One from Goodwood

One from Goodwood

Thursday, 14 February 2013

AC Cobra Replicas? Leave The Crazy Cars To Jay Leno

A few years ago, I was a wealthy-ish man, so I completely lost my mind and bought an AC Cobra replica.
Very red. The colour of danger.


It wasn't even a half decent one, made by one of the many specialist Cobra rep companies in the UK, who actually employ skilled designers and automotive engineers. Nope. I bought a used Gravetti; an appalling bit of Del Boy con artistry, put together by a bloke called Nigel back in the late 80s and early 90s.

You live and learn. That's what I thought as I spun merrily out of control, as the ancient Jaguar XJ6 brakes locked up and the Gravetti spun 360 degrees on a country road, before thwacking itself into the kerbing on someone's driveway.

On the upside, I was alive and unhurt. Amazing considering the Gravetti's bodywork was made from cheap fibreglass, with a rollbar set so low that my head stuck out above it. On the downside, I popped a rear tyre and dented the rim hitting the kerb.
Vintage dash featured switches that did nothing. Nice.


Oh well, a £500 bill later and the car was for sale. Best thing for it really, much as I loved the throaty grumble of the 351 cubic inch Ford Cleveland V8 engine, as it guzzled petrol like Oliver Reed at a free wine-tasting party.

That beefy motor was set in a steel ladder chassis - well, I say chassis - it was like a section of Forth rail bridge with old British Leyland parts spot-welded onto its massive spars.

At a rough guess, I would say the Gravetti weighed about 2 tons, handled like an angry shire horse on ketamine and had all the braking power of a Raleigh bicycle. Add in wandering suspension that reacted to bumps in the road by doing a kind of Betty Boop wiggle at the arse end. Imagine the endless fun to be had, by wrestling at the steering wheel once you decided to let loose the bhp and boot the throttle.

Character building stuff. Or just plain stupid.

As my Dad observed when looking at the Gravetti parked on his drive, gently weeping oil from its crunchy transmission - which seemed to be off an old six cylinder Datsun by the way; "That thing will cost you some daft money."
A summer's day, rubbish brakes & a V8 motor. Perfect.


In the end, I lost £3000 on the Gravetti, plus the cost of repairing the cracked wheel rim and a couple of tyres. Plus a new clutch. Oh and some bulbs.

Not too bad when compared to investing in Facebook shares, getting divorced from irate women, or simply betting on red at your local casino.

But it was the fact that the Gravetti almost killed me each of the six times I drove it, which got to me in the end. This car was more scary than a Kawasaki H1 500 triple, or motorcycle road racing at Cadwell Park. Just so unpredictable, utterly deadly.

That's why I say to any car fan, "If you want to own an AC Cobra, or a replica of one, then become rich and famous like Jay Leno. Park your classic car in a Citizen Kane style hangar, drive it a few miles on a sunny day, slowly, then put it away and never speak to me about it. Ever."

I now drive a VW Golf 1.6. Auto.

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