The cars we loved.
The Frua, sometimes called the AC 428, was AC’s first real stab at a modern GT car. Based on the Cobra and built in limited numbers via a complicated process that included trips to the Italian coachbuilder Fura for body work, then back to England for final assembly. The Fura was superior to the brute Cobra in many ways, but was overshadowed by it due to its limited numbers high price and the Cobra’s never-ending popularity.
The overall look was reminiscent to Ferrari or Iso designs by Pinfinarra or Giugiaro if not as graceful. The steel bodies were hand-built over a tubular frame, much like other exotics from Europe, or more precisely Italy. It was initially available in coupe or convertible versions.
As an international effort, the Frua was typical of the cross-pollination going on during the late 60’s and early 70’s when European makers sought engineering aspects across borders to create interesting cars. The Frua was a blend of English engineering, Italian design and good olde American muscle. All Frua’s came from a stretched version of the Cobra 427 chassis.
The Frua, like the Cobra featured a highly reliable Ford V8. In the Frua, the 427 V8 produced 345 hp. The Frua used a 4 speed manual transmission from the Cobra or an optional Ford 3 speed automatic, furthering its reliability. With its adjustable suspension, power disc brakes and big V8, the Frua stacked up well against its hot-blooded competition from Italy.
Unlike those cars, the Frua had a race inspired fully independent suspension. The resulting performance meant a top speed of 140 mph and a 0 to 60 time of 6.2 seconds could be achieved in the comfortable semi-queite leather and woodgrained cabin. The Ford V8 made the Frua stand out further with class leading torque. At one point, 6.4 and 7 litre V8s were fitted with as much as 400 hp.
The car was not without its problems, mostly heat from the enormous engine seeping into the cabin. The biggest problem was AC itself. The company was falling on hard times and could not properly refine the Frua or even produce enough of them to keep up with potential demand. The high cost incurred by the disjointed manufacturing process pushed the price beyond offerings from its Italian competition. The well-heeled wanted names with a more sporting predigee when spending twice the cost of a Jaguar E-Type.
There was even a four door model produced, the rarest of all Furas. Despite almost 10 years in production, the Frua lacked the refinement that comes with further development. AC simply was in no position to spend money enhancing the Frua due to its high development and production costs. Before collectors started going wild for all things 70’s, Fruas were being scrapped and converted in to Cobras, a strange practice considering that the Frua was a much more refined car. The rarity of the Frua has boosted its value over time and ended that practice as kits were available to build replicas of Cobras. When new parts were available at Ford dealers, but now are almost impossible to find if not engine related.
Even with its growing popularity among collectors, the Frua is still overshadowed by the evergreen Cobra (even as a knoc- off kit). For that reason alone many new auto enthusiasts might never know of the Frua as existing examples are likely to tucked away in museums or collectors garages.