Trophy Kids

’54 Ford Mainline is a show stopper, but kids are the real winners


Seldon Penney shares the wealth — and loves it. So do his unsuspecting beneficiaries.

enney, a longtime classic car enthusiast from Traverse City, Mich., began amassing show trophies shortly after acquiring a beautiful 1954 Ford Mainline from a friend several years ago. But he wasn’t content to let them collect dust on a shelf.

“I was lying in bed one night thinking, ‘What am I going to do with all these trophies?’ ” Penney said. “Then it hit me: I’ll give them away.”

So whenever Penney takes the Mainline to a show, he brings along a trophy or two and puts them in the back seat. Then he waits for a kid to wander by who shows a special interest in the car and seems eager to learn more about automobiles.

At July’s National Cherry Festival Car Show, that kid was Cincinnati’s Ezra Mobley, who was just days short of his 12th birthday and received a gift he’ll likely never forget.

“I liked the (velvet-covered) seats,” Ezra said, explaining what caught his eye. “I ran my hand over them and they were very cushiony. (Penney) came over and asked me if I’d like to sit in it. Then he let me start it. It was cool.”

Penney emphasized that Ezra was only allowed to touch the ignition key on the fuel-injected Mainline — with the permission of his parents, of course.

“When he turned the engine off, I asked him if he had room in his car for a trophy,” Penney said. “He immediately said, ‘Yes!’ He was pretty excited, which is exciting for me. If I can help get kids interested in automobiles, then that’s what I’m going to do. It all starts right here.”

Ezra was attending the car show with his parents, James and Anna Mobley, former northern Michigan residents who were already on a classic car adventure when they visited Traverse City. The couple, along with Ezra and his younger brother, Terje, had been on the road 138 days at that point, traveling the country in their 1987 Volkswagen Westphalia camper — “16,000 miles, 21 states, 21 national parks,” according to James Mobley. He said Penney’s kindness was a definite highlight for his son.

“It’s great that (Penney) is doing that,” Mobley said. “Usually you go to shows and you’re repeating to your kids, ‘Don’t touch the cars. Don’t touch the cars.’ It’s understandable; these are people’s babies. So to let him sit in the car, let him start it and then give him a trophy — that was pretty awesome.

“Ezra has always been fascinated with cars. He’ll look at an older car he likes and he’ll ask, ‘Why did they change the design? This car is epic!’ I think he’ll always be a classic car fan.”

And perhaps Seldon Penney’s generosity will have had a little something to do with it.

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