Two doors, four people and 200mph. The main recipe for Lauwrence Pearce and his WP Automotive when they began thinking about what would finally become the Lister Mk III Le Mans, a supercar based loosely on the Jaguar XJ-S. That 200mph barrier, that was quite a thing, because back in 1989 when the Le Mans was introduced, 200mph was something only a very few cars could do and none of those could seat four adults.
The WP Automotive Lister Mk III Le Mans was the ultimate Jaguar XJ-S based supercar built by the Leatherhead based specialist. More than ever before was this car was a complete car, not so much a conversion, but a thouroughly designed car that used a compeletly new Jaguar XJ-S Bodyshell as basis and every Lister got their own chassisnumber and was labled a Lister-Jaguar. The car itself only used very few unmodified Jaguar components, many things including the suspension, engine and drivetrain were all highly modified or custom made for the car.
The power for this monster machine stemmed from a Jaguar 5.3L V12 which was enlarged to a full 7.0L by increasing both bore and stroke, the latter by custom making a new crankshaft. Custom Cosworth produced pistons, new throttlebodies, modified exhaust system, engine management system and a host of other modifications all contribute to the massive increase in power compared to a regular Jaguar XJ-S from 299BHP to 496BHP for the normaly aspirated version of Lister's 7 Litre Le Mans. An even more impressive configuration was available in the shape of a 7.0L V12 that was suplemented by two Albrecht superchargers, producing slightly over 600BHP. 0-60 mph (0-100 kmh) was done in about 4.5 sec and topspeed close to 200, though some articles suggest the actual top speed of 200mph was never really met, more close to 185-190mph.
To allow a Jaguar XJ-S to seat four people realisticly WP Automotive were up to a huge task that would require a lot of redesign, especially when you consider the fact that stretching the wheelbase of the car was not an option. First and foremost the interior space of the Jag needed to be enlarged by removing the original vertically placed rear window of the XJ-S and replacing it with one from another car and that was basically placed on top of the flying buttresses of the XJ-S, allowing all the space between the flying buttresses to be anexated by the interior. The rear seats were replaced with new examples that were placed more deeply to allow the knees of the passsengers to move away from the front seats and to obtain much needed headroom. With the new rear seats in place there was a need to redesign the existing fueltank that was normally placed behind the rear seats. Being placed more to the rear, protuding right into the space where the limited XJ-S boot space was to become even more limited. A few duffel bags with cash money might still fit in there....
The interior itself is completely wrapped in Conolly leather, including the ceiling. Front seats are Recaro and luxurious items like a car telephone are all in the options list for the Lister.
When you first look at the Lister Le Mans it's probably not the extra space for the passengers that attracts attention, nor is it the huge engine. It probably is the pumped up look of something you might recognize as a Jaguar XJ-S, but there's quite a few design keys that clearly make it stand apart from an XJ-S, you might even doubt it really is one. The front end for instance isn't what it used to be. The head lights are clear and clearly Jaguar, but the thing in between, one would call a bonnet isn't like anything that was ever before fitted on a XJ-S. Completely crafted from metal, the new bonnet is designed with high speeds in mind, forming a wedge to ram through 200mph air. A new front bumper flows into metal crafted wide fenders and when leaving the door shut you get near the rear wheels, the very wide rear wheels (Lamborghini Diablo wide, 335/35 on 17inch rims) that are also tucked under wide fenders with an air inlet for air to cool the brakes. The most noticable is the rear wing that is wrapped arround the boot.
After the introduction of the coupe version of the Lister Le Mans in 1989 a convertible was also offered from 1990 onward, which had a redesigned floorpan to compensate for the lack of roof. Even though open-air compensates for a lot to some people, you still want a rigid car and a controllable one. Because the same 7.0L V12 engine from the coupe was also powering the Le Mans Convertible, still wanting to pound it's way forward, both in a straight line and through corners, the standard Jaguar Convertible floorpan just wouldn't do it. The extra stiffening came at a higher price. The convertible was also equipped with two bucket seats for the rear passengers, an interesting option since the standard XJ-S Convertible didn't have any seats at all. It needs to be mentioned that the legroom one had in the Coupe Le Mans wasn't to be found in the Convertible, there simply wasn't room to place the seats more to rear without interfering with the foldable convertible-top.
The WP Automotive Lister Le Mans was originally priced at £121.000 (UK Pounds) in 1989, however period articles of 1990 and 1992 suggest a price of £155.000 and the more exclusive supercharged version at £170.000 (1991). Simply said, very pricey indeed. The convertible was about £10.000 more expensive than the coupe, the extra stiffening being a costly matter.
The 1989 Lister MkIII Le Mans demonstrator.
A very interesting view of the Lister Mk III Le Mans
A rear view of the Lister Mk III Le Mans showing the original XJ-S tail lights which have been repositioned about 10cm higher to be incorporated in the Le Mans' rear wing.
The Lister MkIII Le Mans Convertible in comparison to it's period XJ-S counterparts (well, uhhh, not really...).... the Railton F28 (blue), PBB-Design Monaco (red) and the Hands Hyper XJ-S (black).
Text: copyright Bram Corts