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Lister boss: “We’ll build £2m, 1000bhp hypercar”

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Lister - maker of 1993’s fearsome Storm - returned to car-building under new ownership in 2013, with a race recreation of the amusingly named Knobbly. Nine sales have followed, amassing over £3 million in total, so now managing director Lawrence Whittaker has announced the next step in his plan: a 250mph hypercar with a 7.8-litre, 1000bhp supercharged V12 core.

Its price tag? A projected £2,000,000, putting the as-yet-unnamed Lister in a ballpark that makes the McLaren P1 and Porsche 918 look like budget options. Scepticism naturally follows supercar projects with sky-high targets, so TG exclusively spoke to Whittaker to delve further into his plans.

TG: You’ve made a business out of recreating the classic Knobbly racer. Why a hypercar now?

LW: It has always been my main intention to build a road car, back to when I bought Lister in 2013. One thing that me and my designers decided early on was that this wasn’t going to be a £100,000 car to compete with a 911 or R8, or a £200,000 car to compete with the 458. It’s got to be a multi-million pound car to compete with Pagani and Koenigsegg.

That’s really where the Lister heritage lies. It has a history of building very expensive cars. No disrespect to Pagani, but they haven’t got the racing pedigree that Lister has. I think we can not only build a car to compete, but there’ll be a good brand behind it as well.

TG: How will this racing pedigree shine through?

LW: It’s got to be a Jaguar-derived engine, that’s part of our heritage. We’re going to use a heavily reworked V12 engine, taken from the Storm [the 2006 Le Mans prototype] which uses a block that originates from the XJS. In this new car it’ll be a 7.8-litre, double overhead cam, supercharged V12 engine that will give us 1000bhp. In the right car, with the right set up, it will be capable of 250mph.

TG: And what about the technology?

LW: The gearbox is the most complicated thing. It would be easy to put a manual gearbox in it. I don’t want to do that. It would be easy to put an automatic gearbox in, but I don’t want to do that either. We want it to be extremely modern, and obviously double-clutch is the way forward. The problem is where we source that, and it looks as though we’re going to have to build it from scratch. But we’ve got facilities nearby our Cambridge base and I’ve no doubt we’ve got the engineering capabilities to utilise.

It’ll be rear-wheel drive, so of course there’ll be driver aids. Manufacturers that build cars without electronic aids these days do it because it’s cheaper to do so. You need the aids, and you need the car to function on the road as well as the track.

At the moment we’re looking at a carbon fibre tub, there’ll be a lot of titanium and carbon fibre in the car. We’re exploring graphite fibre, which is lighter and stronger and we’re thinking about going down that route as it’s something that will be really new and out there. I’m keen to be at the forefront of technology. It’ll definitely be under 1200 kilos.

TG: When might we see the car?

LW: This isn’t going to be a car that comes out quickly. We’re in the development phase now, and it’ll be another two or three years before we get a working prototype on the road. I haven’t bought the company to build a car that’s going to get slated. It’s got to be a car that can perform at the highest level. There are so many examples of small British companies coming out with a car that isn’t good. And I don’t want to be in that position.

We’re not going to release a car until we’re 100 per cent happy with it. The company’s owned by me, it’s not owned by a conglomerate of shareholders who’ve all got a say in things. It’s one person’s dream. You can’t imagine Ford would have come out with the Scorpio if Henry Ford still owned it.

TG: Two million pounds puts it against proven rivals. Is there space in the market?

LW: Yeah, definitely. We’re aiming for six a year. The Knobbly success has given me a lot of faith in the brand. Original Listers are worth £1.8million now, so their owners aren’t short of money. These are our potential customers. Those are the people I’ll be interested in talking to.

The McLaren P1 is a million-pound car, but it’s more mainstream than what we’re thinking; it’s more mainstream than the Paganis and Koenigseggs. It’s not our aim to compete with the P1 - it’s a level higher than that we’re marketing to. They’ll already have a P1 and a LaFerrari and they want something else that’s out of this world. It’s going to have a luxurious interior and it’ll be a car you’ll want to be in.

TG: Could it be hybrid powered, like the P1 and LaFerrari?

LW: This car isn’t going to be hybrid, that’ sort of technology is a little too expensive for us, but maybe the next car will be…

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