Rightly regarded as an all-time classic sports car, the muscular Cobra succeeded in capturing the hearts of enthusiasts like few of its contemporaries. Convinced that a market existed for an inexpensive sports car combining European chassis engineering and American V8 power, Le Mans-winning Texas racing driver Carroll Shelby concocted an unlikely alliance between AC Cars and the Ford Motor Company: the AC Ace provided the simple twin-tube chassis frame; Ford, one of its lightweight, small-block V8s. The 260ci (4.2-liter) prototype first ran in January 1962, with manufacture initially for the USA only. Not until late in 1963 did AC Cars in Thames Ditton got around to building the first fully finished European-specification Cobra.
Rack-and-pinion steering was the major Mk II up-date. Then in 1965 a stronger coil-suspended Mk III chassis, Ford’s 427ci (7.0-liter) V8 engine, wider bodywork, extended wheel arch flares, and a bigger radiator intake combined to create the much copied Cobra Mk III. In the end just 1,000-or-so Cobras of all types were built between 1962 and 1967.
But such was the model’s enduring popularity that production was resumed by Brooklands-based Autokraft in 1982 Autokraft boss, Brian Angliss, who had been restoring Cobras and supplying parts, acquired the rights to the AC name in the early 1980’s. Keeping to the overall style of the Mk III, Autokraft produced the Mk IV which was updated to meet current legislation and powered by a ‘Federalized’ Ford 5.0-liter V8 engine. Around 460 cars were built before Autokraft folded in 1996, largely due to costs incurred developing its new Ace model.
This particular Mk IV was originally built for Mr Chris Hopkinson and was one of the last cars to leave the Autokraft factory in May 1996. [It was acquired by the current owner in 2004.] In line with the 1960s’ AC Cobras, it received a lightweight, hand-formed short nose aluminum body, over the ladder-type, fully independent lightweight chassis. The car was built to the ‘Lightweight’ specification with MK III interior and dashboard, bonnet scoop, and roll hoop. A fully hand-built lightweight SVO Stage III 5.0-litre V8 engine is mated to a 5-Speed Borg Warner transmission. The paintwork is original Porsche Zinc metallic and the cockpit is trimmed in black Connolly hide.
Later the car was subjected to further performance upgrades by AC experts Uniclip Automotive. An engine re-build and a larger Holley carburetor contributed to increasing power output from 345 to 380 bhp. The Spring & Damper setup was also upgraded for more ‘enthusiastic’ driving.
Car displayed from Monday 6 August to Sunday 12 August 2018 courtesy of Mrs Sheila Parker, and prepared by Club member Mr Nick Lintott