Several years ago, while visiting my mother on Florida's Gulf coast, I snuck away long enough to drive down to Naples to visit the Collier automotive collection while it still was open to the public.
Not only were the cars amazing, but one thing I really liked was how they were displayed in context, set into dioramas that helped you feel as though you were seeing them in their historic environments, whether on roads or raceways.
Thus I was excited to learn that some of the world's best racing sports cars are being displayed within dioramas at the new Simeone Foundation Museum that opened this month (June 2008).
The museum is the result of some 50 years of car collecting by Philadelphia neurosurgeon Dr. Frederick Simeone. Son of a doctor who also collected cars – specializing in 1950's classics, Dr. Simeone was chief of neurosurgery for 25 years at Pennsylvania Hospital. He also was chief of neurosurgery at five hospitals in low-income neighborhoods and author of The Spine, a leading medical textbook. He retired earlier this year to concentrate on the museum and on editing additional medical books.
One of the doctor's goals was to share his collection in such a way that visitors will appreciate the technological progress produced by the competitive environment of the racetrack. The museum's focus point is "the spirit of competition."
The museum's collection is subdivided into nearly two dozen groupings, including pre-World War I racing, cars that raced at Watkins Glen, Bonneville, the Nurburgring, Sebring, Targa Florio, Mille Miglia and other historic venues. The Le Mans collection includes nine cars, from a 1933 Alfa Romeo 8C2300 Le Mans to a 1970 Porsche 917LH. There's also a display on the "History of NASCAR" that begins with a 1938 Ford Coupe and includes a Hudson Hornet, Plymouth Superbird and more recent racers.
The collection includes a 1964 Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe that had been lost for some 30 years before Dr. Simeone helped in its recovery.
Though the collection focuses on racing cars, there are more than a dozen other "sporty" cars that "exemplified to their owners a sense of power with fashionable design." This grouping includes a 1912 Hudson Mile-a-Minute roadster and 1916 Oakland Speedster as well as a Kissel, three Auburns, a Mercedes Gullwing, a 427 Corvette and a Ford Mustang.
The collection is housed in a new 75,000-square-foot building just five minutes off Interstate 95 at 6825-31 Norwitch Drive, Philadelphia PA 19153.
The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.
For more information, visit www.simeonemuseum.org.
Hmm, who do I know in Philadelphia that I can visit so I can sneak away for a few hours?
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* Images courtesy of Larry Edsall and iZoom.com.