I recently was invited to join a group of automotive enthusiasts to see the Simeone Collection in Philadelphia. I visited the museum over a year ago, but this visit would include a tour given my Dr. Simeone! I was very impressed with the collection on my last visit, but to meet the man behind the collection was an opportunity not to be missed!
Dr. Fred Simeone (pictured in the foreground) introduced himself to us, and began his tour of the Museum. He began by explaining the overall concept of the museum was to show how competition spurred the development of the automobile. The cars are arranged in chronological order set in dioramas of the particular race or type of event. The Doctor’s collection consists mainly of sports race cars, and less so of full race cars like Indy or F-1 cars partly because of personal taste. Dr. Simeone collected these cars with an eye for the design and beauty of these road cars. They were fast competition cars, but many of them could be used on public roads.
As we progressed down the line of cars, Dr. Simeone shared little tidbits of information and insight that were great. His knowledge of in each car only scratched the surface of what he really knew, and I’m sure there is a fascinating story behind how each car came into the possession of the Simeone Collection!
This Corvette Grand Sport pictured above is a recent addition. Not only is the history of how the Corvette team set out to beat Carroll Shelby is interesting, but also the story of the two subsequent owners before being acquired by the Simeone Foundation.
Each display focused on a particular type of road racing or circuit, and it was also a cultural history lesson on the type of racing popular from country to country.
Many of these cars are unrestored examples Dr. Simeone purchased many years ago. He prefers unrestored cars because they preserve the history of the car, and directly connects the car to its previous owners and drivers. In some cases, a full restoration was necessary because the car was too far deteriorated, but every effort is made to preserve originality. Some cars on display may have the patina of a 60 year old car, but many of them have been mechanically refurbished so any one of them can be fired up at will and driven in the back parking lot!
Dr. Simeone’s attention to detail and encyclopedic knowledge was fantastic. His knowledge went beyond simple knowledge of automotive history, but he understands the engineering innovation that made one car ahead of its time among all its peers.
After lunch we were all invited to wander around the museum to take a closer look at the cars. Dr. Simeone offered us access beyond the ropes and even offered to show us under the hoods of any of the cars. My friend Jim and I were especially interested in taking a look under the hood of an Alfa 2.9. This supercharged straight eight is not something you get to see close up every day, and to have its owner give private viewing was even better.
As in any car show, when the hood goes up, gear heads gather! The neat thing about this car is next week the Alfa Club is meeting at the museum to watch this and other Alfas drive in the back parking lot of the museum to celebrate 100 years of Alfa during the Alfa Club’s national meet. Too bad I won’t be able to join them in the celebration.
I want to thank Dr. Simeone for the wonderful tour of his collection and Abi Singh for organizing this tour.
Reminder: July 10th, 2010, Oceanside, CA, Inaugural Zac Dugger, Tom Wilson, and Tomyang.net West Coast Party. Click here for more details!
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