Continuing the Listers!

Click on the Video tab for a video from Lister on the Knobbly.

At the recent Historic Motorsport International show in London we were able to spend some time with Lawrence Whittaker of Lister who explained about the firm’s continuation cars – and their new self-assembly option. Having started manufacturing the classic 1950s sportscars again having purchased the famous name, the company have painstakingly worked to ensure their product is a true continuation of those 50s racers. 

“We originally made ten Knobblies to celebrate the recent 60th anniversary, we bought the company in 2013, and 2014 was 60 years since Brian Lister launched the company, so to make ten Knobblies was a lovely homage to that.

“We have just launched 25 Costin continuation cars to take us through to orders that will be fulfilled in 2019 and onwards. After the ten Knobblies we did ten Stirling Moss editions, which was a lightweight chassis and magnesium body car, the only racing car ever endorsed by Sir Stirling Moss, and which was a big success after we had a launch at the RAC Club, then we took that car to America and it was displayed at Pebble Beach.

“We now have self-assembly chassis kits, mainly because if you wanted to order a new Knobbly or Costin from us today you are talking about an 18-month waiting list before you get the car. If you are someone with the skills or know a good mechanic and have the space you can buy a Lister chassis kit – we supply you with all the parts other than the engine and the gearbox, as those are the parts that are slowing done our production, but is very easy to source an engine similar to the D-Type one we use, you can find a 4.2 E-Type engine relatively easily and build up your own car around the that engine and gearbox.

“We supply everything in kit form, we can build that up for you or you build it yourself. When the body is ready we can do the first-fix for the body, we can paint the body – and when you feel the car is finished you can bring it back to the factory and we will check it over and advise on any adjustments or make them ourselves. We will then road-register or race-register the car for you once finished if that is what the owner wants.

“It helps us as it frees up our workshop and the customer can have a car quicker than if we built it, plus they can put their own mark and have something to be proud of. The car will get our seal of approval and has to meet our high standards, but it is just really like a big Meccano set.

“It was an easy set of decisions to make when we began to keep the Knobblies exactly as they were in period in order to get the car through historic technical passport. With 60-year of development of course there are things that you could do better, lots of tricks, tips and improved manufacturing methods and even parts you could put on the car which would make the car better. 

“But that was not what we were about. The cars are original, as they were in period, and in a way far more authentic than even an original Lister out there as if you have a Lister from the 1950s that car has had 60-years of use and improvements. It will have changed over those years, engines blow up, people do quick fixes at circuits, whereas we offer the opportunity to own and drive a car that gives exactly the same experience as Stirling Moss  and Archie Scott-Brown had in period, we offer the same car feel that they had.

“One interesting aspect is the electrical wiring loom. It comes out on two connectors on our cars and those are actual 1950s connectors made in 1952, we sourced a man who had 100 of them which had never been used. They are for the lights and are the exact same ones as used on the original cars, we had to work hard for that level of authenticity.

“We needed to do that level of detail to make the cars eligible for historic racing events, but it has also turned out to be something that makes are cars pretty unique.

 “No two of the existing cars are quite the same any more, but we had access to quite a lot of the original blueprints and what we were lucky with was that Brian Lister was with us for the first two years. We also brought out of retirement two Lister mechanics and had a lot of help from another two who are now in their 90s but come to the factory, train our staff, even train our new apprentices with the skills that they have, but can also authenticate what was done in period.

“We have lots of orders but are always happy to have more. If someone orders a brand-new Lister continuation car off us today you are really looking at an 18-month lead time. Some people don’t like that but others are happy and feel it shows a demand for the car. If we had a car that we could deliver in two weeks would be a very different car. 

“To make the hand-crafted body takes 600-hours, and the magnesium body is getting on for 2,500-hours, that level of craftsmanship is almost unique now. The body shape of the Knobbly is a difficult one to reproduce and the work that goes into these cars is very painstaking – there is barely a flat surface on the car

“People have wondered if the existence of the continuation cars has effected the price of the originals but from what we can see the value of the original cars has come up astronomically since we launched. The brand is in everyone’s minds now, more people are aware and thinking about Lister, and that has helped the original cars become worth more - the last one was sold for around £2.5 million.”

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