Autocar: AC Cobra 378 Superblower MkIV 2021 UK Review
1st April 2021
Reborn 1960s icon controversially swaps to Chevrolet power – but is every bit as fun as its forebears.
What is it?
It’s the most powerful-ever version of the fearsome and famed AC Cobra, the Anglo-American icon that’s been in and out of production for the best part of 60 years. Packing a 580bhp supercharged V8, this muscle-bound slice of 1960s sports car is the latest arrival from a revitalised AC brand that celebrates its 120th anniversary this year.
Following a naturally aspirated 378 Cobra that made its debut three years ago, this Superblower is the new flagship of a range that also includes a recently revealed, and bang-on trend, all-electric version. Like these versions, the Superblower’s chassis and body are built at the firm’s factory in South Africa, before being shipped to the UK, where the drivetrain is installed, the finishing touches are added and the car is submitted for its individual type approval.
While it looks largely like the ’60s original, there have been some significant changes for this latest iteration. For instance, like all Cobra models, the Superblower’s curvaceous body is actually formed from composite rather than aluminium. Purists may be up in arms about this approach (it adds around 20kg to the kerb weight but saves tens of thousands on the list price), but the finish of the composite body is flawless, with lustrous paint and the sort of tight panel gaps that would shame some series production cars.
Another change that’s likely to have the aficionados reeling is that there’s no Ford engine under the bonnet. Instead, AC has chosen the tried-and-tested LSA V8 from the Chevrolet Corvette, the very car that the Blue Oval was out to beat when it collaborated with AC to create the Cobra all those decades ago. Packing a hefty 580bhp and rippling 555lb ft of torque, it drives the rear wheels through a Tremec six-speed manual gearbox and limited-slip differential.
As with the bodywork, installation of the engine is superbly done. It’s a tight fit, but the fabrication on display under the bonnet is first rate, while the plumbing and wiring is neatly arranged. Yet the highlight is a pair of hand-crafted and polished manifolds for the side exit exhausts, which have something of a sculptural quality to them.
More familiar is the ladder frame chassis, largely because it's much the same design as that used on the first MkIV models launched in the 1980s. Formed from four-inch steel tubing, it’s fairly basic in its layout but it’s well finished and gets an extensive powder coating treatment to ward off any potential rot.
The suspension is an update of the MkIV’s too, with independent multi-link front and rear axles that feature Bilstein coil spring and damper units and anti-roll bars front and rear. AC says the geometry and spring and damper rates can be tuned to taste, but our car has been set up for fast road use. Finally, nestling behind the gorgeous, period-correct 15in pin drive alloys are race-specification callipers that clamp ventilated discs all round.
AC has also worked hard on the fit and finish of the interior of the Superblower, and it shows. It’s fairly basic inside (although air conditioning is standard), but it has a special look and feel as a result of its hand-stitched leather bucket seats, a gorgeous aluminium three-spoked wheel and a generous smattering of Smiths dials, which are suitably chrome-ringed and feature white-on-black faces. Only the modern Volkswagen stalks spoil the retro vibe, but they’re well integrated and easier to use than their spindly predecessors.