Retromobile: First ever 1959 Lister-Jaguar Costin fails to sell

The first ever 'Costin-build' 1959 Lister-Jaguar failed to find a buyer during RM Sotheby's Retromobile 2019 auction – which means the unique ex-Le Mans racer is still up for sale! Here's why you want it...

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Dominating Britain’s sports car racing scene throughout the 1957 and ‘58 seasons with Archie Scott-Brown behind the wheel, Brian Lister sought a new vehicle for his racers the following year. Crafting a fresh design with the help of celebrated aerodynamicist Frank Costin, the resulting 1959 Lister-Jaguar was far removed from the stereotypical racing machine of yesteryear.

Yet, despite the pedigree history, stylish looks, and plethora of competition successes, this unique racer failed to find a new owner during RM Sotheby's Retromobile auction on February 6. It may appear to those unaware as just ‘another 1950s racing car’, but there is serious history lurking beneath the retro aesthetics.

More importantly, the Lister-Jaguar is still up for sale! Here's why it deserves a space in your collection...

More Lister madness!

The first ‘Works’ Costin constructed, chassis no. BHL 2-59 claimed a debut victory at the hands of double Le Mans winner Ivor Bueb during the Easter Monday Sussex Trophy Race at Goodwood.

A fortnight later, the Lister-Jaguar finished fifth in the British Empire Trophy at Oulton Park, sharing the fastest lap with Jack Brabham’s second-placed Cooper Monaco.

Its promising debut races were followed by action at Crystal Palace where battle commenced between the Coopers of Salvadori and Jim Russell, alongside the Lotus of Graham Hill. BHL 2-59 then entered Le Mans as part of a two-car ‘works’ team, driven by Bueb and Lister stalwart Bruce Halford.

Due to legislation of the period, all Jaguar-engined cars were forced to run with a notoriously unreliable de-stroked version of the otherwise strong XK engine. Although the race started well for Lister, the sister car of Walt Hansgen and Peter Blond suffered engine failure after only four hours. It was to prove an omen for what happened next.

Running as high as fourth place after eight hard hours, BHL 2-59 succumbed to the same fate after a total of 121 laps. The swansong for Lister-Jaguar BHL 2-59 came soon afterwards, with Bueb clinching sixth position during the British Grand Prix support race, finishing one place behind team-mate Halford. The car was then offered for sale after Lister withdrew from racing at the end of the 1959 season, purchased by renowned London car dealership The Chequered Flag,

Experts understand that BHL 2-59 made its way Stateside, landing on the shores of California, during the first months of 1960 and was raced for the next two seasons by Dave Ridenour.

Extensively driven throughout the SCCA, USAC and California Sports Car Club events, the Lister-Jaguar took pole position at Riverside and Laguna Seca amid other podium placings at Cotati, Stockton, Sacramento and Vaca Valley.

The last recorded outing with Ridenour was a 2nd place finish at Cotati in May of 1962. The vehicle then returned to Britain in 1983 where it participated in a handful of historic races with new owner Chris Drake. It was sold for static display in a museum thereafter.

Residing indoors for the best part of two decades, the ex-Le Mans racer was later acquired by the current owner in 2006. Since then, BHL 2-59 has been a frequent attendee during various historic racing events, appearing at the Le Mans Classic and Goodwood Revival, and has enjoyed multiple victories in VSCC and AMOC 1950s sports car events.

To verify its provenance, the heritage racer is accompanied by a recent report from marque specialist Chris Keith-Lucas, in which he identifies the chassis as retaining several features unique to Costin Listers, including the distinctive rectangular chassis cross member and the rear trailing arm pick-ups. The report also identifies that the car is fitted with a works specification 3.8-litre dry-sump engine mated to a fully syncromesh XK gearbox.

As such, and boasting rude health, the vehicle is race prepared and ready to compete. Trumpeting a sole outing after a hefty engine rebuild, BHL 2-59 is ready and eligible for use in any of the multitude of historic trophies. Get a closer look at the 1959 Lister-Jaguar here.

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