A superb 1968 AC 428 Spider by Frua, which was first owned by Formula 1 and motorsport team boss Rob Walker, is heading to auction with RM Sotheby’s at its Monterey sale this weekend (12-14 September).
In the early days of Formula 1, numerous privateer teams went head to head with the big manufacturers for the chance of winning the World Championship. One such privateer team to achieve great success was the Rob Walker Racing Team, which was founded by Rob Walker in 1953.
Walker’s racing efforts are the stuff of legends and the drivers that raced for him were the finest of their day. Great names such as Tony Brooks, Tony Rolt, Jack Brabham, Stirling Moss, Jochen Rindt and Graham Hill all raced under the Walker team banner. His teams most famous victory came with Stirling Moss at the wheel of the Lotus 18 at the 1961 Monaco Grand Prix, a race often described as one of Moss’ finest.
By the late 1960s Rob Walker had enjoyed many years at the top of motorsport and as the heir to the Johnnie Walker Whiskey empire, he could acquire any motorcar he desired. So in 1968 he purchased an AC 428 Spider, which was handed over to him by AC Cars boss Derek Hurlock at the Thames Ditton factory.
When the AC 428 was launched in 1965, it proved an attractive marriage of British chassis design, coupled with American V8 power and a sumptuous Italian body. By the 1960s AC Cars fortunes had improved considerably thanks to the visit of a certain Carrol Shelby to Thames Ditton in 1961. The rest is history and the collaboration between the British and American entities lead to the creation of a stylish and powerful GT.
At the heart of the AC 428 was the Ford 428 big-block V8 engine, hence its name. It shared the same powerplant as the “427” Cobras and was rated at 335 horsepower, making it one of the most powerful sports car offered for sale in Britain.
For the styling AC Cars turned to Italian coachbuilders Frua, who crafted the beautiful bodywork of the GT and Spider variants. Pietro Frua was the chief designer and the styling he chose was a superb example of a 1960s GT. Often referred to as the AC Frua, a total of 81 examples were built, of which just 30 were Spiders. Production of the AC 428 series ended in 1973.
With styling that had similarities to the Maserati Mistral and the rare Monteverdi GT, plus performance to match its good looks, it is easy to see why the AC 428 caught the eye of Rob Walker. The AC Cobra was causing a sensation across the Atlantic and the application of some of that magic to a British GT was a clever move. Thanks to is Italian styling and low production numbers, it made for a distinguished choice for the motorsport boss.
When it left the factory the Ford 7.oltr V8, which was mated to the Ford C6 3-speed automatic transmission and a limited-slip differential, made the 428 Spider one of the most powerful convertibles of its era. There is little doubt it would have transported Walker from one race circuit to another in effortless comfort.
Currently being sold by RM Sotheby’s at its Monterey sale, the 428 Frua is one of a collection of other AC cars that formed part of the Feldman Collection. The Spider is finished in red (it may originally have been painted white) with a black leather interior. The listing notes the original engine was replaced, possibly in period by AC Cars and a later owner installed air conditioning.
It was displayed at Pebble Beach in 1990 where it took 2nd in Class. The year after that it took home class wins at the Hillsborough and Forest Grove Concours d’Elegance. And in 1993 it took part in the 6th Concorso Italiano at Quail Lodge California.
With such a fantastic connection to Rob Walker, this attractive and rare British Spider is certain to catch the attention of bidders when it crosses the auction block this weekend. With 36 year passing since it was last taxed on UK roads, it would be fitting for the AC 428 Spider to return to its home country, where it would be welcomed at numerous concours and historic motorsport events.
The 1968 AC 428 Spider by Frua carries an auction estimate of $350,000 – $400,000 and is offered without reserve. More details can be found on the RM Sotheby’s website.