest

December 14, 2018

The AC Cobra Mk IV – This Would Be A Cool Car To Own

by Mike –

I attended my first Cars & Coffee in June 2013 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.

AC Cobra Mk IV

AC Cobra Mk IV

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.

AC Cobra Mk IV

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.

AC Cobra Mk IV Ford Engine

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 Cobra Mk IV Interior

AC Cobra Mk IV

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 Cobra Mk IV

Robert Krantz With His 1987 AC Cobra Mk IV

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.

AC Cobra Mk IV

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.

AC Cobra Mk IV

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.

AC Logo

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.

AC Cobra Brochure

AC Cobra Brochure

AC Cobra Brochure

AC Cobra Brochure

AC Article Motor Trend 2-6

This article was first published in June 2013.

Summary
The AC Cobra Mk IV - This Would Be A Cool Car To Own
Article Name
The AC Cobra Mk IV - This Would Be A Cool Car To Own
Description
The AC Cobra is a terrific car.
Author

Comments

  1. Wallace Wyss says:

    The mass production of the AC Mk. IV was done without Shelby’s permission. If you get a chance to read the old CAR magazines from England back at that time you see Shelby grousing about these Cobras being made without his permission. Eventually of course, Shelby began producing Cobras in the U.S., at first trying to say he “found” some unfinished ones but when the State of Calif. wanted to know what date those frames were made, he moved to Nevada. After that he didn’t claim they were unfinished originals. It would be interesting to know if one of the alloy bodied Cobras from Shelby’s works in Nevada is worth as much as a AC Mk. IV because the car from Nevada can be ordered with a 427 big block.

    • Wallace,

      I think that AC and Autokraft didn’t need Shelby’s permission to make the car but only to use the Cobra name – right? I am planning to re-read the chapter in your book, “Shelby”, that covers this subject.

  2. I learned about the lawsuit(s) going on between Brian Anglis, Shelby and Ford when my wife and I stopped to visit Anglis’ factory one day in the mid-80’s. We were on a tour and figured we were right near there so why not go see where they were building the MK IV’s and how they were built.
    Well, when we walked in and started looking at one of the finished cars we were quickly treated to a lot of questions by a man who wanted to know who we were, where we were from and just what our interest was in the cars. Apparently they weren’t accustomed to Americans just dropping in and from what I learned probably felt we were spies from one of the legal teams of their opponents.
    Once I explained my interest in Cobras he backed off and was very gracious, even suggesting we take a tour of the operation, including spending some time watching with fascination as a metal worker made a front fender from a piece of sheet aluminum using the wooden buck and a small hammer. Tap, tap, tap and a miracle was being made before our eyes.

  3. When I was a kid the first Cobra I ever saw was at the De Anza Autocross which was a event put on by the local Jr college. I was fascinated that a car like this was built by the same company that built my dads station wagon! I went home a looked through all my car magazines and saw that a company called Arntz was building these cars, so I wrote a letter and they sent me a cool catalog and price list. I still have the catalog and the dream of owning one…

  4. wallace wyss says:

    Arntz was the first to mass market a Cobra kit car, much to Shelby’s chagrin, as he had not anticipated that a kit would sell. I heard an old wive’s tale that Arntz’ demonstrator spun out and killed somebody so I don’t know if that’s karma for stealing somebody’s idea or what. His cars were bodied in fiberglass. After him came many more copying the Cobra and Shelby went to court against Factory Five and lost because they were prepared to show the Cobra body shape came from the A.C. Ace which came from a one off car which had copied a Ferrari barchetta!

    The book title is SHELBY The Man, the Cars, The Legend available from Enthusiast Books, Hudson WI

    PS There is a kit Cobra made in Utah that , fidelity wise, is better than a real Cobra, being built by an Air Force engineer (ret.) in a MIG factory. When he brought them a real Cobra and asked him if they could make it, they looked at him and laughed saying something like “are you kidding–compared to a MIG, that’s easy.”

    They not only offer aluminum bodywork on a 427 body and steel tube chassis, they offer the 427 body style on a 289 powered chassis which is a more reasonable car to drive than the 427. Even Carroll Shelby said “The 427 will kill you in a second.”

  5. Rod Steller says:

    The AC MK IV was made by AC Cars in England. All of the 1960 Cobras were produced in England by AC and shipped to Shelby for completion . The exceptions were the Daytona coupes . Some Cobras were completely finished in England by AC and shipped around the world without Shelby touching these cars. Ford bought 49% of AC in 1986. At that time Ford owned the Cobra name. Ford allowed the ACMKIV to use the Cobra badges outside the U.S.

  6. paul spencer says:

    did the mk 4 ac cobra come in rhd version for the uk market

  7. Eric Gordon says:

    Robert, nice car, nice colors. I own AK1080 purchased new March 1986 . Same colors, BRG and tan.
    30 yrs of wkend motoring .

    • Rob Krantz says:

      Hi Eric. Just looking at this story that Mike wrote about my AC in quite a while. Where are you located? I love my Mk. IV and drive it regularly. A joy to own.

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