Archie the Ship-Armed| GT Colour Lab™️ #5

Archie the Ship-Armed | GT Colour Lab™️ #5

Previously. GT Colour Lab™️ #4 is here

Overcoming Tragedy

K: LISTER MOTOR COMPANEY (a.k.a. Lister Cars) was a small racing car factory started in 1954 by a few friends in Brian's family's wrought iron shop in Cambridge. The main members were Brian Lister, who designed and built the chassis, Donald (Don) Moore, a master mechanic and engine builder, and Archie Scott Brown, a racer one year Brian's junior.

S: It sounds like some kind of garage start-up company.

K: The Cambridge University Automobile Club was the catalyst for their acquaintance, but the Scottish racer Archie Scott Brown, in particular, has made his mark as a "legendary racer" in a sense, having suffered a harsh fate.

S: "A legendary racer" in a sense? I think the image of all the racers of the time was that they were all doomed....

K: To talk about Archie, we need to start with his birth story. It was May 1927, shortly before Archie (real name: William Archibald Scott-Brown | William Archibald Scott Brown) was born.

His father, Bill Scott-Brown, was on his way to the movie theater in his convertible. It was raining that day, but Bill did not care and was driving with the accelerator at full throttle and the roof down. Bill's casual and unintentional behavior caused him to catch a bout of pneumonia. Bill's mother Janet, who was about to give birth, was infected, and she developed rubella.

S: Rubella during pregnancy! I have a bad feeling about this...

K: Bill's pneumonia was so severe that he could not even be present for Archie's birth. His pneumonia was so severe that he was on the verge of life and death. At their home in Paisley, Scotland, many medical professionals were working hard to treat his mother Janet, who was about to give birth, and his dying father Bill. Then came Friday, May 13, 1927. Archie is born amidst chaos.

S: Under the circumstances, was Archie born safely?

K: Unfortunately, Archie was born with severe disabilities in three of his limbs due to rubella that his mother contracted while pregnant. He had no right forearm, a thumb and small palm below the elbow, and both legs were twisted. And his left leg was almost always turned backward. His right leg was pointing 90 degrees at a right angle, and the only normal part was his left arm.

S: To be born with severe disabilities in three of your limbs sounds like a hopeless situation. Your parents must have been very sad.

K: His father, Bill, was trying to figure out how to treat Archie after he recovered from pneumonia. After consulting with doctors at a hospital in Glasgow, Wales, he decided to amputate his leg and put on a prosthetic leg. At that time, there were still a lot of wounded soldiers and they had the technology and facilities for prosthetic legs. However, the procedure was very risky for young children and pain was inevitable. And even after the surgery, they would have to live in an institution.

S: It is a very harsh life for a young child.

K: The parents could not accept the doctor's proposal. To begin with, the Scott-Browns were a prestigious and wealthy family, having served as observers in the Royal Flying Corps during WWI. Bill and Janet had been to every doctor in the U.K. for a second opinion, hoping to get a better treatment.

S: Frankly speaking, it would be a very difficult situation even if we consider today's medical care, much less in the 1920s. It must have been very difficult, including gathering information, to treat such a tremendous disorder with the medical care available at that time.

K: I'm sure it must have been. However, over the course of a year and a half, the couple found a hospital in Birmingham. That hospital had one of the finest authorities in the field of disability in the United Kingdom. He planned the best possible recovery surgery that could be contemplated at the time for Archie's future life.

The streets of Birmingham in 1928. The Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries had made Birmingham the most industrialized city in the country, and the level of medical care was high.

The Birth of a Small Racer

May 13, 1929. Archie's second birthday. A major surgery that would change his life began. It was a long and grueling surgery that honestly suffocated me to put into words, lasting two years and 22 sessions. And after a year of cast correction and rigorous rehabilitation, Archie succeeded in completing his original goal of healing.

S: 22 times in 2 years! Young Archie really endured a tough fate, didn't he? You really did well with your little body. I'm sure he did his best in spite of the lack of physical freedom.

K: ...but at the age of four, Archie had become very active beyond our wildest imagination. He was rampaging around in the hospital while having his cast cart pushed around.... Archie never had the air of a handicapped person, and by the time he was approaching boyhood, he was very athletic, using his legs and arms with great skill.

S: That's a bit of a surprise (chuckles)

K: One day when Archie turned seven, Bill built him a toy pedal car. Actually, his father was an Alvis works driver and owned an Alvis dealership. And his mother, Janet, was a couple of racers, having raced at Brooklands twice.

