Mike Morphy no longer lives in Wendell, and no longer owns the “penny car” – a 1996 Geo Metro hatchback he and his wife Gayle Hoover laminated with 28,751 coins.
But the art car that formerly turned heads in town continues to gain attention. Ripley’s Believe it or Not! announced the release of its latest book, “Unlock the Weird!” in September, and the penny-coated car earned an entry.
Morphy, who now lives in western Belize, said Thursday via Skype he was unaware of the Ripley’s mention – that the last time he Googled the penny car, the only hits he got were from past news stories. But inclusion in the book, he said, is in line with what he had hoped to achieve through the car.
“The whole project was just for the wow factor and just for amusement purposes mainly, so that doesn’t bother me one iota,” Morphy said. “If you didn’t want to drive down the road and get your picture taken on a daily basis in a car like this, you wouldn’t do it. That may be the only book I get honorably mentioned in or that kind of notoriety or claim to fame, besides something from school, so it’s a nice adjunct to the story.”
A team of Ripley’s researchers that is constantly looking for odd, unusual, unbelievable – but true – stories, found the penny car, a spokesperson for the franchise said.
If they were to actually look for it today, Morphy said they’d find it in on display in front of repossession company near Fayetteville.
Morphy sold the penny car a few days before leaving for Belize, for about $2,500 – what he said is high-end value for a 1996 Metro, plus a little more for the art value. He said when it came time to sell it, everyone thought it was cool, but not everyone was willing to get behind the wheel of such a quirky vehicle on a regular basis.
“(The owner) wanted it kind of as eye candy to put in front of his office, primarily,” he said. “He wasn’t intending on making a daily driver out it – just for special effects.”
Morphy, coincidentally, just finished reading an autobiography on Robert Ripley, the creator or Ripley’s Believe it or Not! He’s also not the first person in his family to be featured by Ripley’s.
“My mother was actually in a blurb in the late ’50s for having a kitten with six toes on each foot, which I’ve heard of since then, but I guess then was rare enough to be considered for Ripley’s daily publication,” Morphy said.
Morphy has enjoyed the past two years in retirement. He described it as full-time vacation – something he’s still working to get used to.
Though he repairs drums to pass the time, he can’t deny the temptation he gets looking at the 1992 Metro he and his wife took with them to Belize.
“There are some places (in Belize) where you don’t want to be that guy saying, ‘I’m such an ugly American or rich American that I want to drive around with a bunch of coins on my car,’ ” Morphy said. “I think I could compromise with my wife to do a pattern or a limited area on the hood, just not the whole car.”