Buy the 1956 Lister-Maserati racer driven by paralympian Archie Scott Brown

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Even though Lister was only active for a few short years in the 1950s, the little operation from Cambridge, England, climbed to the top ranks in international sports car racing. The Lister-Jaguar and Lister-Chevrolet in particular were the cars to beat on both sides of the Atlantic from 1957 to 1959, but Lister also used MG and Bristol engines in its quest to go faster. One of Lister’s earlier experiments was a 2.0-liter Maserati engine set into Brian Lister’s signature lightweight tube chassis and clothed in a dramatic aluminum body. While unreliable, the Lister-Maserati was a winner—as long as it didn’t break—thanks in no small part to the Lister team’s star driver Archie Scott Brown. 

That original Lister-Maserati is scheduled to cross the block at Bonhams’ Goodwood Members’ Meeting auction in the UK on March 29, with a presale estimate of £500,000–£800,000 ($610,000–$980,000).

While not quite as well-known as other Scottish racing heroes like Jackie Stewart or Jim Clark, Archie Scott Brown was an incredible talent who came up in Britain’s postwar racing scene. He was also integral in the story of Lister sports cars. He’s an even more impressive figure when you consider the adversity he faced. Because of a disability, he almost didn’t race at all.

Scott Brown was born with malformed legs and only part of a right hand. Through surgery he gained the ability to walk, but his legs stayed short and he only grew to five feet tall. His right hand remained malformed. However, none of it seemed to matter when Scott Brown was behind the wheel of a race car. He was an ace driver, known in particular for his controlled four-wheel drifts and his ability to take a basic car and beat larger, more exotic, and more powerful machinery.

ex-works archie scott brown 1956 lister-maserati 2.0-litre sports-racing two-seater cockpit
Bonhams

Scott Brown’s career started in an MG TD that he consistently drove to wins in sprints and hill climbs. This brought him to the attention of Brian Lister from Cambridge, who was racing in the same circles at the time. Lister’s family business was in light engineering and, bitten by the racing bug, he wanted to build cars of his own. With a small loan from his father, he started on an MG-powered special and enlisted Scott Brown to drive it. Brian convinced his father that racing would advertise for the family name and promote the business. In the end, though, Lister the carmaker became more famous than the George Lister and Sons engineering firm ever was.

Things started off well, with the new team winning a couple of races in the Lister-MG; but at Oulton Park in 1954, the stewards took notice of Scott Brown’s right arm. Even though he qualified third for the race, they declared him unfit to drive. Only after enough protests from influential people in British motorsports would the Royal Automobile Club (RAC) reverse its decision.

In 1955, Scott Brown drove the latest Lister-Bristol, powered by a 2.0-liter six that gave a lot more grunt than the old Lister-MG. Lister also built up several more Lister-Bristols to sell to customers. Even so, rival Roy Salvadori’s Maserati A6GCS gave Lister and Scott Brown enough trouble throughout the season that Brian Lister thought some Italian power might be in order. So, he bought a Maserati engine, fit it in his proven, lightweight tubular chassis and clothed it in new bodywork. The body is extremely low to the ground with high wheel arches, and the driver sits nearly on the rear axle. The whole package weighs about 1200 pounds and features Girling disc brakes on all four wheels, with the rear brakes inboard.

ex-works archie scott brown 1956 lister-maserati 2.0-litre sports-racing two-seater engine
Bonhams
ex-works archie scott brown 1956 lister-maserati 2.0-litre sports-racing two-seater tachometer
Bonhams

ex-works archie scott brown 1956 lister-maserati 2.0-litre sports-racing two-seater weber carb
Bonhams
ex-works archie scott brown 1956 lister-maserati 2.0-litre sports-racing two-seater signature
Bonhams

ex-works archie scott brown 1956 lister-maserati 2.0-litre sports-racing two-seater engine
Bonhams

On paper the Lister-Maserati ticked the right boxes. The Italian engine gave more power and torque than the Bristol. It wasn’t as tall as the Bristol engine, either, giving the Lister-Maserati a lower frontal area, just 27 inches to the top of the scuttle. In order to win the race, though, you have to finish. While Scott Brown won three times and took second place twice in the Lister-Maserati during 1956, the car failed to finish 12 times. It was a rough year for a team that was already accustomed to winning.

Lister sold the one and only Lister-Maserati to a privateer at the end of the 1956 season and moved on to bigger things. With Jaguar backing out from international racing that same year, the XK engine from the D-Type became available to customers. Adapting his proven chassis once again to take the XK unit, Lister now had both the power and the reliability to make his car a consistent winner. Of the 14 races he entered in the Lister-Jaguar during 1957, Archie Scott Brown won 11 of them, often against factory teams with bigger budgets like Aston Martin. This drove up demand for Lister-Jaguars from customers, including Briggs Cunningham, Ecurie Ecosse and others.

Lister also commissioned aerodynamicist Frank Costin to design a more slippery body for a higher top speed than the earlier “Knobbly”-bodied cars, and later Listers got small-block Chevrolet power from the Corvette. Lister’s dominance was short-lived, however, as challenges arose from the latest mid-engine cars and from Lance Reventlow’s Scarabs. Lister withdrew from competition in 1959, by then having lost interest in the sport. Sadly, Archie Scott Brown had been killed the year before in a crash at Spa while duking it out for the lead with American Masten Gregory. Both were driving Lister-Jaguars. Scott Brown was just 31 years old.

The Lister-Maserati, meanwhile, raced briefly in private hands and then went into storage until the mid-1970s and has since been a regular historic racer at premier events like the Monterey Historics, Le Mans Classic, Silverstone Classic, Monaco Historique, and Goodwood Revival. According to Bonhams, the replacement Maserati engine that is now in the car will actually last an entire race, and the original engine is included in the sale. The car will cross the block on March 29, along with an original Lister-Jaguar, an F-Type-based 2018 Lister-Jaguar LFT-C and a TWR-tuned Jaguar XJ-S Shooting Brake.

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