In addition to these criteria, Simeone gave himself some specific goals. “I wrote the make and model of the greatest sports racing cars, and also special American sports cars, on these little white refrigerator magnets,” he says. “I added ‘special American sports cars’ because the simple fact [is] that the greatest road-going sports cars were not American.” According to Simeone, these cars were made by the likes of Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Bugatti, Mercedes-Benz, MG, Lagonda and Jaguar. “I’ve often said studying great American sports cars is like studying great English cooks,” he says with a laugh.
Gradually, Simeone has managed to take almost all of the refrigerator magnets off his refrigerator and put the greatest sports racers in his museum, as well as some “special American sports cars,” including a Mercer Raceabout, a Stutz Bearcat and an Auburn Speedster. He also has some much racier American machinery, such as a Cobra Daytona Coupe and a pair of big-block Ford GTs. But until recently, the collection did not include a single Corvette.
For the most part, it was Simeone’s high standards that stood in the way of the Chevy’s inclusion—not just any Corvette race car would do. It had to be truly special, have a racing pedigree and be unrestored. In the end, only Grand Sport 002 fit the bill, though even it had a serious drawback: It never won a race.
If you have been following the auction scene recently, you may recall that Grand Sport 002 went under the hammer in January 2009. Although the bidding reached nearly $5 million, it did not meet the reserve and the car remained unsold. The Corvette was already on Simeone’s list at the time, but he did not bid at the auction. He says he knew that the reserve would probably be set quite high and that the Grand Sport was unlikely to sell. According to Simeone, this auction served another purpose: establishing the car’s fair market value.
Instead of putting 002 up for bid at a later event, the car’s owner decided to sell it privately—and in the end, Simeone was the buyer. The fact that he had a use for the spare body and engine in his museum helped seal the deal. Though Simeone won’t disclose the actual sale price, he says he used a “favorable combination of trades and cash to acquire the car.” He also says that because he has significant financial value in his current collection, he was able to borrow money to complete the transaction at favorable interest rates.
But we wonder if Simeone is still upset that he had to compromise on his long-standing rules, seeing as Grand Sport 002, no matter how you slice it, never won anything. “It bothers me a lot,” he says. “I almost didn’t buy it because of that. I just had to bite my tongue and break my rules. But you know, you might say the desperation to have a great American sports racer allowed me to compromise on that one point—because of the car’s beauty, originality, power, history. [Those qualities] were all perfect for the collection.”
So now, Corvette Grand Sport 002 is displayed proudly in the same aisle as a Daytona Coupe, and the spare body and engine can be seen in the museum’s American-car wing. This certainly makes for a very good reason to visit Philadelphia.
For more information, including museum hours, visit www.simeonefoundation.org