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Originally raced by Briggs Cunningham’s infamous “Team Cunningham”
Raced by Stirling Moss, Walt Hansgen, Briggs Cunningham, Ivor Bueb, Bob Grossman
1959 SCCA C-modified national championship winner
Four 1st place finishes in 1959 while being piloted by Walt Hansgen
Class win at the 2015 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance
Major restoration by Canepa to return to period-correct condition
Engineered by Brian Lister, body developed by Frank Costin
In all of vintage racing, there is no more desirable or collectible category of cars than the front-engine sports racers that ran in international and SCCA competition from the mid 1950s into the early 1960s. As a group, they embody the beautiful shapes, wonderful sounds, and exhilarating performance that defines historic racing.
During that era probably the most respected and successful independent manufacturer was Lister of Cambridge, England. In the early 50's, out of a personal love for racing, Brian Lister steered his third-generation engineering and fabrication company into building race cars. Beginning with MG and Bristol powered sports cars the young team immediately made a mark on the European racing scene. After a fire at Jaguar's Browns Lane Plant destroyed the competition department in February 1957, Lister was there to pick up the pieces and take advantage of the lack of competition. One prototype was built, along with 12 production race cars with only three of these being powered by a Jaguar engine. This Lister-Costin Jaguar, the second of the 12 cars produced, is one of the rare Jaguar-powered cars.
In 1957 Lister presented its first Jaguar-powered sports racer to the world of racing which received a large amount of success due to the capable hands of skilled driver, Archie Scott-Brown. British Petroleum, Lister’s sponsor, had been searching for some large-displacement racing cars that would go up against Aston Martin and the Ecurie Ecosse Jaguars, both sponsored by the Esso Petroleum corporation. Lister’s first batch of race cars went to the legendary US-based Team Cunningham to both race alongside and eventually replace their aging D-type Jaguars. American racer Briggs Cunningham was undoubtedly one of the most important figures in postwar sports car racing, leaving his profound mark on the entire world of racing as a driver, team owner, and constructor.
1959 would be the year that Brian Lister decided to restyle the initial bodywork. While the original bodywork did its job well, Brian left that it was leaving something on the table, especially in straight-line speed. Famed aeronautical engineer Frank Costin was hired to redesign the entire bodywork. Having designed bodywork for the 50’s era F1 cars (and influencing front-engine Grand Prix cars for years to come), Costin was the perfect fit that designed an effective, elegant, and timeless design.
Chassis BHL 123 is arguably one of the most historically important and best-kept examples of the entire run of both the Costin and Knobbly-Listers. Powered by a 3.8-liter Jaguar DOHC inline six that produced an estimated 300hp, paired to a 4-speed manual transmission, and 4-wheel independent suspension with 4-wheel disc brakes, it was an advanced beast indeed. BHL 123 was first purchased by Briggs Cunningham for his legendary racing team and prepared by team chief mechanic Alfred Momo. Its inaugural race was the 1959 12 Hours of Sebring, piloted by the legendary Sterling Moss alongside ex-Jaguar works racer Ivor Bueb, with Russell Boss brought on as a relief driver. With the Cunningham racer on the starting grid in 2nd place, the team’s optimism was high. While in 3rd place, Stirling Moss made a scheduled pit stop and keen to get back into the race left before the fuel tank was full! After a number of laps later, disaster struck. The Lister ran out of fuel on the track. Stirling Moss made his way back to the pits to grab a can of fuel, but was disqualified for hitching a ride on one of the marshal’s motorcycles. Had he not had outside help, he may have gotten the fuel back to the car and finished the race!
Later in the 1959 racing season, Walt Hansgen took the Lister down a far more successful path. Taking wins at the Virginia International Raceway, Cumberland International Races, Bridgehampton and Watkins Glen, along with another second place and 4th place finish. His fantastic 1959 racing season finishes allowed him to clinch the 1959 SCCA C-modified national championship. Briggs Cunningham also personally raced BHL 123, taking third place at Thompson Raceway.
