Few cars over the years have combined such sleek yet purposeful looks with outright speed, noise and excitement as the Lister Costin Chevrolet.
Like many of his contemporaries Brian Lister entered racing in a car of his own creation. Son of a wealthy industrialist, it was when he met the extremely talented Scottish driver Archie Scott Brown and local motor engineer Don Moore that the ingredients were set for what would become the legendary series of Lister sports-racing cars. Lister quickly realised that his business would progress faster if he concentrated on building the cars and had Scott Brown race them.
A trained engineer through his family business, he started with a conventional basic ladder frame chassis, made up of two large tubular members. The suspension was made by double wishbones at the front and a De Dion axle at the rear. The relatively high unsprung weight of the De Dion axle was compensated by moving the rear brakes inboard. Fitted with an MG engine and covered by Brian Lister designed bodywork, it made its debut in late 1953. Not too long after that the MG engine was replaced with a more powerful Bristol 2-litre straight six, which was immediately victorious at Silverstone beating the more potent Jaguar C-Types. Lister were on their way.
In 1955 and 1956 Lister experimented with various engines. At the end of the year Jaguar’s retirement from international racing meant a turn for the better for Lister as the highly successful D Type engines were made available to customers to purchase. The chassis was adapted to accept the Jaguar engine and the Lister Jaguar was born.
Now matching the competition’s power, the works Lister was easily the quickest car of the 1957 season and Scott Brown won eleven of the fourteen races he contested, often humiliating the factory machines like the new Aston Martin DBR1 and DBR2. Understandably, this success caught the attention of potential customers and Lister started the production of privateer cars. To cope with the added power the chassis tubes were of slightly wider diameter, but other than that little changed from the initial design drawn up in 1953.
Available with or without the Jaguar engine installed, other engines included the Maserati 3-litre six cylinder before the ever present desire for more power led many owners to the powerful and cost effective Chevrolet V8.
Driven by many of the great drivers of the time including Stirling Moss, Jim Clark and obviously Archie Scott Brown; the demand for Listers was high and victories were scored on both sides of the Atlantic. Listers epitomised the true grit and passion of the 50s sports car scene, which they still do to this day, with Listers being very much the car to beat at prestigious events such as the Goodwood Revival and the ever popular Stirling Moss Trophy.
This car BHL130
BHL130 was purchased new from Brian Lister (light Engineering), as a rolling chassis in 1959 by avid gentleman racer Mike Anthony and was registered TUF 1 by him on the 23rd of March 1959.
Rather than opting for the more conventional ‘Knobbly’ body work Mike chose to go with, as he put it, ‘the more shapely’ Costin body. Designed by aerodynamics genius Frank Costin.
A British engineer, working for De Havilland during the war where he was part of the famous Mosquito project he went on to pioneer the use of aerodynamics and monocoque design in motorsport. Brother of the co-founder of Cosworth Engineering Mike Costin, Frank made his automotive debut designing for Lotus in 1954. He went on to design the body of the iconic Vanwall Grand Prix car in 1956. Very much the man of the hour, he was commissioned by Brian Lister to design a more aerodynamic body for the already successful Lister. Distinctly different to the more conventional Brian Lister designed Knobbly, the bodies were noticeably lower and longer. Known as the Lister Costin only 13 examples are believed to have been built of which this car is the 9th.
When it came to engine choice Mike Anthony went for the potent Chevrolet V8 engines that were being used over in America. He enlisted the help of good friend and fellow racer Bob Hicks who found a suitable donor engine in a US Army car dump near the SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe) headquarters in France. Mike immediately set about boring the cylinders out to 5555cc and then fitting numerous performance parts such as a long-stroke crankshaft and pistons from West Coast American Chevy tuner McGraw. Malcolm Knights in Eastbourne made a special manifold to take a bespoke set of Solex twin-choke carburettors developed from those used on the Lancia-Ferrari D50 Grand Prix cars.
During the 1959 season Mike raced TUF 1 at UK circuits such as Aintree, Goodwood for the Whitson Trophy and Brands Hatch as well as venturing further afield to the Roskilde Ring in Denmark. Although having the pace to dice with the likes of Stirling Moss, Jack Brabham, Jim Clark, Innes Ireland, Graham Hill, Roy Salvadori and Mike Salmon, he struggled with the reliability of the home-tuned Chevy V8.
