MMR Blog

The Simeone Museum: First Visit

Posted on May 26, 2011 Comments (0)

My driving companion Sam Hallowell and I left his home in Providence, Rhode Island, in the early morning hours, and except for a stop for coffee and fuel, we drove the “WASRED Express” directly to The Simeone Museum in Philadelphia. We were en route to the Vintage Ferrari Festival in the Baltimore area.

Alfa Romeo Monza

We arrived as final preparations were being made for Brian Redman to address the Jaguar faithful that evening. They will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Jaguar XKE’s introduction. As you might imagine, Brian’s plane had just landed and things were hectic. In the middle of this, we arrived unannounced at the museum and something happened, which I was told is not unusual here; people stopped what they were doing and greeted us with warmth, grace and cordiality. Apologies were made that they could not accompany us but we were given the run of the museum and invited to stop and chat after we visited the exhibits.

The museum itself appeared to be a work in progress. The collection was unexpectedly impressive. By that, I mean that much of the joy of the exhibits had the “WOW! I never expected to see that here!” element to it. That came from the shock of seeing important cars that leap from magazine page memories to immediate reality. Upon reflection, the common thread appeared to be exactly that; important cars with interesting stories from all eras.

Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe

While some cars were perfect, some were not. My favorite example was a Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe, the first and only American built car to win the Manufacturer’s World Championship for Grand Touring cars. It looked somewhat forlorn. Sitting on a sandy display patch before a tarp on which a mountain scene had been painted, it seemed to say: “This, Bonneville, was not my most glorious experience.” If you can find a copy of Peter Brock’s excellent book The Cobra Daytona Coupe you will know that Brock designed these cars and fought to bring them to life and race them. They were spectacular racers and then, like all race cars of that period, they were, for myriad reasons, ot longer competitive and put out behind the shop where they would be out of the way and might be used as part sources. This particular car had a brief but successful post-racing adventure on the Bonneville salt-flats where it set a world 24-hour distance record. It was then dragged home and once again relegated to the group “out back”. The car now sits among other autos of accomplishment and, though battered, is at home. The Shelby Cobra Daytona is a testament to the capabilities of American hot-rodders and engineers who accomplish great feats with simple tools. It is, after all, just a small block pushrod engine in a clever, yet simple chassis. And it is a winner.

NART Ferrari 250 LM

You could write something like this about almost every car in The Simeone Museum.

At the end of our tour, Harry Hurst, author of the book “Glory Days of Racing”, introduced us to Dr. Fred Simeone, a most gracious host. “Dr. Fred” is the consummate collector. His energy and fascination with the history and the details of his charges is what makes this wonderful exhibit possible.

Our two hour tour was hardly enough to do the collection justice, and because the cars aren’t the only winners in this building, we will return. We urge you to visit The Simeone Museum in person or online at: