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AC Cobra 378: 10 things you should know

The AC Cobra is a car most petrolheads would swap for their least useful limb if it meant they could own one, which is why the 2017 378 remake is kind of a big deal. Here are ten things you should know.

Given that you will soon be able to buy the 2017 remake of the AC Cobra 378, a two-seater roadster that should need absolutely no introduction if you are a true petrolhead, we thought it was time to share some wisdom on both the old classic and its forthcoming modern-day interpretation.

1) Two absurd power outputs will be available

You would be forgiven for thinking the AC Cobra 378 gets its name from the total horsepower, but it is actually a reference to the cubic inch capacity of the V8 engine. The less powerful naturally aspirated 6.2-litre General Motors engine (no Ford V8 here like in the original, sadly) generates 440bhp, while bolting on a supercharger takes the total to 550bhp.

2) The new AC Cobra should be more reliable

Much of the underlying hardware is the same as on the original AC Cobra, including the ladder chassis and the iconic design, but it is now complimented by a modern gearbox, modern electronic control unit (ECU), modern brakes and power steering to make it more livable. Even air conditioning is an option.

Purists will, of course, shun the notion of swapping the original parts for modern-day equivalents (and that GM-sourced engine), but everyone else will probably appreciate the quasi-modern setup that will keep it from falling apart as easily.

3) In the US it will be known as the Autokraft MKIV Classic…

Our US cousins will buy the new AC Cobra as the Autokraft MKIV Classic because Ford actually owns the Cobra name and we doubt it will sell it anytime soon. Because the original 1986 cars that first used the Autokraft name were so similar to the originals, they are regarded as more than replica, which is why they are expected to fetch serious amounts of cash in years to come. That and the fact only 480 cars were built.

4) …But Americans will have to wait to buy one

The reborn AC Cobra 378 will go on sale in the US, but not initially. AC is currently waiting for the ‘HR22’ low-volume replica car bill to be finalised before it reaches retail. Exactly when that happens is anyone’s guess.

5) AC is short for Auto Carriers

Most petrolheads know the name, but did you know AC is short for Auto Carriers? Did you also know the Weller Brothers behind AC actually presented their first car (all 20hp of it) in 1903 at the Crystal Palace motor show? Said creation was deemed too expensive to manufacture and so the first vehicle to roll off the production line in 1904 was, in fact, a three-wheeler.

A few years later production was moved to Ferry Works in Thames Ditton of Surrey, where a plaque of the company can still be found to this day (conveniently located near a nice pub). It was here the AC roundel logo was born and where the company’s name became Auto Carriers Limited.

6) The AC Cobra is wrongly blamed for speed limits

Despite popular convention, the AC Cobra was supposedly never responsible for causing the 70mph speed limit to be introduced in the UK. The law was actually introduced three years after the AC Cars team driver, Jack Sears, hit 185mph on the M1 motorway in the Cobra Coupe GT back in 1964.

Barbara Castle, who was a Labour politician and Minister for Transport at the time, confirmed a few years later that the AC speed run had no influence on the law’s introduction, especially as a conservative government was in power when the run took place.

Despite the fact it was legal to go as fast as you liked (mainly because most cars were glacially slow anyway), it caused such a furore in the newspapers that Sears had to keep a low profile.

7) The US$100 bill acceleration myth is very much alive

Carroll Shelby would put US$100 in the glove box of the AC Cobra and anyone who could grab it under acceleration could keep it, but, so the legend goes, no one ever could. In theory, the level of G-force from a 0-62mph time of 4.5 seconds would not be enough to pin you to your seat (0-62mph in 2.75 seconds is around 1G of force), but then perhaps the noise, seating position and shock factor played a significant role.

8) A softer AC Cobra is on the horizon

Just in case the first version of the car (due for production as long as people keep buying it) is a bit too hardcore, a more life-friendly version is on the horizon. Speaking to Autocar, current AC owner Alan Lubinsky said: “We are already working on another one that will be a really good car for more people.” Exactly what he means by that is unclear. We have also heard rumblings of a GT4 race version.

9) Carroll Shelby and the Cobra go way back

It was in 1962 when racing driver and muscle car enthusiast Carroll Shelby (RIP) approached AC with the aim of having a car that could compete with the Chevrolet Corvette on a race track. So the scene was set for what would become the MK1 Cobra.

Two years later the Cobra was given even more power so that it could take on Ferrari, a path that eventually lead to the legendary ‘427’ variant (complete with a brand new chassis that was actually tameable). Nobody bought one at the time, but that did nothing to stop it from becoming one of the most sought-after cars the world has ever known.

10) You will have to pay this much to own one

AC Cars owner Lubinsky says to expect a price “in the vicinity of £85,000 to £90,000”, which makes the new AC Cobra 378 an expensive toy, but also considerably cheaper than the cost of the nine legacy models, which went for around £500,000 each, and the £10.2-million for the very first 1962 AC Cobra that went up for auction 2016.


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