Success did however come at the 1959 Brighton Speed Trails where he won the Sportscar class. Despite only running on seven cylinders, he set a time of 25.03 seconds. The original certificate from the event still remains in the cars extensive history files. Often driving TUF 1 to and from events it must have been a sight and sound to behold.
Having removed the Chevy engine and retaining the number TUF 1 Mike sold BHL 130 to Mike Pendleton, for £750 in 1960. In contrast to Mike Anthony, Mike Pendleton opted to go down the more traditional Lister-Jaguar route and as such BHL 130 has the luxury of having run both as a Lister-Chevrolet and a Lister-Jaguar in period.
He sourced a 3.4-litre Jaguar engine with a C-Type cylinder head from Eccurie Ecosse via John Ogier’s Essex Racing Stable. After Registering BHL 130 YCD 422, the registration it retains to this day, he raced the car extensively throughout the UK for the 1962 season, including racing alongside the likes of Jim Clark and Mike Parks in the Autosport 3 Hours at Snetterton in September 1962.
Like Anthony he also occasionally drove BHL 130 to events when his transporter was not working. He recalled how on one occasion he was pulled over by a particularly inquisitive police constables, which sounded like it took some negotiation skills to appease.
Switching to a Lotus 19 for the 1963 season, Pendleton sold BHL 130 to its next owner, former RAF rear gunner and eccentric gentleman driver, Dick Tindell. He kept BHL 130 from 1963 to 1978 becoming its longest custodian to date. During his 15 year ownership he drove it at a variety of races, sprints, trials and hill climbs, wearing his trademark red Bentley Drivers’ Club waistcoat and tie every time. He took BHL 130 back to Brighton Speed Trials where it was immortalised in a painting by motorsport artist Don Piers. He also competed BHL 130 in the last ever race to be held at Crystal Palace which was won by BHL 130’s next owner, Touring Car legend Gerry Marshall.
Gerry Marshall bought BHL 130 on the 20th of March 1978 for £3,500 along with its trailer. Kept in his home garage he entered it into several events during the 1978 historic racing season. Having experienced some reliability problems with the Jaguar engine he put BHL 130 up for sale at the end of the season. The advert was answered by Geoffrey Marsh, the owner and founder of the Marsh Plant Racing Team. He needed a competitive car for the upcoming Lloyds & Scottish Historic Championship.
Having visited Gerry’s house to view the car he was not only offered the car, but also Gerry’s services as a driver. A five-figure sum was agreed with some up front and the remaining at the end of the season on the condition he finished it without damaging the car. Not only did Gerry receive the remainder of the payment he also won the championship.
Geoffrey Marsh entered Roy Salvadori in a DB4 GT for the 1980 season and BHL 130 remained in his collection until he was persuaded to sell it to yacht designer and powerboat racer Don Shead in 1982. Shead initially ran BHL 130 with the Jaguar engine before eventually switching back to a Chevy V8, with which he had more experience from his powerboat days. BHL 130 launched Shead’s racing career which culminated in him racing at Le Mans in a Spice SE88C Group C.
In 1985 Don Shead swapped BHL 130 for a Ferrari Daytona via well known dealer Adrian Hamilton and BHL 130’s next owner was former British bobsleigh champion and founder of Croft race circuit, Bruce Rolner. He bought BHL 130 to use as a road car for the 20 mile commute between his house and Croft, for which he had previously been using his fathers D Type Jaguar. Having registered BHL 130 back on the road, he soon found it too extreme for use as a daily driver and put it up for sale with Royal Classics.
As you can see the advert read as follows: ‘1959 Lister Jaguar/Chevrolet. Chassis No. BHL 130. Regarded as the most original Costin ‘slippery’ bodied car. Complete with original type 5.3-litre Chevrolet V8 (405bhp) and Jaguar 3.4 (320bhp) engines. Racing history in the hands of Mike Antony, Mike Pendleton and Jerry Marshall.’
