A few months ago, I stumbled across some really cool photos of a striking antique car (a 1949 Cadillac) completely covered with pennies. What follows is the background story that I discovered.
In early 1999, a Fort Wayne, Indiana couple by the name of Larry and Theresa Thompson was in the market for an antique car they could restore. One morning they saw an advertisement for a 1949 Cadillac Series 62 and decided it couldn’t hurt to take a look. They drove through a light snowfall to the sellers location. When they arrived, they were accompanied over to the snow-covered car where they carefully brushed off the snow. It was then they discovered the car was the color of an old penny, which they found charming. They bought the car on the spot and took it home.
Over the next few months, with this penny idea rolling around in their heads, they began toying with the idea of actually covering the car in pennies.
When they finally began the project, they originally started by raiding a few family penny jars; but as supplies dwindled, they called on the help of others. Pennies began coming from friends, other family members, and even strangers who just wanted to be a part of this innovative project.
The pennies were affixed to car one at a time, by hand, using silicone glue. The work was mostly done by the Thompson Family (Larry, Theresa, and their two children, Ben and Taylor). This project took six weeks to complete during the summer of 1999.
It took a total of 38,295 pennies to completely cover the car. The face value of those pennies is only $382.95, which is not bad!. All together the pennies add 211 lbs. to the vehicle’s weight, which is about the weight of an adult man in the back seat.
All but four of the pennies were attached head side up. They’re all U.S. pennies, almost all Lincoln Cents. Included in the bevy are four 1943 steel pennies, two error pennies, and one 1817 Large Cent,
After the project was completed, the family has continued to use the car on weekends and in the summer — as well as displaying it at multiple car shows each year. The family eventually decided to name the car “Penny”. I think it’s great that the Thompson’s always display their Penny Car with a sign that reads “Please Touch the Car!” — so it’s a real hands-on experience for show-goers.
In a 2015 interview, Theresa remarked: “In the 15 years we’ve owned Penny we’ve had great fun with her and created some wonderful memories. I like to think we helped to fulfill her destiny. We would love to know how the original owner feels about what we did — I tried locating him but discovered he’d passed away shortly before our purchase. Recently, we crossed paths with one of his grandsons at a car show who said his grandfather would have loved the car”.
As an interesting side note, after researching this car, I did a search and found a few other cars with this surface treatment and quickly realized that this really only looks great on an older style antique car — and not so great on more modern cars.
Before you run out and try the same with your car — one issue I thought of might be coins becoming lose and falling off. How would big temperature changes (hot to cold to hot) and the accompanying expansion/contraction affect the glue. Imagine cruising down the highway at 60 mph and watching, in horror, as little projectiles fly off your car into cars behind cracking their windshields. Perhaps some sort of clear sealant could be used over the pennies to help keep them affixed.
In any case, this certainly is one of the coolest and most interesting car/coin synthesis art project I’ve ever seen!