Friday, 19 August 2016
Lister Motor Company’s Knobbly Stirling Moss edition will be making its US debut at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance® this weekend.
Just 10 special edition cars will be produced, each featuring a magnesium body and special lightweight specification – just like the original ‘works’ racing Knobblys of the 1950s. These cars follow on from an initial run of 10 aluminium-bodied continuations – now all sold out – production of which began in 2014 at George Lister Engineering. Each is built using the same techniques as the original 1950s Knobbly, following the acquisition of Lister Motor Company by Andrew and Lawrence Whittaker in 2013.
The 10 Stirling Moss editions will celebrate Moss’s races for Brian Lister in the ‘works’ racing cars in the 1950s. While some original Lister Knobblys are still campaigned in historic racing, none of the original ‘works’ cars survive, making this limited run an incredible opportunity for collectors and Lister enthusiasts.
To keep ahead of customer cars and other rivals in the 1950s, Brian Lister reserved a special lightweight specification for his ‘works’ Knobbly racing cars – with one of the main features being a magnesium body.
Magnesium is an exceptional material, lightweight but difficult to source and expensive. It is also time-consuming to work with as it is very hard to form, requiring incredible skill and craftsmanship. As a result, Lister has invested hugely in research and development into how to work with magnesium and produce perfect, hand-turned bodywork.
In 1958, the Lister works team was locked in an intense battle with works cars from Aston Martin, Jaguar, Ferrari, Lotus and customer Listers run by Scottish racing team Ecurie Ecosse. Tragedy struck in May that year when Brian Lister’s much-loved star driver, Archie Scott Brown, crashed at Spa and died later from his injuries. Overcome with grief, Brian Lister initially wanted to leave the sport, but realising he had customer commitments, continued and kept Lister racing.
Keen for a victory at the sports car race of the British Grand Prix round at Silverstone on 19th July, Brian Lister employed the services of Stirling Moss, who was racing for Vanwall in the F1 world championship. Moss took pole in the magnesium-bodied Lister, which wore the famous number plate ‘MVE 303’ and, against a field which included Roy Salvadori and Graham Hill, took victory at an average speed of 97.92mph.
As well as a magnesium body, the car that Moss drove had a lighter chassis and many other modifications. With the works cars, Brian Lister’s aim was to reduce weight and improve performance. So it goes with the Lister Knobbly Stirling Moss edition.
Whereas the standard continuation Knobblys run a three-inch outer diameter tubular steel chassis with a 14 gauge, the Stirling Moss editions run an even thinner wall: a 16 gauge. This tubing is not readily available so George Lister Engineering hollows out existing tubing to gain the required thickness. Every chassis is built using exactly the same jig used on the original 1950s cars.
Lighter than aluminum by around 30 per cent, magnesium is much harder to manipulate into different shapes. And whereas aluminum can be re-formed, magnesium cannot. It is also more expensive and harder to come by.
The skill of the body former is therefore crucial: he must make sure there is no waste material, yet also turn perfect panels again-and-again. As a result, the process is more painstaking and requires even more expert craftsmanship.
It takes around 4-6 weeks to form an entire aluminum-bodied Knobbly – the magnesium-bodied Stirling Moss editions require 12-18 weeks, three times as long. The panels are formed using the same styling buck as was used on the original works cars. This bodyshell is then painted the same classic green and yellow as the original car that Moss raced back in 1958 at Silverstone.
Magnesium is not just used in the body. It is also used for the clutch and differential casings and the sump of the 3.8-litre Racing Engine manufactured for Lister by Crosthwaite and Gardiner.
Produced by Crosthwaite and Gardiner, the wide-angle straight-six produces 337bhp at 6,750rpm and 295 lbs ft of torque at 4,250rpm. Drive goes to the rear wheels via an original specification four-speed gearbox, again produced by Crosthwaite and Gardener.
Overall, the Lister Knobbly Stirling Moss edition weighs just 841kg. Zero to 60mph takes less than four seconds, 0-100mph comes up in under 10 seconds and top speed is up to 188mph from the 350bhp 3.8-litre engine.