1959 Lister-Chevrolet

Darin Schnabel ©2015, courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

Numerous privateer racing drivers got it in their mind to build their own car in the 1950s, with each experiencing varying degrees of luck on the track. Brian Lister had the money and the engineering know-how, so his first racing car, which was built in the mid-1950s with the able assistance of Don Moore and Archie Scott-Brown, was an incredible success, collecting a 1st- or 2nd-place finish wherever it roamed. Its success with MG and Bristol was such that Lister soon had the financial backing of Shell/BP, as well as a deal with Jaguar to supply engines for a car that would be capable of winning the World Sports Car Championship.

The result, the Lister-Jaguar, was also a world-beater, and it was eventually developed into the now-legendary “Knobbly,” nicknamed for its curvaceous but rather bumpy bodywork. Nothing performed like a Knobbly Lister — and nothing quite looked like one either.

Eventually, as often happened in the 1960s, a U.S.-built engine was dropped into a British-built sports car. The result was the Lister-Chevrolet. It boasted hairy performance and was more than competitive, as it became “the car to beat.” The Listers swept the SCCA Championships in 1958 and 1959. Unfortunately, with the success of the Lister-Chevrolet, the “ultimate” Lister came at the end of the company’s life, as production wound down in 1959, after fewer than 50 cars had been produced, only 16 of which were Chevrolet-powered.

The Lister-Chevrolet offered here is chassis number BHL127. In 1959, this example was finished as a Frank Costin-bodied car, and it came with a Chevrolet engine. It was reportedly owned in its early years by Chuck Howard and Tracy Bird, who raced it at such tracks as Road America and Elkhart Lake.

Definitive records on Listers are in short supply for various reasons, and there is no factory documentation available for any car, but this car’s identity as chassis number BHL127 is fortunately supported by the lettering stamped into the chassis, which is in Brian Lister’s unique and instantly identifiable font.

Thor Thorson

Thor Thorson - SCM Contributing Editor

Thor grew up in northern Iowa. His father bought a red Jag XK 150 in the late 1950s, and that was all it took; he has been in love with sports cars , racing cars and the associated adrenaline rush ever since. He has vintage raced for more than 20 years, the bulk of them spent behind the wheel of a blue Elva 7. When he’s not racing, he is president of Vintage Racing Motors Inc., a collector-car dealer and vintage-racing support company based in Redmond, WA. His knowledge runs the full spectrum of vintage racing, and he has put that expertise to good use for SCM since 2003.

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