- The ultimate AC; one of only 30 428 Spiders built
- Built upon a coil spring Cobra chassis, and powered by a big-block Ford V-8
- Beautiful spider coachwork by Frua
- First owned by Grand Prix team owner Rob Walker
AC often seemed doomed to being left in the lurch by events not of its own making, yet each time the Hurlock family’s company demonstrated a resilience largely unprecedented in automobile history. Several of these “snatched from the jaws of defeat” moments are reflected in the collection of Jim Feldman, including this 1968 AC 428 Spider with coachwork by Frua.
The emergence of big block 7-litre engines in the Chevy Corvette rendered the original leaf spring, small-block Cobra obsolescent. Designing a successor robust enough to cope with Ford’s 427-cubic-inch “side-oiler” V-8 was beyond the artisanal techniques of Thames Ditton. It was not, however, much more than an exercise for the engineers at Ford in Dearborn.
So, AC took the resulting 427 Cobra’s robust coil spring-and-wishbone independent suspension chassis, added six inches to its wheelbase, and sent it to Pietro Frua in Italy to be clothed with a luxury coupe body; a Spider followed shortly. Power came from the same Ford 428 big-block V-8 engine rated at 335 horsepower used in the majority of “427” Cobras.
The body, which resembled Frua’s Maserati Mistral and Monteverdi GT, was attractively developed and refined. There was a minimum of chrome decoration, and the shape relied upon smooth, flowing lines. Somewhat surprisingly, one of the more difficult aspects of any car (and particularly a Spider), the rear three-quarter, is one of the AC 428’s most attractive.
Jim Feldman’s AC 428 Spider is one of some 81 built, of which only 30 are spiders. Its first owner was Grand Prix privateer Rob Walker, heir to the Johnny Walker whisky fortune and long-term entrant for Stirling Moss. Walker knew a thing or two about performance cars and could have anything he wanted. He chose CF14, and is shown accepting delivery from Derek Hurlock in a factory photograph reproduced in the March 2008 issue of Classic & Sportscar.
The 428 Ford drives through a strengthened Ford C6 3-speed automatic transmission to a limited-slip differential. Finished in bright red (a color change from original), it has black leather upholstery, a black cloth top and chrome wire wheels. The engine was replaced long ago (perhaps at AC), and a subsequent owner installed air conditioning. Displayed at Pebble Beach in 1990, it took 2nd in Class, then scored class wins in 1991 at the Hillsborough and Forest Grove Concours d’Elegance.
There were a number of transatlantic combinations during the 1960s and 1970s from the likes of Monteverdi, Jensen, and Iso, but none of them can claim the heritage of the AC 428 with its Cobra 427 base and beautiful Frua coachwork. Neither can any claim Stirling Moss’s race team owner Rob Walker as its first owner.