This Philly car collector just beat Ralph Lauren and Sam Walton to be ranked No. 2 in the world

The Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum is more famous outside of Philly than in its hometown.

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Miguel Martinez / Billy Penn

Over the past decade, the unassuming display of classic cars tucked into an industrial section of Southwest Philly has received plenty of accolades.

Established in 2008, the Simeone Foundation — which celebrates its 10th anniversary Friday with a free party — has won dozens of awards for its historic vehicles, and it has twice been called “International Automotive Museum of the Year.”

But the latest nod surprised even the museum’s founder, Philadelphia neurosurgeon Dr. Fred Simeone. Last month, the board of the prestigious, Liechtenstein-based Classic Car Trust ranked Simeone No. 2 on the list of the world’s 100 most significant collectors.

“That really was a big deal,” said Simeone. He ran down some of the company he found himself in, and chuckled.

“You have Ralph Lauren, Sam Walton from Walmart, Peter Sachs from Goldman Sachs, Tony Wang from Computer Associates — and me, from Kensington.”

Dr. Fred Simeone

Dr. Fred Simeone

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While all the other collectors on the list are billionaires who own their car collections outright, Simeone, who got his medical degree at Temple and worked at chop until his retirement, is not.

Each of his 70 historically notable racing sports cars weren’t necessarily worth much when he acquired them — especially since he purposely seeks out original vehicles that need a lot of work — but the collection he began amassing as a young man is now worth a tidy sum. However, it has been fully donated to the foundation.

“I have a funny attitude of transferring wealth to family,” Simeone explained. “I think there’s a point where it’s just too much — it has gone beyond what any one person should own.” (He assured that his adult daughter agrees with him, by the way.)

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Miguel Martinez / Billy Penn

What Simeone really craves, as a collector, is other people appreciating and learning about his collection.

But despite concerted outreach efforts, museum attendance has never been optimal. There were a few big splashes at the start, thanks to articles in the New York Times and elsewhere, but nowadays not many people come through the doors.

“The number of visitors has not grown over the years,” Simeone said. “It kind of plateau’d at a really low number.”

That means the impressive “spirit of competition” display that traces street racing history over the past century, and artfully weaves it into discourse about human evolution and the development of society, reaches far fewer eyes than it could — especially young eyes, the minds behind which Simeone believes can be inspired by the concept of striving to be the best.

Location is part of the issue. The museum is in a former warehouse in an industrial section of the city just north of the airport. Closest public transportation is a bus stop that’s a good 10 minutes away.

However, it’s necessary to provide space for one of the museum’s key components: live demonstration days.

1955 MERCEDES-BENZ 300SL GULLWING COUPE

1955 MERCEDES-BENZ 300SL GULLWING COUPE

Miguel Martinez / Billy Penn

All of the Simeone Foundation cars have their original parts, but all are also still in working order. Every two weeks, members of the staff and 70-person volunteer team take several of them out for an actual spin — and the public is invited to watch. Usually around 150 people show up to watch, per operations supervisor Chris Webb.

Webb has been working at the foundation for around three years. His favorite part is how tightly focused the collection is. “You can go to other museums and see random cars,” he said, “but here we tell a story.”

Getting that story to a broader audience is Dr. Simeone’s next undertaking.

Part of the reason the Classic Car Trust ranked him so highly on its global list, he believes, is because the foundation does already have an established educational side, complete with a large on-site library. Simeone is eager for this part of the project to grow.

This summer, the museum is hosting its first-ever summer camp for area youths. Cosmetic work is planned for the outside of warehouse, so that the building is an attractive destination that kids end up begging their parents to see.

“We want this to be a friendly place for youngsters,” Simeone explained. “We’d love this to be a stop on every kids’ day trip — and a home for STEAM learning in Philadelphia.”

Scroll down for more pics of the collection. If you want to see them in person, the museum is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission is $8-$12.

1909 AMERICAN UNDERSLUNG TRAVELER

1909 AMERICAN UNDERSLUNG TRAVELER

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1912 NATIONAL MODEL 40 SEMI-RACING ROADSTER

1912 NATIONAL MODEL 40 SEMI-RACING ROADSTER

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1913 MERCER RACEABOUT

1913 MERCER RACEABOUT

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1926 KISSEL 8-75 SPEEDSTER

1926 KISSEL 8-75 SPEEDSTER

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1927 MERCEDES BENZ S-TYPE SPORTWAGEN

1927 MERCEDES BENZ S-TYPE SPORTWAGEN

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1927 BENTLEY 3 LITRE SPEED MODEL

1927 BENTLEY 3 LITRE SPEED MODEL

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1928 STUTZ BB BLACK HAWK SPEEDSTER

1928 STUTZ BB BLACK HAWK SPEEDSTER

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1929 DUPONT LE MANS SPEEDSTER

1929 DUPONT LE MANS SPEEDSTER

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1931 BENTLEY 4.5 LITRE SUPERCHARGED TOURER BY VANDEN PLAS

1931 BENTLEY 4.5 LITRE SUPERCHARGED TOURER BY VANDEN PLAS

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1933 ALFA ROMEO 8C 2300 MILLE MIGLIA SPYDER

1933 ALFA ROMEO 8C 2300 MILLE MIGLIA SPYDER

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1936/48 DELAHAYE 135S/175S

1936/48 DELAHAYE 135S/175S

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1937 SUPERCHARGED CORD 812

1937 SUPERCHARGED CORD 812

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1937 BMW 328

1937 BMW 328

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1937 ALFA ROMEO 8C 2900A

1937 ALFA ROMEO 8C 2900A

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1938 FORD COUPE LOUISE SMITH REPLICA

1938 FORD COUPE LOUISE SMITH REPLICA

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1953 HUDSON HORNET TWIN H-POWER

1953 HUDSON HORNET TWIN H-POWER

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1963 CHEVROLET CORVETTE GRAND SPORT

1963 CHEVROLET CORVETTE GRAND SPORT

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1975 ALFA ROMEO TIPO 33 TT 12

1975 ALFA ROMEO TIPO 33 TT 12

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Miguel Martinez / Billy Penn
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Miguel Martinez / Billy Penn
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Miguel Martinez / Billy Penn