Brian Lister was the son of a wealthy industrialist. He, like many did, entered motor racing with his own creation and first raced an MG engined Cooper chassis in 1951. This was soon replaced by a Tojeiro chassis with an air-cooled Jap motorcycle engine. It immediately impressed and Lister seriously considered marketing the racer, although several bugs still needed to be ironed out. During one of the races in the Tojeiro-Jap, he was nearly beaten by a young Archie Scott Brown in a much slower MG TD. This was even more remarkable considering the serious birth defects the Scotsman suffered, which left him with only one fully functional hand.
Lister quickly realised that his business could move ahead quicker if he concentrated on building the cars and having Scott Brown race them. This bought Lister some time to turn his ideas for a brand new racing car into metal. Having had little experience in designing racing cars, it was not surprising that his first go at it was utterly conventional with a basic ladder frame made up of two large tubular members. Suspension was by double wishbones at the front and a DeDion axle at the rear. The relatively high unsprung weight of the DeDion axle was compensated by moving the rear brakes inboard. An MG engine was fitted and the rolling chassis was covered by a Brian Lister designed bodywork.
In 1954 the MG engine was replaced by a more powerful Bristol two litre straight six, which debuted victoriously at Silverstone, beating the more potent Jaguar C-Types. Scott Brown continued to impress on the British Isles, but he was refused an international license and for example could not take part in a Formula 1 race at Monza with Connaught. There was one F1 entry in the British Grand Prix, where he set the fastest lap, but his future lay in sports cars.
In 1955 and 1956 Lister experimented with various engines and also seriously considered Formula 2 racing. Following the devastating fire at the Jaguar competitions department in February 1957 and their subsequent retirement from international racing meant a turn for the better for Lister as the highly potent D-Type engines would become available for customers. The chassis was adapted to accept the Jaguar engine and a now legendary Lister Jaguar combination was born. Now matching the competition's power, the works Lister was easily the quickest car of the 1957 season and Scott Brown won eleven of the fourteen races he contested in, often humiliating factory machines like the new Aston Martin DBR1s and DBR2s. Understandably this success grabbed the attention of potential customers and Lister started with the production of privateer cars. To cope with the added power the chassis tubes were of a slightly wider diameter, but other than that little changed to the initial design drawn up in 1953.
Available with or without the Jaguar engine installed, the Listers were clothed in a tightly wrapped aluminium body with prominent bulges to clear the wheels, giving them the nick-name 'Knobbly'. The other engines available were Maserati's three litre six cylinder, a three litre version of the D-Type engine and the American Chevrolet V8. Tragically in 1958, Scott Brown was killed in a racing accident. However, thanks in no small part to Scott Brown's successes the demand for Listers was high and although there were complaints about the lack of top speed, victories were scored on both sides of the Atlantic. To cure the high speed problems, Lister commissioned aerodynamics expert Frank Costin to design a more slippery body. This new design was debuted late in 1958 and equipped to all production Listers for 1959 of which there were approximately eleven built in total.
This car presented for sale is one of the very last Costin bodied cars and was ordered by Carrol Shelby for an American client. Shelby remembered that it was intended that a Maserati engine would be fitted but after a long delay an American V8 unit was installed. The bodywork actually holds some unique features in the area around the top of the bonnet which is evidence to the exotic V8 that was once previously fitted! One of the period owners of the car was Woody Herman, one of the great swing era band leaders and amongst the most influential Jazz musicians of all time.
The car returned to the UK in the 1980's and today is fitted with a favourable 3.8 Litre correct spec Jaguar unit with dry sump lubrication system, a wide angle head and a set of the proper period 45DCO3 carburettors. The car has recently undergone a complete rebuild by a renowned Lister expert putting the car in front running and on the button condition. The car is eligible for many events including the Goodwood revival (where it competed in 2011 prior to its rebuild), The 50's Sports car series, The Stirling Moss Trophy and 2013's Le Mans 24 Hours "Legends" support race. This is certainly a race winning car in the right hands.
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