Rare Rides: The Beautiful 1969 AC Frua Cabriolet
Today’s Rare Ride was in production for nine years, but never reached triple-digit figures in its sales.
Let’s check out this hand-crafted British beauty.
AC is one of the oldest living independent British car firms and traces its roots back to London in 1901. Originally known as Auto Carriers, Ltd., the company has gone through too many liquidations and reorganizations to count. Always a specialty car maker, AC built mostly three-wheelers and luxurious sports coupes and is most notable for its collaboration with Carroll Shelby to develop the AC Cobra.
The Mark III version of the Cobra ended its production in 1967, but by that time AC had morphed it into a new sports luxury coupe of its own. With a long, flowing body designed by Pietro Frua, the AC Frua (also called AC 427 and AC 428) debuted in 1965.
Designed on a very tight budget, the new body rode on an AC Cobra chassis that was extended by six inches. The chassis was assembled by AC and then shipped to Frua in Italy where the hand-built bodies were fitted. Mostly made of steel, hoods and trunk lids were aluminum. The conjoined body and chassis went back to England, where AC installed the interior and mechanicals.
Said mechanicals included a 428 cubic-inch Ford V8, paired to a three-speed auto or four-speed manual transmission. Unlike other low-volume coachbuilt coupes of the period, the AC had an independent, racing-developed coil spring suspension. Also similar to its competitors, the Frua was a bit half-baked in its design. The huge engine up front tended to send its heat seeping into the cabin, making for warm drives all the time.
With its considerable grunt, the Frua mixed luxury company with cars from Monteverdi and De Tomaso, but performed more like a Ferrari or Lamborghini. And like those latter Italians, the AC Frua was very expensive: Circa 1965 it was twice the price of a 4.2-equipped Jaguar E-type.
The price and hand-built nature meant few customers were found for AC’s Frua. It didn’t have the legacy name to compete with the established Italians, and other low-volume cars were better made. As a result, when production ended in 1973 just 81 had been completed. Of those, 49 were coupes, 29 convertibles, and 3 wore one-off bodies. The Frua was AC’s last car for some time, as production of the 3000ME didn’t start until 1979.
Today’s Rare Ride is a beautiful teal cabriolet from 1969. With automatic and right-hand drive, it’s priced in the UK upon request.
ToolGuy on Jan 28, 2021
"The chassis was assembled by AC and then shipped to Frua in Italy where the hand-built bodies were fitted... The conjoined body and chassis went back to England, where AC installed the interior and mechanicals." Lesson from history: If your body assembly process crosses international borders, you are going to have some inefficiencies. (Ideally, try to keep it within one building.) A more recent example: https://www.hemmings.com/stories/article/1987-93-cadillac-allante
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