Terry Lister, owner of the Lister Jaguar Australia workshop, in Cooroy, Qld. The fascinating life of a passionate Jaguar restorer.
“I blame my father; all I ever got for Christmas and birthdays were Meccano sets,” Terry Lister says as he surveys his workshop chock full of Jaguars in various stages of restoration. Not just any Jaguars either: most here have significant histories and lofty values.
Despite this, Terry says working on such classics at his Lister Jaguar Australia (incorporating the Breed Motorshop) in Cooroy, Queensland, doesn’t daunt him. “It’s just a matter of making it all work.
Mentally I can find a solution fairly quickly to most problems. The actual assembly is the pleasure I get from the job, along with the obvious pleasure that comes when a car is finished.”
Terry’s shop isn’t connected to the famed Lister-Jaguar racing cars of the 1950s, but his surname has proved a happy coincidence for a man who’s long had a fascination for the best of British. “The Brits made a range of really interesting cars, so it’s sad they’ve largely disappeared,” he says. “Jaguar has always been a passion for me as they have a certain kind of cachet and romance.”
The Lister Jaguar Australia workshop in this sleepy Queensland town is well stocked. There are three E-Types – the most recognisable Jaguars of all – including a stripped 1961 coupe which was only the 79th built using some rare lightweight aluminium parts. Beside it is a bare metal 1964 E-Type roadster, and further along a 1970 coupe which Terry believes is the last Series 2 E-Type built. Collectors love such historical details.
While these are customer cars, a few of Terry’s own sit patiently “in case I have a quiet hour to work on my own vehicles,” he says. His collection currently numbers 12 because “if the right one pops up, I can’t help myself,” he says. “I’m passionate about the brand, so I own a few of them.”
For variety he also has a 1979 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow – a former Raffles Hotel in Singapore courtesy car – that Terry’s fixed and improved mechanically, had repainted silver and completely reupholstered. Beside it is his ex-British embassy in Peru 1976 Jaguar XJ12-C pillarless coupe with V12 engine, a low-mileage 1985 XJ6 Series 3 and an original 1962 Mk2 that’s been in storage for 40 years. Important cars all.
Born and raised in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, Terry had a strong connection with motors and machinery from a young age. “I was penning pictures of Jaguar Mk7s at school, and after moving to Australia I went through various sportscars, settling on a Jaguar E-Type and then a MkII after my wife gave birth.”
Working in industrial relations he was posted to Gladstone, where he set about restoring a Jaguar MkII in his spare time to relieve the stress of daily life. “I had big responsibilities in my job, but these I could wash away with a couple of hours on the car. Restorations aren’t rocket science. If you have the right information you can do a decent job.”
Terry moved to Noosa in 1984 and set up a successful tyre shop, expertly restoring a Daimler SP250 in his free time.
This car won the inaugural Noosa Classic Car Show trophy, so in 1989 his career course changed again. “I thought that life’s short, so I sold the tyre business, bought some land and opened the doors to a restoration company,” he says. “I had an unofficial/official deal with Jaguar and started servicing too, as there were a long time between drinks on the restoration side of things.”
Tragically, Terry’s son died in a workplace accident in 2001 and he sold the business to a partner he’d taken on. “Such a thing messes with your sense of purpose and I needed fresh challenges,” he says. “I built a couple of houses, but eventually I started fiddling with motor cars again.”
That brings us up to today. Terry moved into his Cooroy workshop in 2013 with an eye on doing less car servicing and more restorations, hence why the shop is busy with classics. “I’ve accumulated an enormous amount of information and expertise over the years, so it’s logical I use that knowledge,” Terry says.
Practically working as a one-man band, Terry deals with mechanicals, electrics and rebuilds, but says he’s supported by good body panellists, spray painters and upholsterers who “understand my kind of madness.” And old school service is key. “I like to involve owners in what I do. People put their faith in me to achieve a given result and I’ll make sure they get that. That’s my integrity.”
Terry says strong contacts in the industry means he can get hold of good parts when needed, and his knowledge and understanding of these classics are key to doing a good job. And it’s a career he recommends. “It’s a very interesting way to earn a living; you’re not simply bolting on or replacing parts, but you actually need to do proper research and it enhances the job. It gives a great sense of purpose.”
Despite his affection for British cars, and Jaguars specifically, Terry says his ideal restoration job would be of a French Facel Vega II. The elegant GT car would be safe in his hands. “I think they got it right,” Terry said, “but if one did need tweaking I’d be the boy.”