Known around the world as a multilingual classic car commentator and columnist, consultant and entrepreneur, Simon Kidston has built up a globally renowned business specialising in the sale of the most valuable cars in existence – both publicised and those kept ‘under the radar’ at the request of owners.
Simon has lived and breathed historic cars all his life. The nephew of 1920s ‘Bentley Boy’ Commander Glen Kidston (and cousin of fashion designer Cath Kidston), his personal love affair with the motor car began the day — as an impressionable eight-year-old — he first saw the film ‘The Italian Job’. Having grown up near Siena, in Italy, he now recalls, “The sight of a curvaceous orange missile, carving its way along the very roads that bore me to school in Switzerland each term, was an image that helped shape my whole life.”
Born in September 1967, the son of Commander Home Kidston, a retired naval officer who owned and raced cars, Simon’s education was as international as his later career. From Sunninghill Preparatory School in Dorchester, UK, he went to the British International School in Florence, followed by the John F Kennedy International School in Saanen, Switzerland and — also in Switzerland — Aiglon College in Villars-sur-Ollon. He completed his formal education at the University of Buckingham in the UK.
Launching his career straight from university in the auction department at Coys in London, Simon was running it three years later. As with many others who went on to become eminent in the industry, Coys was a learning ground from which Simon launched himself, in 1996, to co-found Brooks (now Bonhams) Europe in Geneva. Over the next decade, he developed high-profile auctions around the globe.
Simon finally left Bonhams Europe in 2006, by which time he was president of the company, to found Kidston SA, the consultancy that has since become synonymous with Private Treaty sales of rare and exceptional motor cars. It now has offices in Geneva and Dubai, while Simon himself is an Italian resident.
Among the vast number of significant cars that have passed through his and his company’s hands are the ex-Shah of Iran Lamborghini Miura SVJ previously owned by actor Nicolas Cage, four Ferrari 250 GTOs, two 250 LMs (which Simon often calls his ‘favourite’ model though, sadly, he can’t easily fit in one), plus the world’s most exclusive Miuras and McLaren F1s. Add to those the most famous Ferrari 375 MM in the world, an original Mercedes-Benz W125 GP car, an Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 Berlinetta, Ferrari 312 PB, Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa... and countless more.
Meanwhile, he has bid on behalf of clients for such cars as the highest-ever-priced Ferrari 275 NART Spider and the ex-Alain Delon Ferrari 250 GT California Spider SWB. Just as importantly, Simon has helped clients new to the classic car world to create and finesse their collections – and he is equally proud of the work he’s done building up a superlative team of experts at Kidston SA.
But founding a world-leading company wasn’t enough. As the multilingual ‘voice’ (English, French and Italian) of the Villa d’Este concours, a long-standing judge at Pebble Beach, and head judge of the Cartier Travel with Style concours in India, the author of various columns and presenter of a motoring series on US television, Simon Kidston has become inseparable from the world of collectable cars, building up his personal network of the biggest private collectors, expert restorers, journalists and historians.
He is curator of the bi-annual Homo Faber event held in Venice by the Michelangelo Foundation, presents Ruf at the Geneva Salon, and is often invited to sit on round-table discussions at such events as Trinity: BAT 5-7-9 at Phillipson Berkeley Square.
With the aim of shedding light on the frequently obscure world of high-end classics, he devised and launched K500 – an online resource that gives honest opinion and unbiased insight into the classic car market. Simon likes to think of it as “the high-octane equivalent of Robert Parker’s Consumer’s Guide to the World’s Finest Wines”, in that it gives straight forward advice that pulls no punches. Crucially, the K500 Index charts the course of the classic car market since 1994, with accurate data to identify the type of cars that have done well, and exactly how 500 key models have performed at auction over the years – right up to the present time. Launched in 2014, K500 is recognised as the authoritative voice in the market.
Over the years, Simon has been prolific as a commentator in the media and, currently, he writes columns for Keith Martin’s Sports Car Market (SCM), Ramp magazine and Vanity Fair’s En Route.
He and his team of Miura whisperers have also published the definitive book on the Lamborghini Miura, based on years of research and a desire to document the story of the car itself and the men and women who created it – “while they are still around to tell the story”. It’s a model for which Simon has had a lifelong passion – and one on which he is known to be a world expert. As he explains today, “The Miura is aesthetically stunning but it’s also the era it symbolises that slightly caddish period backdrop so redolent of the Italians’ inimitable style.”
Meanwhile, Simon has come to public attention as the producer of short, intriguingly evocative films on the greatest classic cars, designed to amuse, move, inspire and entertain.
“The Kidston team grew up in the era of Bond films, of ‘The Persuaders!’, of tongue-in-cheek movies in which the on screen cars were a crucial part of the atmosphere. An appreciation of the power of the moving image has been deeply ingrained in us ever since,” he explains. The sophistication and scope of the films (which can be seen at kidston.com) has evolved with every new release. “We’ve had feedback from people around the world and their enthusiasm has spurred us to ever-greater heights. Our aim is to document both the goliaths of the industry and the unsung heroes of the classic car world, finding new characters and fresh subjects with each film."
Another passion is in re-acquiring the cars that he and his family have owned in the past. The cars he’s managed to buy back range from his first car – a 1981 Alfa Romeo Spider 2000 – to his father’s new Gullwing, a 1938 Bugatti Type 57C Cabriolet, a 1973 Carrera 2.7 RS, a 911S and a Bugatti Type 35. There’s also a Derby Bentley that was used in a television adaptation of ‘Rebecca’ – and a Gipsy Moth racing biplane his father flew in New Zealand 75 years before Simon (a keen pilot) acquired it.
An enthusiasm Simon mentions less frequently is his interest in 1980s New Romantic pop music. He even considered running night clubs at one stage. Perhaps it was in response to his father’s oft-cited opinion that he had spent a small fortune on Simon’s education, only to see his son end up a ‘car dealer’.
Married to Rosie, with two children, Cassius and Constance, Simon splits his time between Italy, Dubai, London and Geneva, his fluency in Italian and French (as well as his native English) making him a natural traveller.
When asked what ambitions remain unfulfilled, Simon replies that he would like to contribute to a proper record of automotive history before it’s too late and, perhaps above all, encourage more people to get out and enjoy classic cars – along with the lifestyle that accompanies that passion.