First Drive: 2012 Iconic AC Roadster

We were able to goose the Roadster through the cones without getting all sloppy, at one high point grabbing third gear in the six-speed Tremec manual transmission. The chassis -- steel tubing with a carbon-fiber tub for the passenger compartment and aluminum honeycombs at strategic points -- stayed nice and flat. On the skidpad portion of the course, the Roadster understeered most predictably. But even with the tires'Little Rhody-sized contact area -- P275/35 ZR18 front and P325/30 ZR19 rear -- the discerning right foot could add about 1500 rpm to bring the rear end around. Within the brutality, deftness is possible.

Meanwhile, it should be noted that we did ride shotgun on a relatively languid 125-mph lap around the proving grounds' oval; aside from the underhood perturbations, the cockpit stayed serene enough for high tea.

Additional solid substance is provided by the Brembo brakes with 14-inch carbon-ceramic rotors; by the front- and rear-control-arm suspension with pushrod-actuated, horizontally mounted coils and dampers in front, vertically mounted in rear; and by the rack-and-pinion steering gear of which the rack, the pinion, and the housing are all purpose built.

Although the cockpit is rather bare except for the leather trim, an unexpected wow factor comes from gauges with needles that change color. Glowing green at lower revs, they turn yellow in the middle and red above redline.

More than a test bed for VEEDIMS, the Iconic AC Roadster encompasses bouquets of original ideas while also highlighting precision and quality. And it emphasizes the driver. Yes, you, maybe a passenger, 800 hp, and a chassis worthy of a major racing series. Can you keep it straight on the exit of a turn? There's no electronic intervention if you can't.

Comparisons to Tesla are implied. It's like the Hoover Dam versus a backyard weir, like Smokin' Joe Frazier the heavyweight versus Bill Shoemaker the jockey.

Even factoring in the price difference, we'll take computer guy Claudio Ballard over computer guy Elon Musk.

3 of 3
not 1/2 bad
Agreed. I love (almost) everything that Carroll Shelby touches, but not many people will be able to enjoy or pay for something like this. You could get a kit car and do anything you want to it......
I see no point of another replica of the AC Cobra, especially at this price. The technology is interesting but not too different than what is being used by Painless in most of the replica cars anyway. The fit and finish are worth something but its market is definately narrow.

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