Steve Kimpton: ‘I Don’t Collect Them and I’m Not Very Good at Selling Them, I Just Love Them’

  • story by David M. Brown
  • photos by John Bazay
  • posted on 01/2021
  • posted in: Great Garages

Steve Kimpton loves every one of his eclectic vehicles. And his new garage.

Each car represents his lifelong passion for rare vehicles –– from his early life in a small English village, to Canada and Connecticut and eventually Arizona. That’s why he just built a 1,600-square-foot high-ceilinged garage attached to his north Scottsdale home.

Before the completion of his auto cave, he stored his joys at various friends’ homes as well as at APEX Motor Club in Maricopa. Now at home, he, his wife Julie and their rescued black Labrador retriever, Natasha, can all enjoy them in their different ways. “Julie said no more cars, as we don’t have any more room, so building out the garage seemed the obvious solution to me,” he explains.

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“I don’t collect them, I’m not very good at selling them, I just love them,’” says Kimpton, who was born and raised in Albrighton, a village in Shropshire, England, not far from Birmingham. “I love unique cars; none are worth very much in world-market terms, but they all mean a lot to me.”

After graduating from Oxford University with an engineering degree, he built a component car in three months before beginning a career. “I think I got the car bug from my father, Bill. I remember he had a Mark I Escort which he used to drive us to school in when the weather was bad, and I think he was a frustrated rally driver,” he explains, noting the popularity of that Ford model at the time in England.

“I had a talent for engineering but knew I didn’t want a career in it, so I got into actuarial work because of my brother,” he adds. As a result, he accepted a position with one of the largest private consulting firms in the world and moved to Montreal, Quebec, in 1986. He lived and worked in Canada for the next 20 years during which he became a partner. He then moved with his company to Stamford, Connecticut, about 40 miles from Manhattan. In 2011, he relocated to Arizona, where he retired from full-time actuarial work in 2015.

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“I loved the climate, the golf and the Arizona car culture,” he explains. He now partners with Kai Goddard, a Cave Creek resident, on Track Rekord, which offers high-performance on-track driver instruction and other services at APEX and nationwide.

In Kimpton’s new garage is a 1955 Beck Porsche 550 Spyder replica; a 1960 Westfield Mega S2000; a 1961 Triumph TR3A, which he hopes to eventually give to his first son, Max; a 1963 Austin-Healey 3000 BT7, which he bought for his second son, Alex, when he was born and which he is still restoring 30 years later; a 1988 BMW 325is Group N tribute track car; 1997 BMW 328 “Lemons” track car; a 2000 BMW M Coupe “Clown Shoe”; a 2005 factory-built Superformance S1, with a Ford Zetec engine, #53 of 56 produced; a 2005 Lotus Elise; a 2014 Ariel Atom; and Julie’s 2020 Hyundai Kona Electric.

There is also a 150-cc Chinese-made scooter that a friend found dumped in a Phoenix back yard; and a very quick Honda 125-cc Grom motorcycle. Signature Graphics in Scottsdale has meticulously wrapped the scooter and the Atom in matching British Union Jack livery.

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Kimpton also garages a 2010 CTS-V, fully wrapped by Signature Graphics, which he and his Track Rekord partner Goddard use for instruction at APEX. “It’s a perfect car for the task,” he says. “It can hold up to four students, has lots of power and it handles great, so it’s perfect for drifting.”
A Recent History of Motoring

“The collection is a pocket history of the evolution of the motorcar from the middle of the 20th century to today, with cars such as the 1950s Porsche through the BMWs and the Lotus that need computers, and the Kona that relies on electrons for motive power,” he says. “The next stage are the cars that won’t even need drivers –– but hopefully not too soon.”

Kimpton hosted us recently in his new space, built in the second half of 2020 by Brian Carson of CB International, which includes automobilia and a chalk board where he posts his “to-do” list of repairs and maintenance.

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Let’s look closely at a few of his cars, in order of purchase:

1961 Triumph TR3A –– He acquired the classic English roadster in 1987 prior to Max’s birth. The in-line 4 had about 95 horses when new, fed by twin SU carburetors and an electric overdrive. Kimpton says he has had it up to a scary 110 mph, the claimed top speed. This was the first British production car to be fitted with disc brakes, he explains.

“I restored it and planned to give it to Max on his 21st birthday,” says Kimpton. Max is 32 now, but Kimpton still plans one day to drive cross country with him to Montreal and deliver the classic.

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“This was a true barn find. I saw it in an ad in the Montreal Gazette for $5, 000,” he explains, noting that his first car was a Triumph Herald, a two-door available from 1959 through 1971. “The TR3A was complete, but I bought it completely in pieces and in boxes,” he says. “It looked as though the previous owner had got half way through a restoration and ran out of gas.”

Kimpton took 18 months to assemble the Triumph. “It’s so easy to work on, with lots of access, and the parts are often much cheaper than parts for modern cars. It’s almost all original but has been repainted in a metal flake close to the original Signal Red, and I added seatbelts and a wooden steering wheel.”

He left it in storage in Montreal when he moved to Connecticut. “I was going to sell it back then, but Max advised, ‘You can’t, dad; it’s a part of the family.’”

