The Race of Two Worlds, first run in 1957, was an epic showdown that pitted the cream of the USAC National Championship against the leading lights of the Formula One World Championship. Held on the banked oval at Monza, newly redeveloped for the Italian Grand Prix at the time, the event was given the moniker ‘Monzanapolis’ due to the track’s similarity to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The race series attracted some of the best drivers from across the world – including Stirling Moss, Juan Manuel Fangio and Mike Hawthorn – with many of them competing in cars developed by their teams specially for the occasion.
Revered Scottish racing stable Ecurie Ecosse was one such team. It had originally entered the Race of Two Worlds in 1957, running with several Jaguar D-Types. Although the team had performed well, it decided it needed a better car, one that could match the raw speed and power of the American Indy car.
The challenge was given to Cambridge-based Lister Cars, founded just a few years earlier, which responded with the creation of the Monzanapolis – a sleek, streamlined single-seater racer that was powered by a Jaguar D-Type engine.
Despite the car’s early promise, it had been hastily put together and hadn’t been thoroughly tested before being shipped over to Monza for the 1958 race. Jack Fairman, who had raced to great success in the 1957 race in the Jaguar D-Type, was quick off the line in the Monzanapolis but the car just couldn’t keep pace with the Offenhauser-powered Kurtis Krafts and Kuzmas and lost in the first heat.
Indeed, Ecurie Ecosse failed to secure a win at the event with any of their team, although fellow British driver Mike Hawthorn came in third as part of Scuderia Ferrari. This would be the only chance the Monzanapolis would get to take on the Americans as, due to the safety and high-speed nature of the track being a continued concern, the series was cancelled after the 1958 event.
Following the race, the Monzanapolis returned home with its tail firmly between its legs and suffered the ultimate humiliation when Ecurie Ecosse decided to convert the racer into a sports car.
It then went on to be driven by Masten Gregory and Peter Blond for a short time, but they both crashed the car at separate events. Following Blond’s crash at Aintree, the car was rebuilt using the old single-seater body and sold to veteran hill climber Phil Scragg. A legendary figure, Scragg went onto campaign the car successfully for a number of years, setting numerous hill climb records before selling it on.
The car then exchanged hands a number of times before it bought by a German collector, who held on to it for nearly 20 years before passing it to current owner Rod Jolley. Rod dreamt of owning the Monzanapolis for most of his life, so when the opportunity to buy it came up, he simply couldn’t say no.
“It’s been racing in VSCC circles forever and I used to go to Silverstone and see it belting around, winning races and never ever dreamed that it might come my way.” The German owner and I became good friends and he knew that I loved the car. There came a point one day when he said ‘Look, Rod, I’m over 70 and I’ve got to retire from racing – you ought to have the Monza Lister.’
“So I started counting my shirt buttons, you know, and thought there was just no way I could afford it at the time. So he actually held onto the car until I could arrange the money and everything else.”
Throughout the years, the car had been heavily modified – its original engine had been removed and replaced with a road engine, the wheels had been changed to 16-inch all the way around and several changes had been made to the body. But when Rod bought the car, he was determined to put it back to its original Monzanapolis specification.
“I’ve put the right D-type Jaguar engine in, and I’ve changed the wheels back to 18 inches in the rear and 17 inches on the front – the only time it ever had those wheels was that one race in 1958. It meant changing the rear axle ratio, because that was then overgeared, but that’s how the car was after all – if I wanted to put it back to original, that’s what I had to do!” said Rod.
Once the car was returned to its original specification, Rod was keen to take it to the race track, and continued to add several trophies to the car’s illustrious history. Earning several wins with the car at Nurburgring, Dijon, Spa and Goodwood, Rod is looking forward to returning the car to its hill climb glory: “I think the venue is beautiful, and it’s got a really interesting hill. I usually compete in circuit racing, so I’m excited to take the car for a spin up at the Chateau this summer.”