Michael Panceri (61-66) remembers - Ecurie Ecosse
Marcus MacLean's (57-61) piece about the Lister Knobbly in the September newsletter evoked memories for Michael Pancheri (61-66).

"I am sure many people, especially of my generation, will know that a Lister Knobbly is the nickname for the Jaguar-engine sports cars built by Brian Lister in the 1950s, and which were campaigned most successfully by the late, great Archie Scott Brown (42-45), surely one of Merchiston's most distinguished alumni.

The Wikipedia notes on Archie, tell us briefly how severely handicapped Archie was, which makes us realise what an extraordinarily gifted racing driver he was to have been able to overcome his disabilities and to have won races against all the top drivers of his day who carried no such physical handicaps.

The cars were known as Knobblies because of the way the bodies of the cars appeared to have been draped over the chassis, leaving distinctive humps over the wheels which gave rise to the knobbly nickname.


Marcus refers to Ecurie Ecosse, the enormously successful, privately owned Scottish motor racing team based at Merchiston Mews, and where virtually every Scottish racing driver, including Archie, also Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart and David Coulthard, and quite possibly many others for whose omission I duly apologise, learned their craft. 

The Proprietor of Ecurie Ecosse was an Edinburgh businessman, David Murray, who retailed wines among his other interests, and he was partnered by Walter (Wilkie) Wilkinson, a genius engine builder and tuner. There was also financial backing from Major E G Thomson, chairman of the famous Ben Line shipping company.

I believe Major Thomson had funded the purchase of the three new, shortnose 'D' 'Type Jaguars, one of which had won the Le Mans 24 hours race in 1956. Thomson had a small collection of delectable cars at his home out at West Linton, which later included the 1956 Le Mans winning car, driven by Ron Flockhart and Ninian Sanderson.

Although Ecosse had won the Le Mans 24-hour race in 1956 with their single 'D' Type Jaguar, I didn't really pick up on them until 1957. I was at prep school a few miles south west of Aberdeen, and had become friendly with a boy whose parents lived in England, but his aunt and uncle lived in Aberdeen. They also had a summer house up at Banchory. He spent his half-term holidays with his aunt and uncle and because my parents lived overseas, he invited me to spend half-term with him. 

At that time, there was no such thing as 24-hour television. Transmission started at about 4 p.m. and finished at about 10 or 11 p.m. However, for the Le Mans race, the BBC provided live coverage of the start and finish on the Saturday and Sunday afternoons, but also progress coverage early Saturday evening and special late-night coverage up to about midnight, and early morning coverage on Sunday. Le Mans always coincided with half-term and I remember watching the TV coverage before breakfast, being broadcast from the BBC helicopter. In 1957, Ecosse entered two 'D' Type Jaguars which came first and second. I loved the sight of these fabulous cars from the air, and the BBC commentator complaining because the helicopter couldn't keep up with them on the long Mulsanne straight! I have been a fan of Ecurie Ecosse ever since, and both of my cars still wear Ecosse badges to this day.

Ecurie Ecosse had a strong connection with Merchiston, apart from its location. In 1960, David Murray decided that the team should have a decent transporter to replace the fleet of clapped out buses which served them previously. To raise money for this, Murray formed the Ecurie Ecosse Association and invited friends and cronies to join for a fee. My father was one of the first to join and I still have his original car badge. On a visit to Merchiston Mews with my father in August 1959, David Murray offered the 1957 Le Mans winning car to my father for £1500. In 1959, that would have bought a small house in Edinburgh, whereas the value of that car today would probably buy a couple of very large houses! Sadly, my father declined as he didn't live in the UK and had nowhere to keep it or opportunities to use it. 

The task of designing and building the transporter was given to Walter Alexander's at Falkirk. Their chief designer was another close mate of my father's, Selby Howgate, at MCS 1930-1934, and he designed what became probably the most iconic and memorable racing car transporter ever.

Much later, when my second son Daniel (92-96) was at Merchiston, I was privileged to meet Max Bergius (92-98) grandson of Ninian Sanderson. Max's mother (Ninian's daughter) gave me a copy of the definitive history of Ecurie Ecosse by Graham Gauld, which I treasure.

A few years ago, I was thrilled to discover that Dick Skipworth had accumulated an impressive collection of Ecosse cars, including the transporter, and lived not far from where we used to live. We were able to visit him a couple of times, and when he put his entire collection up for sale with auctioneers Bonhams in December 2013,  Marion and I went up to London to attend the auction just to get up close to the cars one last time. Needless to say, during the bidding we kept our hands firmly out of sight I believe the final tally was in excess of £6 million.Most of the collection, including the transporter, went to the USA.

I am attaching some photos of the cars which I took at Skipworth's place and at Bonham's auction rooms. You may notice that the 'D' Type, the sister car to the 1956 Le Mans winner, is carrying the race number 32 (2010), and also number 16 (2013), showing that she was used on the race track and not simply left to gather dust in a museum!


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