The race car largely responsible for the Lister name is a main attraction at this weekend’s London Classic Car Show, only weeks after the death of its creator Brian Horace Lister.
The British-built 1951 Tojeiro-JAP (above) is up for private sale after the show. It was the first car to carry the ‘BHL’ chassis number and start Lister, diminutive driver Archie Scott Brown and engine tuner Don Moore on the road to countless race wins.
It was designed by Portugese automotive engineer John Tojeiro, who in Britain produced race cars for the Ecurie Ecosse team. Tojerio’s finest moment was arguably producing a lightweight design which Britain’s AC Cars developed into the AC Ace. From the Ace, American Carroll Shelby in turn built the legendary AC Cobra.
Lister was a keen amateur racing driver and was intrigued by Tojerio’s design. So he bought it. The Tojeiro-JAP had a simple lightweight aluminium body with cycle wings and fabric-covered tail. It was powered by a 1100cc vee-twin motorcycle engine built by famed engineer John Alfred Prestwich (JAP) and mated to a four-speed Jowett Jupiter manual gearbox.
The car was fast and temperamental, once described as ‘feral’. Listed decided it was too much for him to handle so he turned to fellow racer and engine tuner Moore to tame his creation and hired MG racer Scott Brown to drive it. In 1952 and ’53 Scott Brown won race after race.
Later in ’53 one of Lister’s racing friends, Peter Hughes, the technical editor of then Scottish magazine Top Gear, took over the car when Lister, Moore and Scott Brown decided to build cars under the Lister name, funded by Lister’s father George, who ran Lister Engineering.
Hughes campaigned BHL1 for the next couple of years before selling it. It passed through the hands of a number of owners before it disappeared from the scene – until it was found in a barn in 2009, still with its BHL1 stamping. The restoration that followed saw the car returned to its original specification, powered by an authentic JAP 1100cc vee-twin connected to an equally correct Jowett ’box.
The first car to carry the Lister name made its debut at Britain’s Snetterton circuit on April 3, 1954. Lister built it, Moore provided the MG engine and Scott Brown drove it to win. From then on, the Lister car evolved rapidly, powered by Bristol and, later, by Maserati engines.
In 1957, the Lister Jaguar appeared and won 12 of the 14 races it entered, setting either the fastest lap or an outright record. Lister brought it to New Zealand early in 1958 for the NZ Grand Prix at Ardmore, where Scott Brown either led or was up among the leaders before being forced out with a suspension problem on lap 72 of the 75-lap race.
The Lister was fitted with the new Jaguar D-Type engine, a 3.8-litre unit developed from Jaguar’s 3.5-litre straight-six and good for around 225kW at 5800rpm. The other Lister-linked car in the race was the 3.5-litre Tojeiro-Jaguar, driven by NZ’s Frank Cantwell into 14th place. The Grand Prix was won by Jack Brabham in a Cooper Climax. New Zealanders Ross Jensen (Maserati 250F) was second, Ron Roycroft (Ferrari 375) third, and Pat Hoare (Ferrari 625) fourth.
Months later, Scott Brown was killed at Spa, in Belgium. Lister was shattered by his death and had to be persuaded to keep the Lister team going. But after the deaths a year later of Briton Ivor Bueb and Frenchman Jean Behra, Lister pretty much withdrew from motorsport.
The last race Lister was involved in was the 1964 Le Mans where he helped prepare the works Sunbeam team. Thereafter he threw himself into the future of the Lister Engineering company, specialising in designing packaging machines for industry. He also continued his love of jazz, performing as a drummer publicly as late as 1990. He died on December 16, aged 88.