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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)

4,008 Posts
I can vouch for driving a similar car... if you buy the Iconic Roadster, you don't drive it like a daily car or even like a regular sports car...

The quote below is something that was specific to replica Cobra roadsters but I'm guessing much of the "experience" part will be true for this car as well but a good number of points made in the quote is quite true from my own experience:

With a Cobra Replica you have to remind yourself that you are driving a hand made race car on the street. There is no compromise for anything other than pure speed. These cars are brutal and unforgiving, with all the refinement of a medieval battle ax. Like being in a relationship with an exotic dancer, you can never take anything for granted. These cars don't have millions of miles of testing refinement before you get yours. For any trip longer than an hour, you need earplugs, and goggles, and carry Advil and eye drops. You will need to learn to "read" the clouds for rain in your path, and have experience in unwrapping your frozen fingers from the MotoLita. You will experience lady passengers "wetting" the passenger seat when you merge into traffic from an on ramp, and then nearly burn their calf getting out of the car.

You will have all the invisibility of a burning Hindenburg, and flee from underground parking lots when uncountable car alarms are screaming your departure. When you shop, you will remind yourself that these cars get more attention than a dead body in a parking lot.

With a power to weight ratio better than almost every super car, you will find your 1/4 mile times traction rather than power limited. On the other hand, when you stage, out of the corner of your helmet's visor you will see almost the entire audience lining up at the fence, most with cameras up. If you track on a road course with a Porsche club, owners of expensive German machines will come to the fence to watch you power out in smoking oversteer. You won't even try to start your engine in the garage, but push it out onto the driveway, else your loyal watch dog will croak from the exhaust fumes. If you idle next to other "sports" cars at a traffic light, by the green, their girlfriend will be coughing green phlegm into her hanky, yelling at her date to just go! When you refuel, you might as well prop the "bonnet" open, because you are going to have to show your motor to just about every other guy there. When you order your wings at Hooters, your waitress will whisper in your ear "take me for a ride." When you stop at the red light, the girl in the convertible next to you will invite you to "take my top off too."

When you slowly pass a troop of Harley riders, they will look over and give you thumbs up. When you want to ease out into traffic, other cars will immediately pause to let you go ahead of them. When your engine has its hot, crackling, intimidating exhaust side pipe aimed right at the flank of the GTO, or the Z28, your exhaust pulsation's slowly unscrewing his lug nuts, the other car will remain motionless, as if the slightest quiver of his car will cause your car to stomp it dead. When you leave it open in a parking lot, and come back to find your sunglasses and cell phone still sitting on the tunnel, it is because your car has sullenly warned those who came over to admire it "touch me and I will rise up here and kill you dead."

When you put that tiny silver key into the ignition, and begin your start countdown, your car will whisper "take me for granted, and I will kill you."

When other drivers just hop in and snap up their belts while backing out of their parking space, you will still have two more minutes before you even get all the Simpsons properly on and snugged down. Pulling up in a Cobra Replica is like landing an F4U at an ultralite convention.

In summary, very, very few drivers want this kind of attention, or can tolerate all that a formidable Cobra Replica demands. These cars are intolerant mistresses.

But remember, there will come a day when you have to hang up your car keys for the last time. And perhaps you want to say then "I did it."
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