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Lot 249

1959 Lister-Chevrolet

  • Chassis no. BHL 127
  • Engine no. 3789935

Sold for $412,500

Please note that this lot is offered on a bill of sale.

436 bhp, 283 cu. in. Chevrolet OHV V-8 engine, four-speed Borg-Warner T-10 manual transmission, parallel wishbone front suspension with coil springs, de Dion rear axle, and four-wheel Girling disc brakes. Wheelbase: 90.75 in.

  • British chassis engineering and American grunt
  • Cost-no-object restoration by Lister experts
  • Winner of the Sussex Trophy at Goodwood and the BRDC ’50s Sportscar Championship
  • All-time lap record holder for a 1950s sports car at Oulton Park, Goodwood, and Spa
  • Perhaps the fastest 1950s vintage racer available today

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 cars were virtually forgotten for many years, but their fame has recently caught a second wind, as a new generation of owners has come to appreciate the performance that once delighted friends and terrified enemies. The short supply of Listers when new, and the relatively few that have survived the hard life of track cars, has added to their increasing desirability. They are wonderful vintage racing machines, and they remain capable of holding their own against anything else Europe has to offer.

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.

Later, the car was definitively owned by Jim Mullen, and documentation from the 1970s indicates that it was approved by the Vintage Sports Car Club of America. Not long afterward, it journeyed to England and was owned by Barry Simpson, David Clark, and Walter Becker, of Switzerland. At some point, the car was rebodied with its present Knobbly-style bodywork, which is believed to date back to Simpson’s ownership and to have hailed from his shop.

Any lack of contemporary racing history was obliterated when the car, which had been rebuilt by Mark Lewis Design Engineering, won the BRDC Championship outright, leaving such worthy competition as Cobras and E-Types in its dust at the British Grand Prix support race, and also when it won the Sussex Trophy race at Goodwood twice. In the early 21st century, this car has achieved 34 top-three finishes at some of the most prestigious races in the world, as well as set all-time lap records for a ’50s sports car at Oulton Park, Goodwood, and Spa. This car has seen serious racing at such events as the BRDC, the Stirling Moss Trophy, the VSCC, and the HGPCA, and it has never failed to leave without a place among the winners.

The engine of the car is presently built to produce about 435 horsepower at 6,400 rpm, as it has been tuned for its most recent racing season. The lightweight Knobbly bodywork makes this a very, very fast automobile indeed. The car is accompanied by proper FIA paperwork, a large binder of historical and technical information, and an extensive spares package, which includes, among many other things, a spare engine, a gearbox, and an extra hood panel.

Simply put, this Lister-Chevrolet made a lot of people in considerably more famous and considerably less quick racing cars very angry when it tore through the European racing circuit, and it has been called one of the fastest 1950s racing cars in existence. It is now positioned to possibly do the very same in historic racing in the United States, from which its roaring engine came and where it would be eligible for many of the most prestigious events and fully capable of winning them.

Its body may be “knobbly,” but no one will ever joke about its power and effectiveness on the track!

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

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California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

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United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

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Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

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David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

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Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

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Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

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Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

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Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

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Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

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A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

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Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

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As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

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United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

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Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

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Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

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Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

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Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more