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Post Info TOPIC: CF 01

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CF 01

CF 1. Convertible. Now automatic. Reg. No. LPH 800 D
Status: Active 2003. Canada.

First prototype with aluminium body.


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"Road & Track" "Driving Impressions" Tony Hogg. Dec. 1966 - CF 1


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-- Edited by Classicus at 12:41, 2009-03-02


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Posts: 266

1. CF 1. LPH 800 D Convertible
Status: Unknown. USA


Updated 4th March 2017


Starred in the "The Avengers". First shown on British TV - 15 January 1969.

Silverstone. Autocar Track Test
Apr. 1967.


This particular car was the sole prototype built by Pietro Frua in Turin and then became the factory demonstrator for AC Cars. Carrying the chassis number CF1 (CF for Carosserie Frua), it made its debut at the 1965 Motor Show at Earl's Court, London and was registered shortly thereafter with the Surrey number LPH800D. It saw very active service in a variety of roles including brochure photography car, test mule and (as the then only available) road test car, with an excellent review in the December 1966 edition of 'Car' magazine, including a particularly moody front cover shot.

Very early on, the car was initially marketed as an AC 427 and the earliest AC produced press material did refer to the car as exactly that, but subsequent cars after CF7 were referred to as 428's, after the capacity of the Ford engine then fitted as standard to all sporting AC's. The 427 'side oiler' was significantly more expensive to source from Dearborn, and AC (or more accurately, Carroll Shelby Automotive) were notorious for occasionally fitting these cheaper 428 'Police Interceptor' units into Cobras unbeknownst to unsuspecting owners; and ultimately all subsequent Frua bodied ACs had this cheaper engine fitted.

On delivery from Frua, the chassis was initially fitted with a manual 'box, though an auto was substituted very early in its life when the car was still in the ownership of AC. In truth the definitive specification of this and indeed any other 428 was very much subject to ongoing tweaks as is so often the case in limited volume production cars. It is rumoured to have been bodied in alloy, rather than the steel for all subsequent production cars, and when the car was advertised for sale in 1970 (see below), the accompanying description did suggest this was indeed the case. It has also been suggested that the car had a slightly smaller 6.2 litre engine fitted too when built, for reasons that remain unclear.

It isn't clear exactly why the 428 was chosen for use in the TV series, though it is well documented that the writing and production team of Brian Clemens and Gordon LT Scott were genuine petrol heads and as a result it's possible they were aware of this new exotic offering from AC, though it would be surprising if the use of the car in the series was anything more than a combination of good timing and a friendly chat with Derek Hurlock and Keith Judd of AC down in Thames Ditton.

Mind you, there were few other more exciting British built high performance sports cars newly launched to the market in 1967, excepting perhaps the Interceptor or FF; Jensen had a well established relationship with Lew Grades' rival production company ITC who produced The Baron, which was also on air at the time of the ABC produced Avengers (though by 1967 it was a couple of years old and featured a rather (by then) old fashioned Jensen C-V8, falsely registered BAR1). The more contemporary factory supplied Interceptors regularly appeared in ITC's 'The Champions', notable for their Sandwell district 'EA' registration numbers. That said, you can quite see John Steed tooling around the Hertfordshire countryside in HEA4D, the first production FF!

Although still relatively new, LPH800D was in fact quite battle scarred by the time it featured in The Avengers - the passenger side front bumper had a nice ding and you can also spot a big dent in the driver's side door from some camera angles. Following filming in the summer/autumn of '67 it was presumably refreshed and then sold by AC to its first private owner who had actually wanted a Cobra as a birthday present for his wife, but as production of the home market coil sprung AC 289 Sports by that time had all but ended, they bought this instead, directly from AC Sales Manager Keith Judd and allegedly with no prior knowledge of its small screen fame, which is surprising given The Avengers was at the time the most popular show on British television with regular audience figures of 8 million plus from its peak time Saturday night slot.

In April 1970, the car was advertised in Motor Sport magazine and by that time this owner was well aware of it's former TV role, mentioning somewhat snootily in the ad (complete with a photograph of the car)'for those who care for such things'. The asking price was 3250 and the car had by this time covered 29000 miles and significantly was described as having aluminium bodywork. The owner at that time was a Brenda Messenger, who lived in Ledborough Lane in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire and she claimed that her husband was growing a little too attached to the car for her liking, so she was seeking something 'a little more feminine, such as a Mercedes SL'. I'm not sure how long the car took to sell, but it eventually appeared Stateside in or around 1973. In the long period since the car left the UK, the trail had gone cold and it was widely rumoured to have been broken up to surrender its chassis identity to form the basis of a Cobra clone (or 'air car', as they're referred to by the Shelby American Automobile Club), like a number of other unfortunate 428's (unbelievably this practice continues to this day as the value of genuine Cobras climb ever higher, with at least 5 428's of the total 81 built, known to have suffered this fate).

I fell in love with this car (and more to the point, with Linda Thorson) as a teenage schoolboy back in the early 1980's following Channel 4 re-runs of The Avengers and a subsequent profile of the 428 over two editions of Classic Cars magazine in 1983. I spent the next 20 years desperately trying to trace it to confirm that it had survived. Against all the odds not only had it survived, but it exists completely intact in the USA and remains exactly as it left the factory, with less than 40k miles on the clock, still on its original Avon tyres and sporting its unique metal hood cover, which was not adopted for general production on subsequent 428's. In 2003 it was advertised by long term owner mustangsonline for $120 000, but I'm not sure if it sold though.

With the passing of time, what seemed like an impossible amount of money then now seems like a positive steal - how much is it worth today, should it come to market? Quite possibly $400-500,000 I would venture to suggest given its historical significance...

I find it quite incredible that it actually survives, so perhaps one day I'll finally get to own it. There are a number of excellent photographs of the car on the web site including shots of the car being constructed at Carosserie Frua, Turin during the summer of 1965.

It is true that Steed originally drove the car and it was then quickly passed onto Tara. Actress Linda Thorson couldn't actually drive at the time of filming (though she was having lessons I think). For whatever reason, she didn't take to the car (or more likely that AC just wanted it back, with it being one of a very few 428's in existence at the time and filming being done in distinct slots, rather than in one go presenting a logistical headache), so she moved on initially to a very early Lotus Elan +2 registered NPW999F, followed by a series 1 export only (but right hand drive) Europa, PPW999F, both finished in bright red with black trim and judging by the consecutive registrations, both cars were probably registered at the same time for the express purpose of being Lotus press or customer demonstration cars.

The 428 convertible was officially known as a Drophead Coupe, rather than a spider and yes, Keith Moon did own a white Fixed Head Coupe, registered EMX431J though he's rumoured also to have had a Drophead too, though that remains unsubstantiated and no photographs have yet surfaced. There is a suggestion that Led Zep drummer and utter petrol head John Bonham owned one too, though there may be some confusion here as he certainly owned a 427 Cobra in the mid 1970's that carried the famous 'COB1' registration number. This car was apparently bought from dealer and former Le Mans winner Duncan Hamilton, though the car photographed in Bonzo's biography, written by his brother Mick is a standard bodied 427, rather than the long wheelbase twin turbocharged special that 70's Cobra 'restorer' Brian Angliss subsequently built; and it was this car that was later owned by Cobra specialist Rod Leach of Nostalgia. The Bonham Cobra merely carried the COB1 plate for a time and that number then passed onto the Angliss special at a later point in time.

CF 1 LPH 800D.jpg

Linda Thorson in "The Avengers"

-- Edited by Classicus on Saturday 4th of March 2017 10:44:09 AM

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