Model history: Carroll Shelby's involvement had not only prolonged the life of the AC Ace but also resulted in the further development of the tubular chassis that was first designed in the early 1950s. Intended to hold the company's big-block '427' V8, Ford had created the 'Mk III' Cobra with a reinforced chassis. AC owner Derek Hurlock wasted no opportunity to use the beefed-up frame for an all new Grand Tourer to rival all the prestigious manufacturers the Cobra had beaten on the track.
To add the necessary prestige to the potent Cobra, Hurlock sent a slightly modified Mk III chassis to Italian coach-builder Pietro Frua in 1965. The biggest difference was the increased length (6 in or 152 mm) of the tubular frame. This allowed for a little more interior space than was standard for the Cobra. Initially, Frua was asked to draw up the design and to only built a prototype. The production bodies were to be produced in England to keep the costs down.
For the exterior design of the new AC, Pietro Frua continued along the lines of the highly acclaimed Maserati Mistral, he penned a few years earlier. Although there are many detail differences, the two machines look strikingly similar. Both feature the slightly recessed and immediately recognizable headlights and also feature identical doors. This is far from a bad thing as the Mistral and subsequently the AC are regarded as Pietro Frua's finest designs.
Underneath the beautiful Italian suit, the new Grand Tourer was still very similar to the Cobra. The chassis was a steel backbone constructed from two large tubular members. Suspension was by double wishbones and coil springs, all-round. Unlike the big-block Cobra, which used the hotter 'side-oiler' 427 V8, the new AC sported the more civilized '428' from the Ford Galaxy. Delivered in 'police-interceptor' specification, it nevertheless produced a hefty 345 bhp.
Simply dubbed the 'AC 428', the new GT was introduced in Convertible shape at the 1965 Earls Court Motorshow in London. It took another year before the first production car was introduced at the Paris show in October of 1966. The original plan to produce the cars in England never materialized and instead the completed rolling chassis were shipped from AC's Thames-Ditton factory to Turin in Italy to be fitted with their designer bodies.
Production got under way in earnest in the spring of 1967. By that time a fastback Coupe version had also been introduced. The AC 428 was ferociously quick and well appointed but it was also very expensive; considerably more expensive than the Aston Martin DB6 for example. Construction of the Anglo-Italian cars proved to be a logistic nightmare and things only got worse when massive strikes hit the Frua factory in 1969.
Although the AC 428 was offered well into the 1970s, only 80 cars were ever built. Only 29 of these were Convertibles. Frua also constructed two specials based on the 428 chassis; a Convertible with retractable lights and the '429' four seater. Fortunately most of these cars have survived, although at least four have been used for Cobra replicas. AC's venture into the Grand Touring market was short-lived.
Chassis: CF 33
Completed in March of 1969, chassis CF 33 was originally painted dark red. It came equipped with the optional three-speed automatic gearbox that was also lifted out of the Ford Galaxy. Probably first delivered to an English customer, this AC 428 Convertible resurfaced in the 1990s. It was acquired by the current owner for £34,500 in the Brooks Goodwood Festival of Speed auction in 1995. In recent years he had the car completely restored in Italy. The breathtaking result could be first admired at the 2009 Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este where the car is pictured here.