Philadelphia is renowned for many world-class museums, such as the Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Rodin Museum on Ben Franklin Parkway, but there’s another world-class museum hiding in plain sight down near the airport. The Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum attracts visitors from around the globe to view one of the premier collections of cars devoted to auto racing.
Don’t just take our word on it: In November the museum was awarded a prestigious Octane Award — bestowed by British automotive magazine Octane — as the 2017 Museum of the Year. The award committee specifically noted that “most impressive has been its commitment to inspiring the car enthusiasts of tomorrow. Teachers are invited to make use of the museum’s educational resources, and Demo Days, held twice a month, give visitors the opportunity to see the museum’s cars in action and learn more about them.”
The collection of more than 65 rare vehicles a stone’s throw from Philadelphia International Airport is the brainchild of neurosurgeon Fred Simeone, who has been collecting cars for more than a half century. They are artfully arranged in diorama settings that showcase different eras of racing including pre-World War I, the Bonneville Salt Flats, and European courses including the Mille Miglia and Le Mans.
Vehicle highlights include a 1909 American Underslung that raced in long-distance events; a 1954 Ferrari Spyder once owned by actor William Holden; and a coveted 1964 Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe. The latter was named “Car of the Year” in 2014 by the International Historic Motoring Awards.
The museum really shines on Demo Days, when select vehicles are taken out on the back lot and put to their intended use. The rumble of vintage engines mingles with the roar of airplanes taking off from PHL, providing a wonderful of afternoon for gearheads. The adjacent Amtrak line completes the “planes, trains, and automobiles” scenario.
Next time you’re itching for some world-class exhibits that will get your heart racing, head on over to the Simeone.
Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum, 6825 Norwitch Drive, Philadelphia 19153. Information: SimeoneMuseum.org or 215-365-7233.
Michael Milne is the author of the “Roadster Guide to America’s Classic Car Museums & Attractions” and writes about auto-related travel on his blog ClassicCarTravelGuide.com. He and Larissa Milne write about their world travels at changesinlongitude.com.