In loving tribute to a local race-car driver, Mandarin residents maintain one of the nation’s finest collections of classic Jaguar automobiles.
Burrowed down a long driveway in the Longwood subdivision of Mandarin rests the legacy of Tom Curren, a longtime resident, racecar driver, and Jaguar enthusiast who passed away from cancer at age 65 almost three years ago. Thanks to the efforts of his then-fiancée Delila Davis and longtime friend Dwight Algeo, Tom’s legend, his cars, and his mementos live on.
“It is all about maintaining Tom’s legacy,” says Dwight, who is a self-described car hobbyist. A Winter Park native, Dwight owned a pool-digging business when he met Tom, who ran a classic car restoration company across the street. The two were friends for close to 30 years.
Delila, who inherited Tom’s Mandarin house, his cars, and a plethora of collectibles, not only maintains the tangible part of Tom’s possessions and memory, but she stays active in the Jaguar car clubs and hot-rod clubs that were dear to Tom’s heart. With Dwight by her side, they continue to compete in car shows, some on their own, others in Tom’s honor. Together, they have more trophies and awards than they can count, but these days it’s more about the people and the camaraderie than taking home a prize. Delila even continues to host Tom’s annual local Jaguar club Summer Splash Party at the home.
“I have always been a car girl,” says Delila, a native of Wilmington, Delaware, who is the current vice president of the Jaguar Club of Florida. Tom served for years as the club’s president, technical advisor, and chief judge.
Tom’s bequeathed mementos that currently occupy a small room adjacent to an oversized working garage could easily fill a boutique motorcar museum. There are racing suits, programs, posters, awards, toy cars, car parts, and autographed photos. There is a motorcycle of which the handlebars are fashioned from a Jaguar’s chrome bumper.
But the classic automobiles are the main attraction, some previously owned by Tom and others subsequently added by Dwight and Delila. Today, the Jaguar collection includes:
1952 XK 120 C-Type – This is the pièce de résistance of the collection. This true racecar, still in immaculate condition, is one of only 43 ever made. Tom found the car at a garage sale and gave the ride its racing pedigree, competing with it at Daytona International Speedway and Sebring International Raceway. Tom’s auto restorations – like he accomplished with this XK 120 – were industry renowned.
1964 XKE Series 1 OTC – When Jaguar first unveiled this model in 1961, it turned heads around the world because it was built more like a racecar than a passenger automobile. Jaguar ceremoniously celebrated the 50th anniversary of this classic, known as its most eminent model, in 2011.
2001 XJ8 – At the time of its release, this full-size luxury classic automobile was considered one of the finest luxury sedans on the market. The 8 denotes this sedan was powered by Jaguar’s compact V8 piston engine.
2007 XK – When Motor Trend magazine first reviewed this entry into the sports-car market, the XK was heralded as the perfect vehicle for those who wanted to be like James Bond, but couldn’t afford 007’s famous Aston Martin. Motor Trend noted the XK looked as good and drove as well as the Aston Martin at half the price.
Rounding out the current car collection at the Mandarin home are a 1991 Corvette, a 1932 Ford 5-Window Coupe, and a 1934 Ford 5-Window Coupe. Neighbors regularly spy Delila and Dwight tooling around in the classic Fords – Dwight in the open-engine black ’32 and Delila motoring about in the purple and white ‘34.
The two friends-turned-curators have owned dozens of cars over the years – Dwight’s first was a 1964 Malibu Super Sport convertible – and there always comes a time to pare down the inventory. Later this year, representatives from Jaguar Land Rover are traversing the pond to visit Delila and Dwight, who are also members of the All British Car Club, to see their collection and hopefully bring home a classic Jaguar or two.
“Maybe we’ll sell the silver XKE,” says Delila. “But never the 1952.”
“There are always too many cars,” adds Dwight. “We cycle them in and cycle them out. But the 1952 120 will always be here.”
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