Nostalgia – ‘noun; a wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one’s life, to one’s home or homeland, or to one’s family and friends; a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time.‘
Classic cars have always been a thing of beauty, widely appreciated by the casual car appreciator and elite motoring enthusiasts alike. Speaking from experience, it’s difficult not to be impressed by the glittering glamour and rumbling engines of machines of days past, whose wheels kissed the tracks of both the track and the road. Steering towards the classic racing car, we introduce you to the Lister Motor Company. Notoriously successful throughout the 1950s, this British brand was certainly no stranger to victory, and the only racing car ever to be endorsed by Sir Stirling Moss OBE, a legendary British motor racing driver and a Motoring Hall of Fame inductee.
We had the opportunity to sit down with Lawrence Whittaker, the current Managing Director of Lister Cars, to discuss his need for speed, his love of cars and the brand’s latest offering, the Lister Knobbly Stirling Moss Edition.
THE FOXLEY DOCKET: When did your own interest in motoring begin? What was it about the motoring industry that appealed to you?
LAWRENCE WHITTAKER: My interest in motoring began at a very young age. My father was originally in the traffic police then started his own tuning and servicing business, so I have always been around cars. I bought my first car at 15.
TFD: Have any motoring memories from an early age stayed with you?
LW: Yes lots! I remember learning to drive when I was 13 on my parent’s farm. Once I was fairly competent, my Dad let me drive his Range Rover around the fields and I ended up, inevitably, bumping it into a fence. I thought he would be livid when I got it back home, but he thankfully understood.
TFD: As a car enthusiast, what do you personally look for in a car?
LW: I think a car has to be beautiful- to me, they are as much a piece of art as they are a mode for transportation. Sometimes car companies get it very wrong, and whilst the car might be awesome technically, if the look is wrong, it won’t make its way into my garage.
TFD: You own a vast collection of cars, ranging from Porsches to Mercedes-Benz, both modern with the AMG GTS and classic Pagoda (which you won at the Goodwood Revival) – if you had to choose between modern and classic to drive, which would you choose? What do you think classic cars have that modern cars just can’t recreate today?
LW: I currently own 35 cars in total, and to be honest, the reason I own so many is that I can’t choose! On a beautiful sunny day you can’t beat driving an open top classic, but when it’s late autumn and overcast, you need to be in something 4wd in the UK. If I only could have one car, I would have a Range Rover.
TFD: You recently became the talk of the track, as it were, when you put your 2012 Bentley Mulsanne on eBay for 99p with no reserve. Can you talk us through your mindset making this decision? How much did it end up going for? How confident were you that it’d sell?
LW: Well, it comes down to my hate of clutter. I am a great fan of eBay and often list anything that I deem to be ‘clutter’ at 99p, just to make sure it sells. You’d be surprised how often listing something at 99p creates a bidding frenzy and you end up getting a decent price for whatever it is you’re selling. Unfortunately, the Bentley didn’t sell as a ‘0’ feedback buyer ended up winning it. Maybe in hindsight, eBay wasn’t the best place for such a prestigious car.
TFD: What are you driving at the moment? What was your first car?
LW: I drive all my cars. Even the classics, I don’t believe in putting cars away for investment. My first car was a 1977 MG Midget 1500cc. I quickly sold it, as being 6ft 2, I couldn’t fit in it.
TFD: What is your proudest achievement from your career in the motoring industry?
LW: Launching the Lister Stirling Moss at the RAC Club in London.
TFD: You became involved with the Lister Motor Company in 2013, when yourself and your father Andrew acquired the business. How did this come about? What attracted you to the brand?
LW: It was really by accident that we came to buy Lister. My father is heavily involved in restoring vintage cars, and he bought a Lister Knobbly to restore. He contacted Geroge Lister Engineering in the hope that they could supply him with some parts to aid his restoration. We both made a trip down to the Lister factory in Cambridge, and were awestruck by the heritage and amount of tooling still left from manufacturing the iconic cars in the 1950’s. We immediately started negotiating with George Lister Engineering and with Laurence Pearce who had bought the car arm from Brian Lister in 1986 and eventually, bought the firm.
TFD: Throughout the 1950s, the Lister was unstoppable, widely undefeated all over the world. How did it feel to insert the Whittaker name into such an iconic and successful legacy?
LW: To be honest, it feels a little daunting. I promised Brian Lister that we would do nothing to damage the fantastic legacy that he had built up with Lister over the years, and if nothing else, that is what steers my decision-making.
TFD: In this time, the Lister motor company competed against Aston Martin, Jaguar, Ferrari and Lotus, all of which are well known, mainstream names within the motoring industry today. What do you feel set Lister down a different path?
LW: In my view, it was the death of Archie Scott Brown that led to Brian Lister to stop making cars. He and Archie were best friends and when Archie crashed and died at Spa, Brian was deeply upset. He soldiered on for another few years but his heart wasn’t in it after that.
TFD: In June, Lister Motor Company announced plans to re-release a limited number of Lister Knobbly Stirling Moss Editions. Why was this model chosen to revisit the road?
LW: Stirling has been such an amazing advocate of Lister and when the opportunity arose to do something together, we couldn’t resist. This is the only racing car ever endorsed by Sir Stirling, a fact that I and everyone at Lister are extremely proud of.
TFD: Stirling Moss edition is the only car in the world to feature a body made entirely from lightweight magnesium – what benefits does magnesium offer? Does this affect the length of time taken to build the car?
LW: Magnesium is about 30% lighter than Aluminium and as such the car will perform better. The Stirling Moss examples also have a lightweight chassis. Unfortunately, it does take an awful lot longer to build.
TFD: What’s under the hood of the Lister Knobbly Stirling Moss Edition?
LW: It has a newly engineered version of the original 3.8 Litre Engine with Wide Angled Cylinder head built for us by Crosthwaite and Gardiner. It puts out 350bhp and when you consider this car weights less than 850kg – it has a power to weight ratio similar to a Lamborghini Murcielago LP640.
TFD: Each car is priced from £1 million – in your opinion, how does the Lister Knobbly Stirling Moss Edition justify its price tag?
LW: Well for a start, there will only be 10. Secondly, the cost of making an entire car from Magnesium has proven to be extremely difficult and time consuming. Over 2000 hours alone go into forming a body for a Stirling Moss Lister. Thirdly, this is the only opportunity to buy a car identical in every way to the original car that Sir Stirling raced in period. Even an original car cannot get close as all the ‘works’ Lister Knobbly’s were destroyed in 1959.
TFD: What’s for the future of the Lister Motor Company?
LW: We have many plans, these include more historic racing cars and both modern cars for the road as well as a Hypercar. However, because we are self-funded and we run Lister without bank loans or outside investors, we will take our time and get everything spot on.
Find out about Lister Knobbly Stirling Moss Edition at: