Insight: British history meets Italian flair

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AC survives and (hopefully) thrives at Brooklands. With styling from Zagato, its new model should fly

By rights, the AC marque should be just another remnant of Britain’s motoring past; one more brand that went the way of the dodo. A degree of confusion surrounds the brand, with cars being variously manufactured in Germany, South Africa and the UK, ever since AC’s Maltese operation ended in 2007. Somehow the marque is still hanging on in there and a genuine revival may be on the cards. The arrival of the striking new 378 GT Zagato in March at the Geneva Motor Show hints at a brighter future. What’s more, this bold vision may be just a prelude.

Steve Gray of the Brooklands Motor Company, and head of the AC Heritage Division, says: “Our specialities are the aluminium-bodied cars and the conservation of existing ACs. We manufacture the 289, 289 FiA, 427 and the 427sC models. We have an official factory archive and display cars and artefacts at the Brooklands Museum. We are also currently working on the AC 378 GT Zagato.”

Derived in part from the Perana Show teaser which appeared on the Zagato stand at Geneva in 2009, this dramatic-looking coupé was penned by the Milan firm’s design chief Nori Harada. Power comes from a 6.2-litre gm V8 tuned to produce 434bhp, and cars will be constructed in south Africa by an operation that also acted as subcontractor to Noble. Top speed is said to be in the region of 185mph, with 0-60mph taking less than four seconds. A proposed list price will likely be in the region of £110,000. Composite Cobrastyle roadsters with, whisper it, Chevrolet power are also available via Germany’s AC Automotive, and a new affordable sports car – possibly bearing the Ace moniker – has also been mooted.

AC’s link with an Italian design consultancy is in keeping with a brand that engaged Pietro Frua to pen the 428 model which went on sale in 1965. Zagato also bodied an AC Acebristol with a handsome coupé outline which was owned by grand Prix star Jo Siffert for a brief spell in the ’60s so there is a link between the two venerable firms, however slight. The new strain, however, is tilting at altogether larger numbers even if AC itself is staying mum on what those numbers might be.

“The Zagato prototype is currently being evaluated by us in the uK and will go on sale here later on this year,” Gray says. “So far the response has been positive: the prototype was demonstrated at the goodwood Festival of Speed. We plan to sell the Zagato from our heritage base at Brooklands and we are taking steps to ensure our products meet the expectations of customers old and new. We want to create a ‘team AC’ spirit for enthusiasts.”

Richard Heseltine

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