ALVIS ads from the 1920s ©️Retro AdArchives | Alamy

At first, of course, they were supposed to have prepared a wheelchair-accessible toy for their crippled son, but he drove dangerously on a neighborhood street, and while playing with the pedal car, the rambunctious Archie crashed into a gate. Archie's parents scolded him severely and took the pedal car away from him in no time.

S: Although Archie was born with a severe handicap, he was not a frail child as one might imagine, but a very naughty boy.

K: A few years later, on my 10th birthday. The toy pedal car came back with a 125 cc lawnmower engine and a three-foot gearbox. That encounter with the little cart was the birth of Archie the Racer. A delighted Archie is reported to have acquired a variety of driving skills, including the drifting that would later become synonymous with the sport, using the neighborhood's Paisley trails. The techniques he acquired at this time eventually grew into a well-honed sensibility like that of a limb. It was only a matter of time before Archie would develop a passion for automobile racing.

S: The outline of Archie's story is beginning to emerge. It's like an invented story that this boy would later become a legendary racer.

K: His mother, however, was not so positive about him becoming a racer. After all the surgeries and rehabilitation, she had finally found a normal life, but I am sure she would have been against the idea of entering the dangerous world of racing. But Archie was not the kind of child who would listen to such a thing...smiles.

S: From there, you showed more and more your qualities as a racer. The strong mentality to defy the cruel fate of handicap and the DNA of a racer inherited from his parents.

K: Archie's father actually taught him how to drive a Lagonda V12 at the site of the Brooklands circuit. Perhaps it was not only inborn in him, but also the environment that facilitated his driving skills. 

Rare photo of Archie with his mother Janet ©︎

As Archie grew into a young man, he outperformed "able-bodied" athletes in a variety of sports to the extent that those around him were hesitant to label him as disabled. While attending the University of St. Andrews, Archie's athleticism was outstanding, especially in bicycle racing, where he won the championship four years in a row, and he had an excellent sense of balance.

S: That's far beyond anything I could have imagined. Generally speaking, a person with a handicap as bad as his could have barely kept up with the general athletic activities first, or he could have been discriminated against, considering the times. Rather, I can only assume that being born with a severe handicap sharpened some of his abilities to an extreme degree.

K: I am sure that he actually had quite a few hardships due to his disability. However, people who knew him at the time say that he did not seem to be too concerned about his disability and recall him as a humorous, very cheerful, and friendly man.

Recovering Motorsports

Archie left his hometown of St. Andrews as a job trainee at the age of 22 and began working as a salesman for a tobacco company called "Dobbies 4 Square" in the East Anglia region of eastern England. With all due respect, he must have had quite an appealing personality to have been given a "salesman's job" with his appearance in the 1940s.

S: Gradually his personality begins to emerge. So Archie went over to England.

K: And it was in this East Anglia region that the fate of Archie Scott Brown, the shipwright racer, began to take shape. It was during this period that motorsports in Europe, which had been banned during World War II, began to make a comeback, and international races such as the return of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1949 and the FIA World Championship (Formula 1), which started in Silverstone in 1950, began to take place. It was right around this time that international races such as the FIA World Championship (Formula 1), which started at Silverstone in 1950, began. Motorsport in Britain began to flourish, symbolizing the postwar recovery.

MG TD made in 1951 ©️Rex Gray | Wikimedia commons

Archie bought an MG TD (XS 6931) as a race car and was active in the Eastern Counties Car Club (E.C.C.C.), a car club unique to East Anglia, and was involved in the Cambridge University Car Club meetings. He was also involved in the Cambridge University Car Club meetings.

S: I see, so there was a car club at that Cambridge University.

Huh? But Archie graduated from St. Andrews University in Scotland, didn't he? How did Archie, who was already working, get involved with the Cambridge University Automobile Club?


A small salesman who dreams of becoming a racer,
Archie Scott Brown was,
He meets his destiny at the Cambridge Automobile Club.
The miracle that resulted from this encounter was the general manager of Jaguar Cars
before reaching the ears of Sir William Lyons,
Sir William Lyons, the general manager of Jaguar Cars.

GT Colour Lab ™️
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 Cover Credit
Lister Jaguar with Archie Scott Brown
1957   ©️Motoring Picture Library | Lister Jaguar with Archie Scott Brown
©️Heritage Image Partnership Ltd | Alamy
©️George Phillips Photograph Collection