By Al Kemp
When Fred Simeone was a young man, his father gave him his first car, a used Alfa Romeo 6C 2500. The car was in such a sorry state that it spent more time out of commission than on the road, thus achieving the father’s goal of keeping his son from driving as long as possible.
But that’s when Simeone’s passion for automobiles was born. It didn’t take long before Simeone was entirely enthralled with race cars — a passion that has lasted all his life.
The young man grew up to be Harvard-trained neurosurgeon Dr. Fred Simeone, and his collection of cars grew so fast and so vast that it takes a museum to house them all — which is lucky for anyone interested in motorsports and automotive history.
The Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in Philadelphia is one of the world’s greatest collections of racing sports cars. Assembled over 50 years, the collection features more than 75 historically significant cars including Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Bugatti, Mercedes, Jaguar, Bentley, Porsche, Aston Martin, Corvette, Ford and more.
From a 1909 American Underslung Traveler to a 1987/88 Ford Thunderbird, the collection is devoted to the most pristine and the most lovingly restored models the history of car racing, as seen through Dr. Simeone’s eyes.
The cars in the collection are presented almost as living specimens, and examples of how “racing improves the breed.”
Far from being a sterile “laboratory” of automobiles, the Simeone Foundation strives to share the thrill of racing through its Demo Days held on 20 Saturdays throughout 2019, when select models are taken for a spirited spin around the racetrack behind the building.
Before the demo begins, there is a brief discussion on the importance of the vehicles being driven, their technical aesthetic and historical relevance.
“Our philosophy is that it is not just the mechanics of the machine, or how fast it can go, but about where the car has been and what it has experienced,” said Simeone. “Each one has a story worth hearing.”
The Simeone Foundation research library is one of the largest automotive specialized libraries in the world, offering a wide variety of research materials for the automotive historian, restorer and constructor. The collection includes sales literature and other factory-produced material, from 1892 to the present, with over 1,700 different makes of cars represented.
The museum also hosts summer camp sessions where campers get daily instruction in automotive technology and artistry while experiencing the collection up close.
The 78,000-square-foot museum is also available as a venue for special occasions. It can accommodate 1,000 people seated, and has hosted hundreds of events weddings, fundraisers, birthday parties, retirement parties and more. IAH
The Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum, located on Norwitch Drive near Center City Philadelphia, was named Museum of the Year by the International Historic Motoring Awards.
Learn more at www.simeonemuseum.org
Racing history comes to life at the Fred Simeone Museum
By Al Kemp