Housed in a large warehouse-type building not far from the Philadelphia Airport, the Simeone Museum is the creation of Dr. Fred A. Simeone, a Philadelphia neurosurgeon who is presently a very spry 81 years old. He and his father, a General Practioner, were both interested in vintage racing cars and when the elder Simeone passed away in 1972 his son inherited four cars stored in a garage in central Philadelphia. Over the ensuing years, Dr. Simeone has built up what must be considered one of the very finest collections of sports cars in the world. In 2008 he transferred ownership of his 65 cars, still stored in a garage, to the Simeone Foundation and the organization's museum opened that summer.
The collection is very specific in that the cars it includes are: sports cars with headlights and fenders (there is one notable exception); have a history of road racing; be of historical significance; and that the major components of the car be original. There are few restored cars in the collection but rather they should be considered "preserved" to a large extent. The cars are not just kept on static display but actually operated during "Demonstration Days" once a month when some selected vehicles are taken out and exercised in the large adjacent parking lot.
On entering the museum, located in a nondescript industrial park, one is immediately confronted with a row of wonderful pre-World War I sports cars, boasting some of the most memorable names in early motor racing. The Simeone Museum, which is fairly chronological, begins with a very fine 1909 American Underslung Traveler, which had an interesting history as its owner was a big fan of the marque and bought four American Underslungs new, one of which was burned during a hotel garage fire on his honeymoon! This car was restored with meticulous attention to detail in the early 1960s and is a powerful example of what is arguably a product of the first manufacturer of sports cars in the United States. Developed by the famous Harry Stutz, they were built in Indianapolis from 1905 to 1914, after which the company went into receivership.
|1909 American Underslung Traveler|
The row of wonderful cars continued with a National roadster from the same era and then two of the most iconic of all American sports cars: a 1913 Mercer Raceabout and a 1916 Stutz Bearcat.
|1912 National Model 40--an unrestored, original car similar to the Indianapolis 500 winner of the same year|
|1913 Mercer Raceabout, in original condition but having a 1911 chassis and 1913 engine and transmission. Along with its expensive Michelin tires, it is assumed that this car was raced, the only Mercer Raceabout that may have done so.|
|1916 Stutz Series 4C Bearcat, 36 hp, and built in Indianapolis but this particular exmaple has somewhat questionable provenance but what a car!|
The next area in the museum was devoted to the differing motor sports events in the United States, including including Watkins Glen and the Bonneville Salt Flats. Two iconic cars were here: the prototype 1964 Shelby Daytona Coupe, one of six built, and the equally rare 1963 Corvette Grand Sport.
1964 Shelby Daytona Coupe, once owned by music producer Phil Spector, and the first car to be listed on the Historic Vehicle Association's National Historic Vehicle Registry
Now to Bella Italia and some cars that were raced in the famous Targa Florio and Miglia Mille events:
|1926 Bugatti Type 35, probably the winningest sports car model of all time with 2,000 victories, including four vins in a row at the Targa Florio from 1925-1929. This car is considered the most original Type 35 in existence.|
|1975 Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 TT12, winner of the World Championship that year|
|Left: 1933 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Monza; Right: 1937 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900--both of these cars finished 2nd in the 1933 and 1937 Mille Miglia races, respectively|
As I go through my photos, I realize that this collection is so amazing that I could spend weeks writing before I can get this post completed! For example, while the 1933 Alfa is extremely rare as having the original drivetrain, chassis and body, the 1937 car had a very active racing career in Italy and Central Europe but ended up in various pieces in Argentina. It was a true "barn find," and the original engine was located elsewhere in the country before the whole thing could be put back together and reunited as a beautiful car again.
I suggest that for details of all of these wonderful vehicles, check the Simeone Museum's excellent website, which gives the history of each car here. I will just continue with my photos of some of my favourites--which seems to be a good number of them!
|1931 Bentley 4.5 Litre Supercharged Tourer by Vanden Plas, winner of the 1931 Isle of Man Time Trial|
|1937 BMW 328, with 16,000 kms on it. Hidden under hay in a Dutch farmyard during World War II, it is believed to be the lowest-mileage and most original 328 in existence|
Although the central part of the museum building is dedicated to those cars with a racing history or other unique attributes, there is a wing of "sporty cars" which I found delightful. Many of these cars were more stylish than fast but all were interesting.
|1928 Auburn 8-88 Boattail Speedster|
|1933 Auburn V12 12-165 Speedster, a stunningly beautiful car and very rare, with only 14 having been built|
|1935 Auburn 851 Boattail Speedster|
|1929 Dupont Model G Speedster, one of perhaps 7 built, and in the ownership of a couple in St. Louis for 70 years|
|1933 Squire Roadster: built to the highest standard and cost, Adrian Squire's masterpieces were clearly the wrong car for the Great Depression and the company went bankrupt after only 7 cars were built. Squire started his company when he was only 21 and clearly had great technical expertise as the cars have been compared to Bugattis of the period. Sadly, his life was to end at 30 in a German air raid at the Bristol Aircraft plant where he was working in 1940.|
|Because I love Corvettes, here is a 1966 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray 427 Roadster in original condition|
|1957 Ferrari Testa Rossa, with an extensive US racing history|
|1962 Ferrari 250 GTO, on loan to the Museum; it finished second overall at Sebring and 6th overall at Le Mans in 1962|
|Left: 1929 Stutz Supercharged Le Mans; Right: 1927 Stutz Black Hawk Challenger|
|1966 Ford GT40 MkII, one of eight GT40s entered in the 1966 Le Mans race|
|1929 DuPont Le Mans Speedster|
|1952 Cunningham C-R4 Roadster, winner of its class in the 1954 Le Mans race and third overall|
|1936 Bugatti Type 57G Tank, winner of the 1937 Le Mans race and the only survivor of three built|
|1958 Aston Martin DBR1, winner of the 1000 Km of Nurburgring in 1958, driven by Stirling Moss and Jack Brabham. It was also raced by Jim Clark and Caroll Shelby and appeared four times at Le Mans.|
|1927 Mercedes-Benz S-Type Sportwagen, winner of the first German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring in July 1927|
|Raced in the 1967 Le Mans event, this Ford GT40 Mk IV reached a record speed of 224 mph on the Mulsanne Straight but wa later stuck in sand and was unable to be dug out to complete the race.|
|1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B MM Spider, winner of the 1938 Mille Miglia, one of only four built--and all surviving in some form-- and considered by Dr. Simeone to be the ultimate of pre-war sports racing cars|