In 1961, the Costin-Lister was purchased by well-known eastern US sports car dealer and racer, Bob Grossman. Grossman later sold the car to Phil Forno, who raced the car with co-drivers Ed Crawford and Dick Thompson. In the mid-1970s, it was campaigned by Tony Crossingham. Later it was sold to William Symons, who then sold the car in 1983 to Chris Drake. BHL 123 then returned to America where Dean G. Watts purchased and restored the car, then traveling back to the UK around 1990 after being purchased by Dan Margulies, who registered the car with FIA Historic paperwork. The car had a few more owners before returning to the US and joined the Silverman collection in 2000. Around this time, The Vintage Connection in Oklahoma City performed a restoration on BHL 123, which was later refreshed in 2008 and 2009. While in Silverman’s hands, the Costin-Lister regularly challenged other competitive sports racing cars, such as Ferrari 250 Testa Rossas, Jaguar D-Types, Maserati 300Ss and Aston Martins.
Bruce Canepa was familiar with this special Lister before the car came to Canepa’s facility, having raced the car at the 2013 Monterey Historic races. The Lister was in a class of its own, with Bruce and the Costin leading the entire race after the first lap with a 2.5-second lead.
Later in 2015, the new owner of BHL 123 was intent on entering the 2015 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the premiere Concours of the world. The car was sent to Canepa to prep the car and make any adjustments necessary which eventually transformed into an exacting period-correction restoration. What spanned the next 4 months was a complete study and heavy research of BHL 123 in period photographs to bring the car to as close to being period-correct as possible. Canepa is known for its fastidious attention to detail and this Lister-Costin Jaguar is no exception, analyzing photographs and video to ensure that the car was indiscernible from its period photos.
The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance is the premiere concours consisting of the finest automobiles of the world, hosted on one of the most beautiful pieces of California coastline. With the most prestigious event comes the most intensive requirements, and Bruce Canepa knew what needed to be done in order to make the Lister perfect. After a heavy investigation of the Lister, comparing to historical racing images and then back to the car’s current configuration, the race car slowly began to take shape. Special car-specific features were returned to the car like the front NACA duct, the reverse airfoil next to the driver, the correct roundel, different stripes, headlight covers, its iconic Jaguar D-type windscreen, Halibrand wheels, its signature clear plexiglass engine cover, and a number of other items that were observed from the photograph research. After receiving a concours-level detailing that leaves nothing to chance, even cleaning and polishing the areas you can’t normally see, the car was ready for its Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance reveal. The Lister also participated in the Tour d’Elegance, driving down the beautiful California coastline just a few days before the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. That Sunday morning on the green was a good day for the car and its owner, taking a class win and being one of the most stunning designs on the field. However, not all was done, and the Lister-Costin made its way back to Canepa after Pebble Beach.
Back at Canepa fresh from its class win at Pebble Beach, the car underwent another project, only this time the car was returned and prepped for historic racing events. Numerous upgrades were fitted to the car to make driving it safer, new wheel hubs and axles, rebuilding suspension components, a modern roll bar, fire suppression system, modern driving seat and seat belts, and a number of other upgrades to make it ready for historic racing. Between the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance preparation for period-correct accuracy and the historic racing updates, the owner spent over $120,000 in making this Lister the best it could be.
The owner kept the car for another 4 years as a part of his collection before the Lister-Costin arrived back at Canepa. Being familiar with this car, it is a welcome addition back into Canepa’s inventory. A Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance class winner, a worthy contender on the racetrack and prepared to be one, this 1959 Lister-Costin Jaguar is a rare gem amongst the sports car racers of the late 50s and early 60s. A timeless design that even today is achingly beautiful, historically accurate, with a significant amount of race history to its name, this ex-Cunningham racer is worthy of and will fit in any automobile collection.