Even as AC prospered thanks to Carroll Shelby’s Cobras, Derek Hurlock dreamed of a sophisticated Anglo-American GT, something not unlike the Italian Iso Grifo. He planned to combine the proven Cobra chassis with an American V-8 and an Italian body. Hurlock contacted Pietro Frua in Italy, who suggested a design he had basically already sold to Maserati as the Mistral, and also to Monteverdi. AC’s version would be dubbed the 428.
The Cobra’s tube-frame chassis was lengthened six inches, but retained the adjustable suspension and used the less-sophisticated 428 cubic inch Ford V-8 instead of the side-oiler 427. The resulting 345 bhp, 3,155 pound “Gentleman’s Express” could do 0-60 mph in 6 seconds, and had a top speed of 145 mph while delivering appalling, sub-10 mpg fuel consumption. An estimated 49 coupes, 29 convertibles, and three specials were built between 1965 and 1973, when the energy crisis finished it off.
The first 428 was a convertible and shown at the Earls Court Motor Show in 1965, but it took a year for production to begin, by which time a gorgeous fastback coupe had been added. The 428 featured four-wheel disc brakes, all-round independent suspension with coil springs and rack-and-pinion steering. Power steering was not offered, and knock-off wire wheels were chosen instead of alloys.
AC shipped the frames to Italy to be bodied by Frua, and they were returned to the the AC factory at Thames Ditton, west of London, to be fitted with the Ford powertrain and (usually) a Ford automatic transmission. Enthusiasts joked that the cars travelled so much during production, they were out of warranty by the time they were sold. This slow and laborious arrangement accounted for the small number of cars constructed – and also made them more expensive than even an Aston Martin DB6. The plus-side for the customer, though, was perhaps summed up best by Autocar, who said that “like anything exclusive, especially from craftsmen, it costs a lot of money. For this you get one of the fastest cars on the road, guaranteed to make an impression anywhere, and backed by a small company who cars.”
Sales were disappointing, but production was slow, anyway. Buyers tended to be conservative and though the survival rate is not high, some well-maintained cars remain in the hands of families of careful owners. The 428 outlasted the Mistral by three years, but there were 10 times as many of the Maseratis built and a mere handful of Monteverdis. Some glass is said to be common to the 428, Mistral and Monteverdi.
The 428 falls in between two camps. It lacks the brutal magic of the Cobras but it isn’t quite Italian enough without a high-revving V12 alloy engine. As is typical with Italian coachbuilding, rust is an ever-present threat in the body, so check the sills and the cowl/fender intersections. A detailed pre-purchase examination is essential, and must include a thorough check underneath. All-in-all, it’s surprising that more 428s have not been converted to Cobras, which are worth about five times as much, and cannot be confused with anything else.