A Diverse Taste In Cars Never Goes Out Of Style
Photography Courtesy of Bonhams
I don’t understand brand loyalty when it comes to automobile marques. Too many enthusiasts fail to branch out: “All I’ll buy is BMW,” or, “I’m an Nissan guy for life”. There’s nothing wrong with disciplined manufacturer devotion, I just find it a tad mundane.
It doesn’t directly affect me, why do I care? Because you’re limiting your potential motoring experiences!
There are just too many damn good vehicles from different makes and countries to stick with one love—automotive monogamy is often unhealthy monotony. Let’s face it: regardless of the amount of money or good health we’re blessed with, we’re all bound to run out of time, so why not experience all we can?
The man responsible for the collection you see here is Kingsley Curtis, and he wasn’t afraid to drive something new: story has it, in 1963 the Englishman walked out of The White Cross pub and came upon a parked 1924 Bean 11.9. It was lust at first sight, so Kingsley bought the car right then! This spontaneous purchase marked the beginning of a long life of petrol passion.
Things only picked up once Mr. Curtis took over his family’s UK-based refrigeration business in 1964. Relocated to Suffolk, Kingsley turned out to be quite the businessman, earning himself and his inherited company even more wealth—and an eclectic automobile stable along with it. Unfortunately, the world lost Kingsley Curtis after a tough battle with cancer in September 2015—leaving his impressive collection behind.
Bonhams is auctioning the fourteen-vehicle strong Kingsley Curtis Collection. Every item is worthy of praise but here are our favorites:
1992 Ford Escort RS Cosworth
History: Two-owner example, with less than 2,500 miles.
Specifications: ~227 hp, 2.0-liter 16-valve turbocharged four-cylinder, 5-speed manual transmission, all-wheel-drive drivetrain.
Chassis no.: WFOBXXGKABNL95122
Compared to the rest of his vehicles, this addition is proof that Mr. Curtis had a widespread appreciation for automobiles—by far, the most random member of his collection. With its turbocharged four-cylinder stuffed into a lightweight all-wheel-drive chassis, the Escort wasn’t just a trick standard Escort. The floorpan is actually a shortened Sierra platform, making this WRC competing hot-hatch a serious backroad contender.
1981 Aston Martin V8 Volante Convertible
History: One of 849 built.
Specifications: ~315hp, 5340cc four-cam V8, automatic transmission, 0-100 mph in under 14 seconds, top speed of ~160mph.
Chassis no.: V8COR15167
In 1983, the man wanted a dedicated “summer car”. Kingsley was an atypical man of wealth, so he opted for a lightly used funky green-on-cream leather 1981 Aston Martin V8 Volante drop-top. It’s an automatic for relaxed warm weather driving, but it’s still capable of 160 mph. Let the yuppies drive 911 Cabriolets.
1960 Maserati 3500 GT Coupé
History: One of 12 right-hand-drive examples built.
Specifications: ~235hp, twin-cam straight-six with Lucas mechanical fuel injection, 5-speed manual transmission, disc brakes, independent front and rear live-axle/semi-elliptic suspension.
Chassis no.: AM 101.740
A Ferrari is almost too expected for a financially set gearhead, and an Aston Martin DB5 is almost too try-hard Bond. Perhaps that’s why Kingsley decided a rare right-hand-drive Maserati grand tourer fit his personality more appropriately. Finished in Grigio Metallizzato (grey metallic) with Rosso red leather interior, the aluminum body was shaped by coachbuilder Carrozzeria Touring. We love the “license to kill” look this imposing 2+2 carries.
1923 Bentley 3-Litre Tourist Trophy (TT) Replica
History: Original coachwork by Park Ward.
Specifications: DE1206, 3.0-liter “fixed-head” straight-four cylinder, leafspring suspension, front and rear brakes (front brakes added by Bentley in 1930).
Chassis no.: 160
Bentley placed 2nd, 4th, and 5th at the 1922 Isle Of Man Tourist Trophy, earning the Team Prize award. To celebrate the success, Bentley made 1,600 “Tourist Trophy Replica” production models built on the 9’ 9½” on the Short Standard model’s frame. These commemorative cars featured 3.0-liter “fixed-head” straight-four.
Sometime in the 1960s, this example lost its original number “157” engine in favor of a more robust later model engine. In 1967, the TT was restored just prior to Kingsley purchasing the car. Aside from some bodywork performed in 1992 and an engine rebuild in 2012, Mr. Curtis preserved the car’s state since ownership. This is noted by Bonhams as Kingsley’s personal favorite car, which he enjoyed driving frequently.
1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL “Gullwing”
History: Very early 300SL originally sold in the UK as a LHD model.
Specifications: ~215hp, 2996cc overhead-camshaft inline-six cylinder, Bosch mechanical fuel injection, four-speed synchromesh manual transmission, hypoid bevel rear axle, front and rear independent suspension.
Chassis no.: 37
The majority of 300SLs were sold in the United States, making them quite rare in Europe. This Gullwing was originally sold to Sir Jeremy Boles, a motorsports enthusiast who owned a Formula 2 Connaught and happened to be friends with Kingsley. After a rear axle malfunction, Boles had the rear-end replaced with a factory option higher ratio unit, free-of-charge from Mercedes. Allegedly, Boles then topped out the Autobahn missile at 156 mph! Mr. Kingsley acquired the SL in 1967, had it painted grey, and daily drove the car for many years.
Money can’t buy taste, but it’s a beautiful thing when someone with taste has money. Let this collection be a reminder that life, in the grand scheme of things, is short. My advice? If you only drive vehicles from brand “X,” give “Y” a shot. Experience variety—that’s the Kingsley Curtis way.
These vehicles will be offered at Bonhams’ upcoming Goodwood Members’ Meeting sale on March 20.