What is it?
The 2012 Iconic AC Roadster is a beast of a little roadster and not just another Cobra knock-off. For $475,000, it probably shouldn't be. The Iconic AC Roadster is built in Livonia, Mich., under license from AC Cars in the United Kingdom, and each one will be entered in AC Cars' century-old build registry. The AC Roadster is an interesting combination of craftsmanship, leading-edge technology and balls-out, throwback craziness.
The engine is built by Ernie Elliott in Dawsonville, Ga. It starts as an aluminum 427-cid Ford NASCAR block, with mostly forged steel innards. The fuel injection and eight-butterfly intake manifold were developed by Iconic, and it ends with 750 hp at the rear wheels. There are no stability electronics to help manage those ponies and no ABS.
The craftsmanship and technology? Start with the impeccably fabricated steel tube frame and bonded carbon-fiber tub. The aluminum bodywork pays homage to the AC Ace, with drastically improved aerodynamics. Most components are CNC-milled from billet aluminum and connected with aeronautic-grade fasteners. The pushrod front suspension has horizontal shocks. The brakes are carbon-ceramic, with lines machined through the frame and suspension wishbones. Lastly, the electrical system: Developer VEEDIMS LLC says it comprises the first Ethernet electrics in an automotive application, with data and electricity carried through the same network, no wiring harness and its own IP address. That allows you to read engine telemetry and performance data on your smartphone.
Iconic was founded by inventor and entrepreneur Claudio Ballard, whose Data Treasury Corp. owns the patents for systems the banking industry uses for secure check transfer. Automotive development and fabrication know-how come from Robert Nowakowski, president of Technosports Inc.--best known for its contribution to the Ford GT and Shelby GR-1 concept.
Iconic plans to begin a 100-unit run of catalyst-equipped, federally certified AC Roadsters in January. The base price will not include a top but does include instruction from the primary development driver--former Grand-Am Daytona Prototype champion Terry Borchellor.
How's it drive?
Like a beast--raucous and megafast. This rear end says a 3.0-second 0-to-60-mph time is no problem. We'd fathom that there's more than 1 g in the AC Roadster laterally, or under acceleration in a straight line, and a lot more under hard braking.
The V8 is more tractable, less cammy, than any vintage 427, and the tires are extra fat with sticky, heat-resistant modern compounds. But this car is clearly a tribute to an era when men were men. The sidepipes, offered in carbon fiber, are loud by design. As in the original Ace, the footwells are narrow. The three pedals are identically shaped, offset to the left of driver's center, and spaced just inches apart. Be careful driving this one if you're wearing the wing-tips. Clutch effort is really firm and there's no vacuum boost for the brakes, so make sure you press the middle pedal hard.
And there's no new-fangled stability control to help manage ZR-1-plus torque in a car that is feather light by contemporary standards, rolling on a 98-inch wheelbase. It's just you, your tootsies and your touch. Steering is quarter-lock quick and pure in its feedback, and the weight is biased slightly rearward. All of that means that, if you're good, you can make the AC Roadster do just about anything you want it to do: push, track neutral, drift or slide opposite-lock. If you're not so good, well . . .
Do I want it?
Yeah, or maybe, depending on how large your stable or how deep your pockets. We had minimal seat time at Ford's Dearborn Proving Grounds but we can say this with reasonable assurance: If you want to thrill yourself, or impress your friends, the Iconic AC Roadster can deliver more dizzying, gut-wrenching sensation than most anything this side of a Bugatti Veyron.
Iconic envisions the car being a daily driver in the right climate, and maybe it could be. But we can't envision the circumstances we'd want it in that role. The Iconic AC Roadster is best left for track day or reserved for some seriously rip-roaring Sunday drives.
2012 Iconic AC Roadster
On Sale: January 2011
Price: $475,000 (projection)
Layout: Two-passenger, front mid-engine, rear-drive roadster
Drivetrain: 7.0-liter cam-in-block V8, 800-plus hp, 660 lb-ft; six-speed manual transmission
Curb Weight: 2,400 lb (est)
Performance: 0-60 mph, sub-3.0 sec; 200-mph top speed (mfr)