If it looks like a Cobra and behaves like a Cobra, it must be a Cobra, right? Not quite…

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Don’t even think the C-word. The LMC MKII FIA isn’t an AC/Shelby Cobra, regardless of what your eyes are telling you.

This puts it in fine company, the Cobra being one of the most copied cars in history, with rival rights-holders having sued at points over official status. But although this car – sold by Le Mans Coupes of West Sussex – isn’t a sanctioned continuation, it offers a very similar driving experience to the original.

The Cobra was born from the marriage of light British bodywork and brutal American power, but it had to evolve throughout its life as it struggled to stay competitive on track, which is why LMC offers cars corresponding with different eras.

You can buy a replica of the early ‘slab-side’ car, a MKIII to represent the late ‘427’ or indeed the MKII FIA, which fits between these extremes, representing what’s often referred to as the ‘289’, with ‘FIA’ referring to changes made for race homolgation.

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So although it’s wider and more muscular than the original, with a sizeable bonnet vent, the MKII FIA sits on the earlier 3in tubular-frame chassis and uses transverse leafspring rear suspension, this linking the top of the hubs on each side.

It certainly feels like an authentic Sixties experience, with heavy control weights and a chassis that makes clear that it has a limited tolerance for any amateur mistakes. This is close to a spot-on replica of what was one of the world’s fastest cars, and although tyre technology has advanced massively since then, there are no active safety features. Therefore the relationship between this car’s 410bhp V8 (a non-original 5.7 litres) and the rear wheels is entirely down to your right foot.

There’s more than enough adhesion to allow rapid progress without undue drama. However, the combination of the unassisted steering’s relatively low gearing and the way the rear axle surrenders grip when pushed soon discourages any inclination to explore the outer reaches of the handling envelope on tight and bumpy back roads. It does feel like it would be a riot on a wide, open race track, though.

A few changes have been made to allow the MKII to pass the IVA test, including discreet exhaust catalysts and a fuel-injection system, albeit one that manages to look like an original set of carburettors. This means there’s none of the low-down lumpiness common to highly tuned carbed engines, and apart from the knee strength needed to work the heavy clutch and the need to muscle the steering when manoeuvring, it’s easy to drive at everyday speeds.

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Even looking like it has just left a pitlane, its suspension is pliant enough for acceptable comfort on lumpy roads. LMC reckons this makes it much more suited to everyday use than the much more aggressive MKIII, and beyond the inevitable buffeting from the lack of a roof or side glazing, it cruises well.

I did find one initially terrifying foible: the heavily offset driving position means the clutch is where your right foot expects to find the brake. However, I soon learned to cover the clutch with my left foot to better orientate the tight footwell.

The MKII may not be a Cobra, but nor is it one of the myriad knock-off ‘Fauxbras’ that have shadowed AC’s icon for the past 60 years. Branding aside, it feels like the real thing.

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Mike Duff

Mike Duff
Title: Contributing editor

Mike has been writing about cars for more than 25 years, having defected from radio journalism to follow his passion. He has been a contributor to Autocar since 2004, and is a former editor of the Autocar website. 

Mike joined Autocar full-time in 2007, first as features editor before taking the reins at autocar.co.uk. Being in charge of the video strategy at the time saw him create our long running “will it drift?” series. For which he apologies.

He specialises in adventurous drive stories, many in unlikely places. He once drove to Serbia to visit the Zastava factory, took a £1500 Mercedes W124 E-Class to Berlin to meet some of its taxi siblings and did Scotland’s North Coast 500 in a Porsche Boxster during a winter storm. He also seems to be a hypercar magnet, having driven such exotics as the Koenigsegg One:1, Lamborghini SCV12, Lotus Evija and Pagani Huayra R.