Heading the charge is the new AC Mk6, a wider, restyled version of the classic Cobra revealed here in official sketches by designer Ron Saunders. Also destined for production is a coupé version, the Mamba, and an entry-level V6-powered soft-top Ace. ‘Now is the right time to expand our range and with our major markets of the US and Europe in mind we are developing production plans for new models,’ said Alan Lubinsky, AC’s chairman.
Plans for three new ACs, styled by Saunders, were first revealed three years ago, but they were put on hold when AC hit financial problems and moved production from the UK to Malta. The Mamba was meant to be shown at the 2001 London Motor Show, but the show was cancelled.
Last month the Malta factory shipped the first of 200 Mk5 cars to the US, prompting Lubinsky to re-launch AC’s expansion plans. The three new models will be based on a new spaceframe version of the AC Cobra’s tubular steel chassis, and clothed in a composite body. The new structure will reduce weight and add stiffness to the wider body.
To give extra elbow room in the narrow cabin and improve handling, the Mk6 will be 152mm wider, the track will increase by 100mm and the cabin will gain an extra 50mm, while the 2286mm wheelbase and overall length of 4000mm will remain unchanged. Power will come from a 4.6-litre Ford V8 with 300bhp and driving the rear wheels through a Tremec six-speed gearbox. The wishbone suspension will also remain largely unchanged, except for spring and damper revisions.
Assuming AC can develop the new models in time, Lubinsky plans to start production in the US in July 2006 with either the Mk6 or Mamba. UK cars will be supplied from Malta, starting around 2007, while a new factory in Connecticut will supply the US. ‘In 2006/7, we should be building 300 AC-badged cars in the US and by 2009/10 that could be 880 per year,’ said Lubinsky. He also said AC has received help from the Department of Economic and Community development in Connecticut to establish production in the US, and he has signed a ‘letter of intent’ on a new factory.
A new company, AC Cars Manufacturing (USA), will be set-up with capital of around $5m (£2.75m) and jointly owned 50:50 between AC and a consortium of partners, said to include specialist dealers and suppliers.