Barrett-Jackson 2013: 2012 AC 378 GT Zagato

South Africa is famous for a lot of things: soccer, diamonds, and Nelson Mandela. But it’s definitely the last place on Earth that comes to mind when I think about supercars. And yet, that’s exactly what I saw at Barrett-Jackson 2013: a South African supercar.

Designed in Italy by Zagato, the car was first seen in 2009 and was called the “Perana Z-One.” It disappeared for a while and now it’s back, with a new name and a new set of badges. The car is entering production as the AC 378 GT Zagato, and it is truly a global effort.

Though the car was designed in Italy, it is powered by an American LS3 V8 engine from General Motors and built in South Africa by Hi-Tech Automotive. The US Distributor is Hillbank Motorsports in California.

This car is a 2-door coupe that features some interesting styling cues. It bears some resemblance to a Jaguar E-Type, with its comically long nose and a low slung roofline with very short glass. The small passenger compartment places the seat of your pants almost directly over the rear axle.

At the front, there are long, droopy headlights that look like a Porsche 911 that’s been melted a bit. The oval grille looks a lot like an original AC Cobra from the 1960s. The bottom of the front bumper and the fenders have large, elongated vents that look like gills on a fish. I can see where the original name “Perana” came from!

At the rear, the body lines of the car flow nicely into a spoiler lip around the edge of the, ehm, trunk? That may not be the right word to use, as the rear window glass pretty much stops, leaving no semblance of a decklid. The back end is awkwardly high off the ground, especially compared to the super low front end. There is no rear bumper to speak of, and the dual exhaust exits through the body.

Overall it is not a bad looking car, but it looks much more organic than the muscular, chiseled appearances of the Corvette and the Viper.

If the looks don’t win you over, the performance might. The 378 GT Zagato borrows its 6.2L LS3 V8 engine from the Chevrolet Camaro, and pumps out 437 horsepower at 5900rpm. The whole car weighs just 3,230 lbs – about 500 lbs less than the Camaro. The manufacturer says it can do 0-60mph in under 4 seconds and a top speed of approximately 185 mph.

The car starts at about $78,000 USD – right up there with the Corvette and the Viper. I’m not sure if this South African supercar will catch on, but if the company can avoid the typical problems of a small car maker (build quality and cash flow) then I think they have a good chance.