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October 30, 2015

ATA Entertainment Rocks

The American Trucking Associations annual Management Conference and Exhibit is a very social event that finishes off the year with a bang. Freightliner’s invitation-only Customer Appreciation event every year is a top draw with the most memorable artists, and each year Freightliner retiree Bob Warner, who organizes the event, seems to pull a rabbit out of the hat, springing a top named artist or band on an appreciative audience in one of the industry’s best kept secrets, revealed just as dinner finishes.

In Philadelphia this year, the usual rumors were floating about but the announcement of Freightliner’s 2015 entertainer drew gasps, then a rush to be in the front of the auditorium. This time the featured artist was Sir Paul McCartney and his band, which has been touring America over the last few months.

Whether the Freightliner guests – fleet executives, their partners and the trucking press – were impressed, I couldn’t tell you. But I can tell you I WAS impressed, hearing and seeing only a few paces away a musical legend with whom I grew up in my native United Kingdom.

The previous evening had been exciting for the trucking press, as well, with an invitation to spend an evening with a special group of industry tech innovators at the little known Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum, located in a warehouse close by Philadelphia’s International Airport.

The innovators were Aperia, which has an axle-mounted tire monitor and automatic air pump; EpicVue, an in-cab TV provider; Peoplenet, the messaging and asset management provider; PIT, a third party testing house for verifying claims for new products; QuikQ, a fuel transaction processor; TCG activity-based costing; and velociti, a data management company that fleets use for legal compliance. All used the same press agency and were present to talk about their services.
 
Also present was the most stunning collection of road-race cars I have ever seen.

The collection is worth hundreds of millions of dollars and features winning cars from every major road race you can think of, from Sebring to Le Mans from the Mille Miglia to the Nurburgring, from Brooklands to Bonneville and spanning 70 years of race car history. To our greater delight, one particular car had been singled out as an illustration of what the museum exhibits.

In the white and blue racing colors it wore when it last raced in 1966 was the lightweight Corvette built in 1962 by Zora Arkus Duntov when he was GM’s chief engineer. This particular car is #002, one of five built in secret and campaigned successively with GM management not knowing for most of the time.

With the extensive use of aluminum, combined with lightweight tube frames, fabricated suspension and special ultra-thin fiberglass bodies, the Grand Sports weighed less than 2000 pounds – 1100 pounds less than production Corvettes.

In 1963, the almost-stock engines were replaced with full-race aluminum 377-cubic-inch engines that produced more than 550 hp. Then, as a final step in the Grand Sport’s evolution, the engineers converted 001 and 002 to roadsters for the upcoming 1964 Daytona endurance race.

Then Duntov was told to stop racing the cars and destroy them. Fortunately for posterity, he managed to sell two of the cars to Roger Penske. Penske campaigned the two cars but by then they were no longer competitive with Porsche and Ford GT40 mid-engine sports cars.

The 002 (shown above) was finally sold to George Wintersteen, who briefly campaigned the car. Although 002 later changed hands a few times, it remained in its 1966 Wintersteen-race condition, virtually untouched for more than 30 years.

Fred Simeone, who owns the collection, talked about the car to show the philosophy behind the museum collection. The cars are mostly unrestored but running, representing the great days of road racing.

There are staggering examples, such as one of the six Shelby America Daytona Coupes that won a sports car championship for Carroll Shelby in the ‘60s. This car has the most extraordinary history, for, as well as winning a constructor’s title in the FIA World Sportscar Championship in 1965 and setting 25 speed records at Bonneville the same year, it was eventually sold to Phil Spector. From there its history gets weird. It finished up in a California storage unit where it sat for almost 30 years. This was in 2001 when the car was valued at $4 million. It’s no doubt worth a great deal more today.

To find out more about the Simeone collection, click here. To find out more about Sir Paul McCartney go to the local record store. Wait a minute – they don’t exist any more . . .

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