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2005 Lotus Elise –– Kimpton bought the car when he moved to the United States. Newly introduced for 2005, it’s the revised Series 2, which he says was not available at the time in Canada. He picked it up in Stamford.

The low-slung, sinuous track car has the “bulletproof” Toyota engine with variable valve timing. “Over 6,200 rpm, it has a great kick in power,” he says. The low-mileage roadster also has the optional Touring Package which included perforated leather seats, carpets, some sound insulation and electric windows. “It’s the car that saved Lotus,” he says.

This is also the car that brought him to regular track driving because the dealership where he bought it scheduled regular events at nearby Lime Rock. He adds: “Despite being a track- focused car, it’s surprisingly comfortable as a highway driver; I used to take it up to Montreal all of the time.”

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“I love this car. It’s the proverbial go-kart for handling, and it’s appreciating in value for enthusiasts. Fortunately, it’s led the life it was meant to lead: being driven hard at the track. A while back, I added the very faint blue stripes when it had to be repainted, so now it’s unique.”

This is another vehicle a family member warned him against selling. A few years ago, he thought about it. Not nearly the car fan he is, Julie simply asked, “Why would you do that?”

1955 Beck Porsche 550 Spyder replica –– “I was looking around for Beck replicas here in the United States, and I found this on E-Bay,” Kimpton explains. The Beck Speedster company, Special Edition Inc., is based in Bremen, Indiana. Kimpton’s has a VW four-cylinder outputting about 125 horses through a 4-speed and is in the less common Silver Blue with a red interior. “I take it out as often as I can,” he says, “and it’s a hoot to drive.”

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1960 Westfield Mega S2000 –– Kimpton built this fiberglas-bodied Lotus 7 interpretation when he retired in 2015. “It comes in a big box with all of the parts, except for the drivetrain,” he explains.

The car was designed around the AP1 Honda S2000 drivetrain, and after an engine mishap, he changed out the F20C head on a new F22C1 block for a longer stroke and customized the ECU. The Westfield is light at just over 1,400 pounds. “It’s very fast and handles very well on the track,” he says.

“Building it was a bit challenging, though, to solve some of the assembly issues, but the internet forums, mostly based in the UK, were invaluable,” he explains.

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One issue was getting the tall engine and the drivetrain into the front bay. “There is not a lot of room, and the engine and gearbox must be installed together, so I had to temporarily lift up the back of the car to get the right angle to slide everything in. It’s very snug. I did it by myself, which added to the challenge.”

He’s always loved the Gulf livery, made famous by the great GT40 colors, orange on Zenith blue, which dominated Le Mans in the mid-1960s. “I told Westfield that’s what I wanted; they color matched them for me and started making this combination available for other people as well.”

2014 Ariel Atom –– This rear-engine track car is not road legal. Most of the time, this and the Westfield live at APEX. “The Westfield has slightly more power, so it’s better on the straights, but this beats it in the twisty bits,” he explains. “But if you get it wrong, it all goes south very quickly and you will spin out.”

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He co-owned the car with a deceased friend: “He had the perfect last day; he’d been at the track, flew home, had dinner with his wife and had a heart attack the following morning,” Kimpton says. “Because of this memory, the car means a tremendous amount to me.”

2000 BMW M Coupe –– Known as the “Clown Shoe” for its shape, Kimpton’s is the S52 240-horse version and is one of only 313 made in this color combination for the North American market, he says. “It was an engineering project to produce a better sports car at BMW, and they made it on the understanding that it didn’t cost a lot to make, so it shares a lot of parts, including the M3 engine, with the E36 3-Series,” he explains.

“I had wanted to buy this car in this color, Estoril Blue, ever since I saw one in a showroom in Montreal when it first came out,” he says. “It’s a very polarizing look; it’s a car you either love or hate, and I love it. I bought it ‘by accident’ on Bring a Trailer when Julie was on vacation,” he adds with a smile.

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1997 BMW 328 “Lemons” track car –– This is a hailstorm-damaged car for the fun “24 Hours of Le Mons” race series in three classes. “You are only supposed to spend $500 on the car except for safety features such as harnesses, race seats, wheels/tires, brakes and the fire-suppression system. Three friends paid for it, and I provided the sweat equity. I stripped it, rebuilt the engine and did the ‘artwork,’” he explains. “The series is an inexpensive way to get involved in wheel-to-wheel racing and is a blast.”

1991 BMW 325is Group N tribute track car –– In the 1990s, two-time world Superstox champion, Geoff Goddard, the father of his business partner, Kai, raced this model in Group N in South Africa as part of circuit racing for a BMW team.

Kai, his brother and Kimpton recreated it for him. Geoff took it to the track when he recently visited. “It was a special day for him –– he’s now in his 70s –– and a special moment for us all as he was reunited with his car,” Kimpton recalls.

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He explains that even though it doesn’t have a lot of power from the 165-horse straight 6, the racer handles “sublimely” with a great suspension set-up.

After Goddard senior returned home to South Africa, Kimpton and the brothers wanted to compete with the car in the APEX race series, but they weren’t sure it was a good idea in case the car were damaged, but Geoff gave them his paternal blessing: “You’ve gotta race that car!”

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