1959 Lister-Jaguar "Knobbly" 3.8-Litre Sports-Racing Two-Seater on offer at Bonhams

1959 Lister-Jaguar

Estimate: £ 2,200,000 - 2,800,000
€ 2,500,000 - 3,100,000

Ex Peter Whitehead, John Bekaert, Bill de Selincourt
Registration no. NBL 660
Chassis no. BHL 103

*'Old NBL 660' - renowned as one of the very best genuine Lister-Jaguars
*Incredible 29 wins and 53 podium places in period 1958-1963
*Massively well documented, continuous race history from new
*Perennial front runner at Goodwood and the Le Mans Classic
*Spare chassis, engine, suspension, body panelling amongst spares

Details:

Seldom have we seen such a highly-successful, high-profile and so widely well-respected an Historic sports-racing car as this highly original Lister-Jaguar. Widely known and affectionately remembered over such a long career within the club and Historic racing world, 'NBL 660' is presented here accompanied not only by valuable spares but also one of the most massive, immensely well-researched and detailed documentation files that we have ever encountered. Perhaps most notably – given the towering present-day profile of the Goodwood Revival and Members' Meetings, and of the Le Mans Classic, 'NBL 660' here won at Goodwood in period and has been a familiar entry in both the Sussex circuit's wonderful Historic races while former owner Udo Ruutcher made quite an impression in the 2002 Le Mans event, followed by tremendous subsequent success for later owner/driver Shaun Lynn. How successful was 'NBL 660' back in period, 1958-1963? Remarkably, its documented record includes no fewer than 53 podium places, including 29 firsts, 15 seconds and 9 thirds... 

Also included within this Lot is a remarkable spares inventory, amazingly including the car's original 1958 chassis frame – which was replaced in-period after an accident in 1959, subsequently built into another Lister-Jaguar but retrieved to rejoin 'NBL 660' in recent years. There is also a spare engine, a set of original Weber DCO carburettors and multiple suspension, mechanical and sheet metal parts.

Essentially the car's early history is as detailed in the Doug Nye book 'Powered by Jaguar' (published by Motor Racing Publications, 1980) . Its dedicated section detailing the later life of 'NBL 660 – Chassis BHL 103' up to that time, reads as follows:

"Peter Whitehead bought this third-off production 'Knobbly; and had it assembled at his Motorwork, Chalfont St Peter garage by his long-serving mechanic Arthur Birks. It used a first-series Williams & Pritchard body with rounded front wings, distinctive for its large cooling vents set into either side of the bonnet behind the front-wheel arches. The old car never adopted the anti-lift fairing fashion popularized by Ecurie Ecosse. Whitehead raced the car in his usual consistent manner... There is a story that he felt it was rather infra dig to have a car with upside-down Morris Minor steering, and insisted on substituting an XK140-150 rack-and-pinion instead. Unfortunately, since the Morris-Lister steering went ahead of the axle line and the steering on the XK140-150 was behind it, when the latter's system was fitted on the former chassis the track-rods pulled when they should have pushed, steered left when the driver steered right and there was an early collision with the garage wall.... Believe it if you like.

"But in September 1958 Peter Whitehead died when the class-leading Jaguar 3.4 saloon in which he was navigating at that moment, being driven by his half-brother Graham Whitehead, crashed over an un-parapeted bridge during the Tour de France.

"The Lister-Jaguar was sold for the 1959 season to Derek Wilkinson, for John Bekaert to drive. John recalled: 'Derek had an interest in Dove's of Northampton, owned an ERA, was a director of a greetings card company and wanted a modern racing car. We had met in 1958 when I was driving 'HWM 1' on a shoestring, and he bought the Lister after we had tried it for a day at Snetterton. It was a marvellous car and Derek was a great chap to drive for...he had a full-time mechanic, Jim Abbott, to care for it and paid our expenses in travelling, picked-up all the bills and gave us quite a handsome budget – about £1,000 – for the season. We could even afford new tyres! Whitehead had raced the car with a 3-litre engine, but we had a 3.8 fitted which was prepared at the Jaguar factory by George Hodge. While the Don Moore (works) engines were said to be up around 300-odd horsepower, we settled for a reliable 292 and, as always, George did a marvellous job on it.

" 'In two seasons with the car we had 23 firsts, 12 seconds and six thirds at all levels from Club to National and International, but in mid-1959 I hit Ashmore's D-Type in the wet at Dunboyne, and although we went on to win there I think it tweaked something fundamental because the following weekend in the Grand Prix meeting at Aintree I lost it for no apparent reason on the way out of Village Corner and it rolled over. It was extensively damaged. We thought we could re-use the original chassis, but Derek insisted on having a brand-new one. I believe we had the last 'Knobbly' chassis from the works, while the old one went, I believe, to Gordon Lee – and he found it was still not straight.

