Thursday, 13 January 2011

Carroll's Cat faster than a 250 F - Lister Jaguar BHL 128

Moving on 20 years from yesterdays blog but staying with the Lister Jaguar cars of the late 50's, this one has a proud boast thanks Bobby Bell who is seen here standing in the fire suit, behind the car, at the British Grand Prix meeting where he was competing in the Lloyds & Scottish championship.

Bobby Bell, who kindly shared the details about today's story is one half of Bell & Covill purveyors of fine, approximately 25,000 at last count, motor cars which have been sold to customers from Twickenham to Tobago.

One might imagine from the BRG and yellow paint job that this vehicle had been raced by Archie Scott Brown to some of the many Lister Jaguar victories, however it transpires that nothing could be further from the truth.

According to Doug Nye's 2nd edition, reasonably priced, 'Powered by Jaguar' the 1959 Lister Jaguar BHL 128 was originally supplied to Carroll Shelby Sports Cars Inc, Dallas Texas as a rolling chassis built to accept an American made body and Chevrolet V8 engine.

BHL 128 also known as 'the Boeing Car' is said to have been part of a Land Speed Record project with input from Boeing and master minded by John Fitch, Doug's research categorically states John Fitch the former Mercedes Driver and Safety Engineer had absolutely no involvement in such a project.

What ever the outcome of the Boeing project the vehicle has no identifiable 'in period' racing history and was recovered to England around 1969 and acquired by Peter Sargent around 1970. Between 1970 and the mid 70's BHL 128 was fitted with both a 3.8 / 231 cui XK Jaguar motor and a, retrospective, 1958 low frontal area 'Knobbly' body in preference to the historically more accurate, but less successful, 1959 Costin body.

Bobby tells me that he acquired BHL 128 in the mid 70's and raced it to many historic race victories and a Lloyds & Scottish Championship.

However one of his favourite memories was the day he put BHL 128 on pole for the 1978 historic race at Le Mans, with a time that would easily have qualified for the 24 hours race proper, ahead of Stirling Moss and Willie Green one of the best if not the best historic racer of all time.

Bobby tells me that on that day BHL 128 was fitted with a 2.9 high ratio back axle which allowed him to hit approximately 175 mph on the 4 mile Mulsanne straight at 6000 rpm.

Both Willie Green in his D-type Jaguar and Moss driving a far superior handling open wheel Grand Prix Maserati 250 F made up ground on the Lister in the corners but could not keep pace with the Lister on La Sarthe's long straights.

Unfortunately on the third lap of the race, the crankshaft broke and as Bobby says, 'that was that'. Stirling might have added "Better to lose honorably in a British car than win in a foreign one", though if he did, it was not recorded on this particular occasion.

Bobby sold the car in the mid '80's and it has since undergone restoration and now belongs to a lucky Steven Gibbs.

My thanks to Bobby Bell for sharing today's story and to Doug Nye, David Mckinney, Belmondo, Dutchy, Julian Bronson, and Robert Barker at The Nostalgia Forum for additional comments going back to May last year.

Thanks for joining me for a week of Big Cat history, I hope you'll join me again tomorrow for everyone's favourite 'Ferrari Friday' when I'll be looking at one of a series of 387 Ferrari's none of which were sold as new in the United States. Don't forget to come back now !