The car passed through several hands on its way to Simeone. One owner, Jim Jaeger, custom-ordered an exact duplicate body to preserve the pristine original, allowing the car to be safely vintage raced. However, the copy turned out so perfectly that it was never used; it is now on display in Philadelphia, along with an original-spec 377 cubic-inch engine.
Sometimes a slogan doesn’t mean very much. Take, for example, Exxon’s “Happy Motoring” or Pontiac’s “We Are Driving Excitement”—given the high price of gas and the recent demise of Pontiac, these slogans ring hollow today. However, the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum’s tag line—“Celebrating the Spirit of Competition”—tells you everything you need to know about what’s inside.
Each of the race cars in the collection was selected over the course of 50 years by one man, the museum’s founder, Frederick Simeone. “My passion for sports cars started like any other kid, as a teenager,” he says. In the case of this world-renowned neurosurgeon, that passion truly blossomed. Simeone’s collection now includes over 60 of the finest automobiles ever built.
Though the museum, which opened to the public in 2008, houses a wide diversity of marques and is expansive both chronologically and mechanically, all of the cars have one thing in common: they are all what Simeone terms “sports racing cars.”
“I was drawn to the sports racing cars,” he explains, “and I think…there were three things about [them that attracted me]. Number one, they were exciting to drive and, unlike open-wheel race cars, you could drive them on the road. Number two, they were good-looking. There was a definite effort to make them attractive—to make them saleable. I believe anything that’s streamlined to make it go faster almost inherently looks better. The old adage that form follows function still applies. The third reason was that they often had interesting histories…[they were] associated with great races, great drivers and speed records.”
Simeone has obviously put a lot of thought into the appeal of this tiny sliver of automotive history. Not surprisingly, given his profession, he understands the appeal for such cars on a scientific level. “I figured [it] out when I started to do some neurophysiology studies,” says the physician. “It turns out that competition, like the need for food and other emotions, is a specific biological function; it isn’t just something that we learn. Our brain has a mechanism that makes us compete and this is how we learn to survive. And, in fact, any organism that doesn’t learn to compete will probably become extinct. I finally realized, the DNA of sports-car collecting for me was competition.”Simeone emphasized that his overriding philosophy has been to find the best sports racing cars with the best histories—that is, winning records. If possible, he buys machines that are in original, unrestored condition. He seldom has wavered from these guidelines over the past five decades.