The Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum has more than 60 cars, displayed in dioramas that represent the famous venues where these cars actually competed. These displays are used to illustrate the development of sports car road racing, here in the US and internationally.
The test of a car’s ability to travel long distances at (for the time) high speeds played a significant role in early automotive marketing. Most races or “tours” were from city-to-city or state-to-state, and distances increased as the years went on. The American Underslung was well known for its ability in long distance racing. Its 40-inch wheels provided excellent ground clearance on rough roads. A powerful 60HP engine propelled it with great reliability for its time.
1911/1913 Mercer Raceabout
1916 Stutz Bearcat
There was active organized road racing throughout the U.S. prior to WWI. Venues such as Santa Monica, CA, Savannah, GA, Elgin, IL, and the Vanderbilt Cup races at Long Island, NY, provided tracks where individuals could race their cars side-by-side.
These cars were usually stripped sports cars, meaning the lights, fenders and any unnecessary items were removed. In this popular era of sports car racing, the leading cars were the National (which had the most wins), the Stutz Bearcat (which had the best advertising), and the Mercer Raceabout (which was considered the most advanced). The cars are shown in front of the scoreboard for one of the Fairmount Park races in Philadelphia, an event that drew over 400,000 spectators.
1927 Bentley 3-Litre Speed Model
1929 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 SS
Despite an active program before WWI, there was virtually no organized sports car racing in the U.S. until several years after the Second World War. One group of enthusiasts, however, did try to recreate sports car racing as it was being done in Europe between the wars, where drivers were national heroes and the cars were maneuverable and fast. They formed the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) and raced primarily European sports cars on roads around their country estates. The cars shown here actually competed in ARCA races and are largely unrestored.
1950 Allard J2
1963 Corvette Grand Sport
The first serious attempt to revive sports car racing in the U.S. after WWII was at Watkins Glen, NY in 1948. Here the cars lined up, side-by-side, on the main street of this Finger Lakes resort town for the start of the race on public streets.
For the first few years, the race was run on a 6.6 mile course through the town. Many of the ARCA competitors came there to race and formed the Sports Car Club of America to sanction events.
After a spectator fatality in 1952, a new course was set up outside of town, also using existing roads. In 1956, a permanent course was unveiled and the track is one of the premier racing facilities in the world.
1937 Supercharged Cord 812
1954 Austin-Healey 100-4
1964 Cobra Daytona Coupe
In Utah, the remains of a prehistoric lake left an extremely flat surface that is perfectly suited for high speeds. This type of competition is not side-by-side, but rather against the clock.
The objective at Bonneville is to see how fast you can go along a straight black line painted on the lake bed. Other records are for fastest speeds over longer distances and times, driving around a large circle.
A variety of cars went to Bonneville beginning in the 1910s to see which was the fastest, all under the careful eye of the AAA. By the 1930s, Bonneville was the world’s foremost venue for land speed record attempts, and remains so today.
1925 Alfa Romeo RL Super Sport
1934 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Spider
Racing on public roads was common in Europe, but discouraged in England. In fact a speed limit of 20mph was in force in the country until 1930.
The amateur’s quest for speed and competition found a home at Brooklands in England. The track opened in 1907, and was the first custom-built, banked racetrack in the world. Drivers could reach high speeds, and in 1913 Brooklands was the setting where the first person went 100 miles in one hour. The circuit also played host to the first 24-hour race ever.
A large part of the Brooklands scene was the camaraderie it generated among its amateur drivers.
1931 Bentley 4.5 Liter Supercharged
Commonly we use the measurement “0-60“ to indicate the time duration to reach that velocity from a standing start. Timed trials were popular in England and measured the ability of a car to accelerate quickly, much the same as drag racing today.
The Bentley shown here won the Isle of Man Time Trials in 1930. It is a supercharged model of which only 50 were made available for sale to customers. This car is one of the few that retains its original body.
1921 Vauxhall 30/98E
Very popular in England, hill climbs were the test of a car’s pulling ability as well as its speed and power. A driver with one or more passengers would start at the bottom of a hill and see how quickly they could race to the top.
The Vauxhall shown here is totally original, having been stored in a barn for many years. The body is made of aluminum and is in remarkable condition.
1937 BMW 328
1955 Mercedes-Benz Gullwing
The Nürburgring was opened in 1927, the same year that Mercedes and Benz were joined. This marque, along with many others would find fame on the legendary 18-mile circuit, built to be a showcase for German engineering and driving talent.
The photo backdrop shows a swarm of BMW 328s which were commonly ordered by wealthy Germans to compete against each other at the Nürburgring. Since the cars were virtually identical, the winner could claim bragging rights as “the best driver.”
1926 Bugatti Type 35
1975 Alfa Romeo 33 TT 12
In 1906, Vincenzo Florio devised a race through the hills of Sicily. At that time, sports car racing had become popular in Italy and the Targa Florio was the most important race in Europe until Le Mans and the Mille Miglia were started in the 1920s.
Originally 92 miles per lap, the course was shortened to 45 miles until 1977 when the last all-out race was held. Since the roads were very tight and twisty, the cars were started at two minute intervals. In addition to being narrow, the roads were little more than mountain paths in places and drivers frequently had to compete with donkeys for room.
1933 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Monza
1937 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900A
The Mille Miglia (“Thousand Miles”) started in 1927 and was one of the most popular races in Europe. The cars departed from Brescia on the “partenza,” as shown in the diorama, and raced down the east coast of Italy to Rome, making a circle back to where they started, a distance of about a thousand miles.
