Rare Rides: The Beautiful 1969 AC Frua Cabriolet

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

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.

[Image: AC]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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  • ToolGuy 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

    • Art Vandelay Art Vandelay on Jan 30, 2021

      I love the fact that at one point in their history, GM had the stones to build the Allante. These cars sum up most of what I both like and hate about GM in one car. Great design, the guts to bring it to market, but let down by the materials they were shoving into cars at the time and until they got the Northstar (its own issues, but you wouldn't have known those yet if buying this new), a lackluster powertrain. Still, I've always had a wierd soft spot for them.

  • Dave M. IMO this was the last of the solidly built MBs. Yes, they had the environmentally friendly disintegrating wiring harness, but besides that the mechanicals are pretty solid. I just bought my "forever" car (last new daily driver that'll ease me into retirement), but a 2015-16 E Class sedan is on my bucket list for future purchase. Beautiful design....
  • Rochester After years of self-driving being in the news, I still don't understand the psychology behind it. Not only don't I want this, but I find the idea absurd.
  • Douglas This timeframe of Mercedes has the self-disintegrating engine wiring harness. Not just the W124, but all of them from the early 90's. Only way to properly fix it is to replace it, which I understand to be difficult to find a new one/do it/pay for. Maybe others have actual experience with doing so and can give better hope. On top of that, it's a NH car with "a little bit of rust", which means to about anyone else in the USA it is probably the rustiest W124 they have ever seen. This is probably a $3000 car on a good day.
  • Formula m How many Hyundai and Kia’s do not have the original engine block it left the factory with 10yrs prior?
  • 1995 SC I will say that year 29 has been a little spendy on my car (Motor Mounts, Injectors and a Supercharger Service since it had to come off for the injectors, ABS Pump and the tool to cycle the valves to bleed the system, Front Calipers, rear pinion seal, transmission service with a new pan that has a drain, a gaggle of capacitors to fix the ride control module and a replacement amplifier for the stereo. Still needs an exhaust manifold gasket. The front end got serviced in year 28. On the plus side blank cassettes are increasingly easy to find so I have a solid collection of 90 minute playlists.