24 October 2013

The continuing continuation debate - A personal View.

In these times of recession when everyone is feeling the pinch, it is rather heartwarming to learn of the return of, what can only really be described as, a cottage industry.  In this case it's the recently announced return of the Knobbly Lister a car originally designed and produced in Cambridge by Brian Lister, an ex Bristol employee.

The Knobbly Lister is one of those iconic 1950's sports cars that made their name running against works cars such as Jaguars, Ferraris and Maseratis. The cars were powered by the Jaguar D Type straight six engine and sported an all enveloping body with "knobbly" bits over the wheels.  As can be seen it allowed the body to be "wrapped" around the engine and wheels thus creating an element of aerodynamic efficiency, not too dissimilar to the "Twin Boom" Ferrari Testarrosa.

But that was 1957, when one of the cars driven by Archie Scott Brown won the Empire Trophy.  Sadly at Spa in 1959 Archie was killed driving one of these cars.  Now it seems that a company by the name of Warranty Wise, has decided that there is a market for these cars and is setting up to "continue" production.  Gosh, they are even using the original bucks and body molds as used on the original cars!  All topped off with a major investment in state of the art CAD and CNC equipment, just like in the fifties!

Apologies for my cynicism and in fairness to the new owners, they see a market and at the prices they will be charging, who can blame them?  They are also marking the chassis with the nomenclature BHL-C (C is for continuation).  The really disturbing thing is that they state that the cars will be given full FIA HTP approval.

I suspect the argument goes that there is no difference between a re manufactured car, to a car that has been restored (as was my MGB).  The problem for me is that in 1957 there was no such thing as CAD or CNC equipment, it was all done by hand.  Also in the 1950's I suggest there were less procedures in terms of quality control/fabrication and indeed the safety standards for cars were somewhat less than now.  In my opinion, restoring an original car is acceptable but it can never be the same as building a totally new car from all new materials, using modern technology.  Surely, with all the modern construction techniques it would be surprising if these cars weren't dynamically, significantly superior to the originals.

So, bearing those things in mind isn't it more surprising that the FIA thinks it's acceptable to permit these cars (or others in the same situation) to race in true historic events?    Which in turn means that the "historic" part of historic motorsport will be driven out of the sport, leaving the market open to recreation/continuations.  Furthermore, do we really want to see grids full of Knobbly Listers?  As lovely as the cars are, variety is the key to entertainment and we all know what happens to one make series.

There are plans for Lister Jaguar themed events in 2015 to coincide with the 125th anniversary of the founding of Lister Engineering.  Further information can be found at at http://www.listercars.com/.  Good luck to anyone buying one, I hope you enjoy it, but please try not to pass it off as an original.

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