A large number of cars were entered, sometimes several hundred, and it could take up to half a day for all to depart Brescia, equally spaced. The prestige of the event and large number of entrants spurred companies like Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, and others to make special models specifically to compete in the Mille Miglia.
1924 Lancia Lambda
At a distance of over one thousand miles, the Mille Miglia was a difficult race to finish, much less win. Cars would run out of gas, blow tires, become involved in accidents. Thankfully, there were local repair shops that would come to the rescue.
These shops were equipped with a variety of tools and spare parts to get the car back in the race. They even provided food and refreshments to the drivers.
1928 Stutz BB Black Hawk Speedster
A match race is a duel between two competitors for monetary gain or bragging rights. Such competition is seen in drag racing, or the more distinguished form of competition as shown here.
The presidents of the American Stutz Motor Company and the French Hispano Suiza, unable to concede who made the better car, brought an example of each sports car to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to see who was the fastest. The Hispano Suiza won.
The car in the exhibit is identical to the stock Stutz that competed in that famous race.
1953 Jaguar C-Type
1956 Jaguar D-Type
While Watkins Glen brought sports car racing back to the U.S., it was the Sebring 12-hour race that brought international racing to the States. The race was founded by Russian expatriate Alex Ulmann on an abandoned WWII training air field located in the middle of central Florida orange groves.
Because it was run on the old concrete runways, Sebring was extremely hard on drivers as well as cars. It had two very long straights that enabled the cars to reach high speeds, making good brakes essential.
As one of the international races counting towards the Worlds Manufacturers’ Championship, the top drivers and teams in the world came here to race.
1938 Jaguar SS-100 3.5L
1982 Alfa Romeo GTV6
The object of rallying is to reach certain points at specific times to become the overall winner. Rallys are generally held on a wide variety of roads, from smooth paved asphalt, to washed out desert trails. This requires an extremely rugged chassis, and an equally tough driver and navigator.
The Monte Carlo Rally was one of the most famous events and was important for manufacturers in their sales and marketing efforts.
1933 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Le Mans
1934 MG K3 Magnette
1936 Aston Martin Le Mans
1938 Peugeot Darl’mat Le Mans
1936/48 Delahaye 135S
1954 Ferrari 375MM
1956 Maserati 300S
1958 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa
1970 Porsche 917LH
The 24 Hours of Le Mans is the most prestigious endurance sports car race in the world. Until 1970, the drivers would run across the track to their parked cars, jump in and roar away for the “Le Mans” start. The car that goes the farthest in 24 hours is the winner. Usually two, three, or even four drivers are used for each car.
Looking down the row of these Le Mans contestants, it is striking how much technology has changed over four decades. The dramatic transformation between the 1933 Alfa and the 1970 Porsche is all due to competition.
As the competition for speed increased (the Porsche 917 was capable of 240mph), so did the use of aerodynamic design to help make the cars more stable, thus the 917 LH’s long rear tail, fins and wing.
1921 Duesenberg French GP Race Car
For the first half of the 20th century, America rarely sent cars to compete in races overseas, despite the extensive worldwide attention these competitions received. However, in 1921 a Duesenberg race car (not sports car) did win at Le Mans with an American, Jimmy Murphy, driving.
The next Le Mans victory for an American car was not until 1966, when a Ford GT40 MkII, similar to the one in our next exhibit, won.
This is one of the three cars that raced at Le Mans in 1921, and the only intact survivor.
1927 Stutz Black Hawk
1929 Stutz Supercharged Le Mans
1929 duPont Le Mans Speedster
1966 Ford GT40 MkII
1967 Ford MkIV
Here we honor the few American cars that seriously competed at Le Mans. Stutz, duPont, and later the Cunningham made strong efforts to win, but came up short.
It was the Ford Motor Company that finally won in 1966 with a GT40 MkII similar to the one in our exhibit. However, the chassis of this car had more English origins than American, although the engine was pure Yankee V-8.
It wasn’t until 1967 when Dan Gurney and A.J. Foyt won in a Detroit-built Ford Mk IV, exactly like the one in our collection, that America truly conquered Le Mans.
1927 Mercedes-Benz Sportwagen
1937 Bugatti 57G “Tank”
1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B MM
1952 Cunningham C4R
1958 Aston Martin DBR1
Each of the five cars here, from the major competing countries, was the actual winner in the races shown in the wreaths. Each car represents the zenith of design and engineering for the period in which it raced.
1912 Hudson Mile-A-Minute Roadster
1916 Oakland Speedster
1922 Paige Daytona 6-66 Speedster
1926 Kissel 8-75 Speedster
1929 duPont 2-Passenger Speedster
1928 Auburn 8-88 Boat Tail Speedster
1933 Auburn V12 12-165 Speedster
1935 Auburn 851 Boat Tail Speedster
1933 Squire Roadster
1949 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Brixia
1956 Mercedes-Benz Gullwing
1963 Corvette Grand Sport Replica Body
1966 Corvette 427
1966 Ferrari 365 Speciale
History of NASCAR
1938 Ford Coupe
1953 Hudson Hornet Twin H-Power
1970 Plymouth Superbird
1986 Buick Regal NASCAR
1998 Ford Thunderbird NASCAR
2002 NASCAR Dyno Mule