BHL 130’s next custodian from 1986 to 1991 was Rupert Beckwith-Smith. According to him: ‘I went straight from a bike to the Lister. It was daunting, primitive and went like and Exocet Missile’. He had well known historic racers Ludovic Lindsay and Chris Drake racer the car, including at a support race to the British Grand Prix. He also used it himself on the road, describing ‘one memorable run from the Kings Road in Chelsea to my parents’ house in West Sussex in the snow on Christmas Eve; I wore my skiing goggles and had the turkey and presents stuffed in the passenger footwell.’ One can only imagine that must have been quite the journey!
From 1991-2000 BHL 130 was owned by the Minshaw family with the driving duties shared between founder of Demon Tweeks Alan and his son Jon. They campaigned BHL 130 at numerous historic race meetings across Europe using both the Jaguar and Chevrolet engine.
From the Minshaws BHL 130 passed to another well known historic racer Julian Bronson in 2000. He raced the car prolifically over the next six years, nearly always with the Chevrolet engine. Not only did race BHL 130 every year at the Goodwood Revival, winning the Sussex Trophy in 2004, he was also a regular front runner in the hotly contested BRDC 50’s Sportscar Series. On top of that he also raced BHL 130 as far afield as Macau and at Bathurst in Australia. In 2002 he sustained some damage to the rear bodywork at Goodwood but this was able to be straightened out and repaired.
In 2006 Julian revived an offer from real estate investor Nick Colonna in the USA and the deal was done. Nick had previously owned BHL 10, the Ex-Cunningham Lister-Jaguar Knobbly, and he went on to race BHL 130 across the US and into Canada at circuits like Mon Tremblant, Portland Raceway and Sears Point as well as annually attending the Monterey Motorsports Reunion at Laguna Seca. During his ownership the front end of the body sustained some damage at Portland, but like before the original bodywork was able to be straightened out, repaired and preserved.
From 2013-2016 BHL 130 joined the collection of respected collector Joe Lacob and owner of the NBA team Golden State Warriors. He continued to enter the car into the Monterey Motorsport Reunion where he had it driven by Steve Hill. During his ownership he had the car restored on the stipulation it retained its wonderful originality.
In 2016 BHL 130 was purchased and brought home by well known racer and enthusiast Chris Milner. Having had the car prepared by M&C Wilkinson he took BHL 130 back to Goodwood for the 75th Members meeting where, as well as racing the car, BHL 130 was reunited with several of its previous owners including Mike Anthony, Mike Pendleton and Julian Bronson as well as the sons of Dick Tindell and Gerry Marshall.
BHL 130 has attended every Sussex trophy since then either driven by Chris Milner or Nigel Greensall. In 2020 Nigel Greensall won the Motor Racing Legends Stirling Moss Trophy in BHL 130 at the Silverstone Classic. Maintained throughout Chris Miller’s ownership by M&C Wilkinson, BHL 130 is accompanied by an extensive set of history files throughout its ownerships as well as the original buff Log Book and current FIA HTP Papers. Also accompanying is an extensive spares package, including a spare de Dion tube, differential, brake callipers, a set of D Type wheels and a set of Dunlop wheels with tyres, a lightweight silencer and a body buck (in three sections and on wheels).
What is unique about BHL 130 is that it ran both as a Chevrolet and a Jaguar engined car within the first two years of its life. As such BHL 130 is offered today with a very special dry sump Jaguar engine.
Fitted for a long time in a well known D Type, it is believed by marque expert Chris Kieth-Lucas, to be one of a very small batch of 3.8-litre wide angle, dry sump engines, built by the factory Competition engine builder George Hodge with the 3.8-litre block, machined as a D Type block by the factory from the bare casting. These would have been supplied for use in either a D Type or a Lister. Furthermore records show that the cylinder head was originally supplied in 1958 to Ecurie Ecosse on a wide angle 3-litre engine, before being incorporated into this build at the factory.
The Lister Costin has to be the ultimate incarnation of the mighty Lister. With its aerodynamic bodywork it is clear to see why Brian Lister chose the Costin bodied cars for his two car team for Le Mans in 1959. BHL 130 offers the perfect opportunity to take to such a wide array of different events in what is widely considered one of, if not, the most original Lister Costin left in existence.