When you’re involved in something as specific as the preservation of automotive history, you quickly findthat you’re part of a relatively small community. A community of characters who share this same passion and have invested a large part of their time and attention to see that a colorful past is not forgotten.Because of the work involved and the focus that is demanded by the task, you begin to recognize and beinspired by the even smaller group within this community who work at a particularly high level. The ones who set the bar for the rest of us and whose contributions will be valued and relied upon for generations to come. When thinking of this group, a few names come to mind: Miles Collier, Leslie Kendall, Beverly Rae Kimes, Donald Osborne, Ken Gross, Doug Nye , and Dean Batchelor… to name a few. But when thinking of the contributors who have taken the concept of preservation to the very automobiles that set the records and standards that are so often written about, the group becomes even smaller. People like the late Briggs Cunningham, George Waterman, Bill Harrah, Jay Leno, the great hot rod preservationists Bruce Meyer and Ross Myers, the late Lindley Bothwell , and the recently departed, Dr. Fred Simeone.
The passing of Dr. Simeone on June 11 was a sad day for any automotive or racing enthusiast worth their salt or Castrol R. Yes, he was a highly respected “car collector” but, more importantly, he helped to influence the approach that North American-based enthusiasts took when deciding how to treat an important piece of automotive history. Unlike many collectors who pursue top-tier historic vehicles, Simeone was, first and foremost, interested in preserving the originality of each machine. This would include things like original paint, tattered and weathered upholstery, and greasy engine bays. Instead of erasing the vehicle’s story via a high-level or “Concours” restoration (again, North American-based collectors have been guilty of over-restoration for decades), Simeone was drawn to the idea of being able to see the life that the car had lived and allowing it to remain written all over it. This approach to locking the vehicle in time (scars included) is one of the things that makes his collection so special. It would be all the achievement that anyone would need for a full round of applause, but Dr. Simeone had another aspect of his approach to collecting that we have a particular fondness for, and that was his love for exercising his vehicles for educational reasons.
Through his “Driving Demonstration” events at the Simeone Automotive Museum, enthusiasts young andold would get to see and hear some of the rarest and most important sports and racing cars being driven on a closed course on the museum grounds. These were regular events that included the exercising of unrestored or ”as-raced” Ford GT40s, Corvette Grand Sports, 8C Alfa Romeos, a Shelby Daytona coupe, Allard J2 , and other iconic and unique machines that would most likely be silent displays in any other automotive museum. The fact that Fred Simeone felt it important enough to get the cars out, bring them to temperature and give them a spirited run in front of an audience of fellow enthusiasts inspires us to (at the very least ) take our hats off to this real-deal car guy. An educator who did more than most to passalong his deeply held belief that these machines and the people who designed, built, and raced them have an importance to our culture and species that goes far beyond the basic thrill of a loud exhaust note.
We send along our sincere condolences to the family of Dr. Simone and thank him for his great and lasting contribution.
For those not familiar with the work of Fred Simeone or the museum that bears his name, please do yourselves a favor and click the link below.