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Life at Lister

The Tojeiro-JAP, nicknamed “The Asteroid” was one of the first cars Barton worked on for Brian Lister. Photo: Dick Barton Archive

George Lister & Son was a very old engineering company in my hometown of Cambridge, starting in 1895. I joined them in 1947, having done two years training at the Technical College, as their only apprentice. At that time, Brian Lister, grandson of George and son of Horace, had just finished his duties in the Royal Air Force. I’d always been interested in cars and engines. Brian noticed this and asked if I’d like to work on his Morgan 4/4 after work, during the evenings. So, I worked as an apprentice for the business during the day and then went to another property owned by Horace Lister, the Boat Yard, where Brian kept his Morgan, at night. We’d work on the Morgan and fettle it for Brian’s racing and various motoring events he’d enter. I’d cycle home, some five miles, sometimes at midnight, and have to be ready for work again early the next morning. Brian’s aim was to lighten the car as much as possible to aid his competition chances. Lightening components was his obsession, among others, so the flywheel was taken to the works and skimmed as much as possible, anything that could be lightened was drilled and worked on. That’s how my “racing career” started with Brian Lister.

Edwin ÒDickÓ BartonPhoto: Kary Jiggle
Edwin “Dick” Barton
Photo: Kary Jiggle

In the beginning, Brian had an array of cars, including the “Toj,” or Tojeiro-JAP to give it its proper name, and a Cooper MG. I’d often go to John Tojeiro’s garage, near Cambridge, to collect various parts. Realizing he was paying someone else to do a job the Lister company was more than capable of, Brian decided to build racing cars and manufacture parts himself. I enjoyed working on these until I had to leave Lister to commence my National Service—I signed on for three years, rather than the compulsory two, as this gave me an extra six pence a day. Brian, in the meantime, had formed a separate company, which he named Brian Lister Light Engineering Limited. In April 1955, back from my National Service, I joined the new company and worked on the racing side full-time. Brian was deeper into his racing competing with a Bristol by then with a certain Archie Scott Brown. My first job was to collect the Bristol, MVE 303, that Archie had just won the British Empire Trophy with at Oulton Park, from Brian’s home in Cavendish Avenue, Cambridge, and bring it to the works. Incidentally, the car was stamped as chassis BHL2 and Brian liked the number 303 for the sports cars he registered—associating them with the speed of a .303 bullet. The relationship between Brian and Archie was intense, there was a terrific bond between them and that’s why Brian never, ever, got over Archie’s death. Anytime Archie’s name was mentioned in his presence, even until Brian himself passed away, there would always be a tear in his eye, his candor would change and he’d become very emotional—he just didn’t get over it.

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