There might be a yawning gap between the 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 MkIII and the 1986 AC MkIV, but only because AC had moved on. Following the final few MkIII 289s came the Frua-styled 428 and AC 3000ME, but neither sold well.
Meanwhile AC Thames Ditton refused to service and repair older Cobras, thereby missing a golden opportunity. Brian Angliss’ Cobra Parts operation became a major beneficiary, gaining a reputation for quality work. Over time he picked up enough original tooling to fabricate new aluminium bodies.
In 1982 the business evolved to become Autokraft, and started building the MkIV. Initially production was shipped to the USA, and once the car was Federalised it proved relatively popular. In 1986 the Hurlock family finally sold its controlling interest in AC and ownership passed to a partnership between Autokraft and Ford. A more suitable custodian for the AC marque is hard to imagine.
The MkIV was as close as you could get to a new original car. It was powered by a 351ci Ford Windsor V8 (later models had the 302 with 250bhp) and constructed using the original jigs and body bucks, and each car took 2300 hours to build.
Performance from the first 215bhp cars wasn’t exactly sparkling, but that didn’t stop Ford granting Angliss the rights to use the Cobra name on his cars outside the USA.
John Norris’ concours example (above) highlights just how well-made – and beautifully painted – these Angliss-era cars are, and his keenness to use his MkIV properly is very evident. ‘My wife Dee and I went on our honeymoon in ours, competing in The Jewel that is Jordan rally. It performed faultlessly in the 50-degree desert heat.’
However, some traditionalists thought that the Ford-style switchgear and comfort features weren’t fully in keeping with the stripped-out ethos of the original Cobra. Responding to demand from potential customers who wanted more genuine period feel, Angliss developed the Lightweight version, which was subsequently built to special order at well over £100,000 each. Between 1990 and 1993, 26 were built.
The Lightweight hit the market late, as the global recession took hold. Its price suddenly looked too high and sales took a nosedive, leading AC into financial difficulties.
On the track Roger Flintoff’s car (ABW 55E) is noticeably livelier than a standard MkIV. ‘The only downside is that after a long run it feels like you’ve spent a couple of hours in a wind tunnel listening to Led Zeppelin,’ smiles Roger.
Acceleration: 0-60mph 5.5/4.1sec
Number built: 494