" 'Jim completely rebuilt the car around the new frame. I had driven a works Lister in the 1958 TT at Goodwood, and compared to our car it was a real out-and-out racer. Its performance really was phenomenal, but it rattled and banged....the Whitehead car in comparison was like a Rolls-Royce, a very solid, high-quality, high-performance car...'.

"When first raced under the Wilkinson banner the car bore the old Buckinghamshire registration number '832 BH', but it was soon changed to 'NBL 660' – an August 1956 (!) Berkshire serial – under which it became famous. It was sold to Bill de Selincourt for 1961 when he graduated from an 1,100cc Lola, while the popular and talented Bekaert opted to step down to a Lola – retiring at the end of the season to set up his own textiles business 'and make some money at last'.

"From de Selincourt – for whom 'NBL 660' was prepared by (the two Johns) Coundley and Pearson – it went to Allan Deacon, a Fleet Air Arm officer, who disposed of its XK engine to David Beckett for his ex-Ray Brightman Chevrolet-powered car, 'BHL 125', registered 'RB25'. Old 'NBL 660' was loaded down with a 7-litre Ford Galaxie V8 engine and eventually was sold to John Pearson. It then passed to Lister enthusiast Gordon Lee, who had it rebodied to original form by Peel's of Kingston, fitted a D-Type 3.8 engine and revised its suspension and brakes. Bert Young took on the rejuvenated car in 1973 for Historic racing, and in the later–'seventies it was acquired by the German Count Hubertus Donhoff, largely for museum display."

The enormous documentation file now accompanying 'NBL 660' as offered here details the later part of this wonderful Lister-Jaguar's career post-1980. Between 1982 and 2003 it was in the care of Hans-Peter Gluck in Germany, making regular appearances driven by Udo Ruutcher in such events as the Oldtimer Grand Prix and Eifel Klassik at the Nurburgring and in the Hessen Cup. It was subsequently acquired by extremely active Historic racing enthusiast Shaun Lynn, for whom it was extensively restored and prepared by CKL Developments, the leading Historic-racing Jaguar specialists, based in East Sussex.

Mr Lynn's extensive racing record with 'NBL 660' is fully recorded within the documentation file, which also includes extensive reference to a period in 2010 when a rival Lister-Jaguar came up for sale at Bonhams. That ex-Japanese Collection car had been campaigned by an Historic racing owner/driver named Bob Gilbert. It had actually been assembled by veteran Lister-Jaguar specialist John Pearson for a Japanese friend of historian Doug Nye's back in the early 1980s. It was based upon a chassis frame which was described to the commissioning client as being an original Lister-made Abbey Road, Cambridge, chassis frame which had been removed from a genuine car in period because the perfectionist contemporary owner believed that it had been damaged in an accident which had befallen his car. This frame is understood in fact to have been the original from 'NBL 660'; as acquired by Peter Whitehead back in 1958 and as removed from the car now offered here following John Bekaert's Aintree crash during the 1959 British Grand Prix meeting. That 'perfectionist owner' would have been Derek Wilkinson, and it emerged that the discarded chassis frame had subsequently been acquired by Mr Pearson.

The Bob Gilbert car was properly described by our contemporary catalogue and, to prevent the possibility of any future confusion or dispute over historic provenance, Shaun Lynn bought it at that 2010 Sale. He then had CKL Developments dismantle it to retrieve its original 1958/first-part of 1959 'NBL 660' frame, which could become available for a rebuild – if ever required – of his replacement-framed (in-period) - and again perfectly genuine - post-Aintree '59 continuous-history 'NBL 660'. 

This bare repaired original 'BHL 103' (aka 'NBL 660') chassis was then retained by Mr Lynn for potential display alongside this long-owned, much-raced Historic Lister-Jaguar. And 'NBL 660' was also photographed alongside the ex-Bob Gilbert car – re-assembled around a new-made identical replacement frame – and 'Nibble's retrieved, now-bare, initial chassis. We believe that the 1959 replacement frame built into 'NBL 660' at that time was not in fact the last 'Knobbly' chassis, but a square-tube crossmember/revised suspension pick-ups 'Costin' Lister frame as was current that year.

As presented here the car is offered in ready-to-run order, complete with its valuable original-specification D-Type gearbox), carefully preserved and unraced since former owner/driver Shaun Lynn's last appearance in it, although it was driven by multiple Indy '500' winner Dario Franchitti to lead the field pre-start at the spring Goodwood 75th Members' Meeting in 2017. Lister-Jaguar 'NBL 660' really is one of the backbone cars of Historic racing history, having been so long campaigned within the category ever since its true inception more than forty years ago now, back in the 1970s. And now it can be your's...

BONHAMS - THE BOND STREET SALE
1 Dec 2018, 14:30 GMT
LONDON, NEW BOND STREET

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