Sold for $1,430,000 at 2013 Bonhams - Quail Lodge Auction.
Chassis #: BHL 115
Engine # 3731548
The Lister-Jaguar has been considered one of the most formidable British racing cars of all time, with the 'Knobbly' perhaps being the most iconic and successful in modern historic racing. The original 'Knobbly' Lister-Jaguar prototype was 'built by a legend, for a legend, and driven by legends'. The unique contours that flowed throughout the curvaceous body earned the car's name 'Knobbly'. The streamlined fenders and headrest resulted in an athletic-appearing racing car that rocked the world when it entered the racing circuit in February of 1958.
The FIA world governing body's decreed a 3-liter capacity limit on Sports Car World championship entrees. Jaguar had introduced their 3-liter XK engine variant to match. U.S. multi-millionaire Briggs Cunningham went along with his technical director, Alfred Momo to Lister's factory in England to review Lister's product. After seeing Lister's design he promptly ordered the first two 1958 production Lister-Jaguars under the specification that they would have 3-liter Jaguar XK engines installed in time for the Sebring 12-Hours World Championship on March 22, 1958. A third chassis was also developed with a Chevrolet V8 engine.
Dubbed chassis 'BHL 101', the first Cunningham car was debuted to the British press at Cambridge in February of 1958. It was met with immediate acclaim, and the muscle-bound 'Knobbly Lister-Jaguar' was born. Much thought went into the design of the body by Brian Lister as he strived to keep FIA 'Appendix C' screen-height regulations and to reduce the frontal section despite the substantial height of the iron-block Jaguar XK engine. The front of the hood featured deeply scalloped areas between the front-wheel clearance wings and a central bulge that held the engine. The cam-box clearance hump ended sharply at the rear to a low-level scuttle, and from that point the windscreen Perspex rose to the required regulation height from well below the general engine height. At the same level as the top of the windscreen was the rear body section deck with broad rear wings that encased the winds and a headrest behind the driver.
Brian Lister drew the design to scale before he took his drawings to Cavendish Morton who produced at artist's impression perspective painting. This drawing was introduced as a 'taster' to the motoring press before the first car was ever built. Williams & Pritchard in Edmonton, North London produced the aluminum body panels for the production run of cars. It was at the suggestion of Len Pritchard, with his extensive wartime aircraft industry experience, that Lister offered 'Knobbly' bodies in either aluminum or magnesium-alloy since panels in magnesium could save half the weight, even though it doubled the price.
Just in time for the Sebring 12-Hours, the two Briggs Cunningham team 'Knobbly' Lister-Jaguars were finished and airfreighted to America. They were prepared for the race by Alfred Momo's mechanics at his Momo Corporation works. They two new 3-liter Lister-Jaguars were then to be co-driven at Sebring by British works star Archie Scott-Brown and the American Walt Hansgen, and by Ed Crawford/Pat O'Conner.
Powering the 'Knobbly' was a 3,785 cc double-overhead cam inline six-cylinder Jaguar engine with four-speed manual synchromesh transmission. It featured coil-spring front suspension with parallel equal length wishbones, coil-spring rear suspension with de Dion tubular axle and four trailing arms and Girling four-wheel disc brakes and had a wheelbase of 90.75 inches.
The 'Knobbly' was the first vehicle that Lister actively marketed since his initial plan had been to build cars and race to advertise his father's wrought-iron company. But the Knobbly made Lister believe that the car could be actually build and sold to make money. This vehicle achieved tons of publicity and was not only heavily photographed, but it also appeared on the front cover and in a feature article of Autosport on February 1958.
The Jaguar-Listers were not only eye-catching, but also incredibly fast during practice, the cars held their own against factory Ferrari and Aston Martin opponents. Snow-white bodies with twin blue centerline stripes, the Jaguar-Lister with Scott-Brown duo placed fifth in the opening two laps behind Roy Salvadori and Stirling Moss's Aston Martins and Phil Hill and Mike Hawthorn in Ferrari Testa Ross V12s.
Unfortunately Scott-Brown's Lister-Jaguar slowed early on lap 4 and the Ferrari carrying Olivier Gendebien rammed the Cunningham car's tail and rode up the left front tire. The Belgian finished second overall while Scott Brown was no longer able to compete after a burned out piston caused the car to decelerate suddenly. The same fate was waiting for the second Cunningham Lister as it suffered identical failure within the first forty-five minutes in the race.
Following Sebring, the two Cunningham team Lister-Jaguars were re-engined immediately with full 3.8-liter power units enlarged and fine-tuned by the Momo Corporation. At the SCCA National Championship race series the two Lister-Jaguar's achieved complete racing success.
Walt Hansgen won at Marlboro on April 20, 1958 in the prototype Cunningham car, and Ed Crawford dominated on May 4 at Danville, Virginia, with Hansgen in second. The Cunningham pair won once again finishing 1-2 in a second race. On May 18 Hansgen and Crawford achieved yet another 1-2 finish at Cumberland airport in team Listers. They once again dominated on June 1 at Bridgehampton on Long Island. On June 15th Walt Hansgen won once again at Lime Rock in a lone Cunningham team entry.
Defeat came on September 1st at Thompson as Lance Reventlow's Scarab-Chevrolet beat Walt Hansgen's Lister. On September 20th, the Cunningham team Lister-Jaguars thankfully redeemed themselves in the Watkins Glen Grand Prix for sports cars.
Alfred Momo fitted new engines to the Cunningham Listers for the 1959 Sebring 12-Hour race and added one of the latest Costin-bodied variants. The 'Knobbly' '101' went to Walt Hansgen and Dick Thompson, the '102' for Briggs/Lake Underwood/ Russ Boss, and the new Costin-bodied 1959 Lister would be shared by British Stirling Moss/Ivor Bueb. For the 1959 World Championship race, Jaguar XK engines used 2.4-liter blocks increased to 3-liters which proved to be not only more powerful but also more reliable than their predecessors. Unfortunately though Hansgen's 'Knobbly 101' lost 68 minutes in the pits in the 12-Hours race having a fractured de Dion tube replaced. Next a tire failure caused even more delay before the car finally finished 12th alongside 'Knobbly' at 15th. The new Costin car was disqualified for receiving outside assistance after running out of fuel.
Hansgen's Lister finished second to Don Sesslar's Porsche RSK at Marlboro on April 19. On May 3rd at Danville, Hansgen won while Briggs Cunningham/Dick Thompson finished seventh in 'Knobbly No 61'. On May 17th at Cumberland, Hansgen won while Briggs Cunningham placed 11th in the second Lister-Jaguar. On May 31 at Bridgehampton Hansgen skated to victory once again with teammate John Fitch fifth in his car and Briggs Cunningham ninth.
On July 4th unfortunately Hansgen's Lister failed at Line Rock while Cunningham finished seventh. At Montgomery on August 9th Hansgen and Forno's Lister-Jaguar finished second right behind George Constantine's big-engine Aston Martin DBR2. John Fitch was behind the wheel of a Cunningham-entered Cooper Monaco with a rear-mounted engine.
Hansgen won at Thompson Raceway on September 7th proving the front-engined Lister-Jaguar concepts prowess. At Road America '500' at Elkhart Lake on September 13th, once again the Cunningham Lister-Jaguars won, with Briggs Cunningham/John Fitch winning fourth in the sibling Lister. On September 26th Hansgen won yet another sports car Grand Prix at Watkins Glen for Lister with Cunningham himself, while Ed Crawford shared the sixth-placed sibling car. Alan Connell's Ferrari 335S beat out Hansgen and Crawford on November 15th at the new Daytona road circuit. Sources:
By Jessica Donaldson