If my own blog posts are to be believed, I have visited the Simeone Museum in Philadelphia five times: October 2011, October 2012, December 2015, June 2016, and February 2022. This most recent Saturday, March 25, 2023, can now be counted as visit #6. Any visit to the Simeone, with its collection of historic racing and sports cars, is special. Saturday was a Demo Day, and Demo Days are extra special because a small theme-based collection of vehicles is chosen, and they are taken outside to the back lot so that attendees may delight to the sights and sounds of them motorvatin’ (a Chuck Berry coinage) under their own power.
The theme this time was “Sebring ‘65”, an infamous race because of the deluge which caused cars to plow through what was described as up to 8 inches of standing water on the track. For this Demo, the museum selected its ’64 Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe and ’66 Ford GT40 Mk II. The program listed the ’63 Corvette Grand Sport, but in lieu of that, a stock ’66 Corvette 427 roadster was chosen (nice to have such illustrious machinery as backup). Last but not least, on loan from Luigi Chinetti Jr. was a ’63 Ferrari 250P. (The Ferrari was not part of the driving portion of the day’s festivities – one can only presume that the loan arrangement excluded such an option.)
My friend Terry, whose idea it was to visit on this particular Demo Day, accompanied me. We arrived about 30 minutes before showtime, and to my pleasant surprise, all four cars were arranged at the front of the seating area; they were not roped off (as I’ve seen done previously) so guests were free to get up close and personal with the cars. Soon enough, the program started and we were treated to a slide show, including technical specs of the cars and film footage of the actual 1965 Sebring 12-hour race. The variety of vehicles racing that day, American and foreign, was huge, and the race stood out because 1st and 2nd place overall were taken by two American teams. The Chevy-powered Chaparral of Jim Hall and Hap Sharp came in first, followed by a GT40 driven by Ken Miles and Bruce McLaren. To Enzo’s chagrin (he had earlier threatened to boycott the race), his 250LM finished third.
BELOW: RED FERRARI AND YELLOW FORD GT DURING SLIDE SHOW PRESENTATION:
After the slide show, it was Ford vs. Chevy in the back lot. I should not have been amazed that all three cars started up on first attempt. They were slowly driven out of the building, and once on pavement, the drivers picked up a little bit of speed, but not too much! These vehicles are too valuable to put them at risk. (The Cobra Daytona, in particular, as one of the most singularly-famous cars in the world, must have an incalculable monetary value.)
After the show, we toured the rest of the static display within the museum, and promised each other that this would not be the last time we’d visit the Simeone in 2023.
All photographs copyright © 2023 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.