Tuesday, August 02, 2016

This Lister Chevrolet missed being raced and famous, only because it had the wrong brake calipers. If they'd built it to the ordered specs, it would have been the " Black Beast of Foggy Bottom " instead, it sat at the dealership for a couple years, and then it was bought and stored for 4 decades without ever being raced in anger

It was built to fulfill an original order from Mrs Henry Clark Boden IV, a member of the immensely wealthy du Pont family. She enjoyed many sports as an enthusiastic sponsor and while she ran race horses on the American turf she also enjoyed fast cars.

She founded her Kelso motor racing team in 1957, running an ex-Bill Lloyd Maserati 300S, while her Kelso Autodynamics company held a Jaguar agency in addition to becoming one of the Lister company's four US distributors in 1958-59.

The office manager of Lister's other East Coast distributorship recalled how in 1958, Mrs Boden came to collect her brand-new Lister-Chevrolet, rush ordered from England, however she took one look at the brand-new car – commented that it had cast-iron brake calipers instead of the lightweight alloy type that she had specified, and when she was 'soft-soaped' by a rather patronizing salesman there she threw a fit and tore up her contract, scattering it like confetti, telling the salesman to keep 'his' car and stormed off.

She promptly called Carroll Shelby found that he had a Lister-Chevrolet immediately available, and so it was that car – chassis serial 'BHL 114' – which subsequently became famous as her 'The Black Beast of Foggy Bottom' as was inscribed in discreet gold letters on the car's ebony flanks.

This sequence of events left Auto Engineering with this racecar as unsold stock. Having lost their demanding original customer to Shelby-Hall in Texas, there was little they could do with the car and it remained unsold into 1960, some of the time "The mechanics found it a handy place to sit in and eat their lunches". Nothing ages so rapidly as last year's obsolescent racing car...

However, four years later 27-year-old Stan Hallinan agreed to purchase 'BHL 115' for $5,000, the date - January 18th, 1962. He subsequently used the car very sparingly, only for airport events, and occasionally – as Mr Hallinan would lightheartedly recall – for some diverting, mainly nocturnal, motoring on the public roads of New England.

Dana Freeman, the manager stuck for 4 years with the race car, recalls that he sourced a 283 cubic-inch Chevrolet V8 engine for it from the Momo Corporation – Alfred Momo being racing manager and technical director of the renowned Briggs Cunningham Racing Team - a spare power unit prepared for the Le Mans 24-Hour race in 1960.

When Hallinan was encountered near-disaster one winter when he found that frost had split this original engine's block, he reacted by having the engine rebuilt with its original Chevrolet Engineering internals being re-assembled into a new replacement block. The original block though disassembled, was retained and accompanies the car today. Thereafter this remarkable 'time machine' motor car slumbered on...being retained in almost completely original condition – even down to its original-equipment Dunlop Racing front tires, handbrake, horn, spare tire, top frame, plexi side windows, mufflers, and the original Lucas "Le Mans 24" headlamp lenses still in their place.


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