It’s not a person, but they call it “Mary.” The nickname for Vicki and Ron Selia’s 1961 Lincoln Continental pays homage to one of the brightest stars of Hollywood’s golden age.
A cream-colored sedan with “Mad Men” era glamour, the Lincoln was originally owned by Mary Pickford. The beloved silent film actress, who in 1927 was a founding member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, was once known as “America’s Sweetheart.”
The Selias live north of Lake Stevens, near Lake Cassidy. Ron Selia, 63, is an assistant fire chief with the Getchell Fire Department, part of Snohomish County Fire District 22. He oversees the department’s fleet and facilities. His wife is a longtime nurse who has worked in midwifery and hospice care.
Away from work, they love cars. Both have driven in drag races around the region, Vicki in her 1949 Ford Coupe, which she named “Etta,” and Ron driving “Henry,” a 1952 Kaiser-Frazer Henry J.
Vicki Selia, 57, describes drag racing simply: “Go straight, fast — just as fast as you can go.”
The elegant 1961 Lincoln, now kept in the Selias’ garage, has been on quite a journey since it was registered in 1961 to Pickford Mary Inc., of Beverly Hills, California. Although Ron Selia said the car has little more than 89,000 original miles on the odometer, it has been shipped to New Zealand and back again.
A year ago, they sold their race car Etta to a buyer in New Zealand. This March, they traveled to New Zealand where the ’49 Ford would be part of Beach Hop 2017. A rock ‘n’ roll and vintage auto event in the seaside town of Whangamata, Beach Hop has been dubbed “the biggest little car show in the Southern Hemisphere.”
During Beach Hop, Ron Selia raced Etta at Meremere Dragway. His wife said he clocked in with a 9.8-second quarter-mile.
It was in New Zealand, outside Andy Murray’s auto service shop in Whangamata, where the Selias spotted the Lincoln. It was for sale. The front license plate, still on the car, reads “MI PICK,” and in small letters “Mary Pickford 1961.”
They paid $25,000 — $18,000 in U.S. currency — for the car, which is the same model year as the custom 1961 Lincoln Continental that carried President John F. Kennedy the day he was assassinated in Dallas. That car, a convertible modified to be a parade limousine, is now in the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.
The Selias’ car was owned in New Zealand by Wendy Hallen, whose husband John died in January. The Hallens bought the car in 2008 from the Pickfair Estate Auction, Vicki Selia said. Pickfair was the 18-acre Beverly Hills estate where Pickford and her second husband, Douglas Fairbanks Sr., once lived.
Along with her many classic movies, among them the 1917 “Poor Little Rich Girl” and “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm,” Pickford in 1919 founded United Artists Corporation, together with Fairbanks Sr., D.W. Griffith and Charlie Chaplin.
The screen star, who later married actor Charles “Buddy” Rogers, was about 70 when she first owned the Lincoln. She died in 1979 at age 87. The Selias have a document showing that after Pickford owned the car, but before it went to New Zealand, it was registered in 1973 to Eugenio Lupoloff, of Venice, California.
“She needed to come back home,” Vicki said of their classic Lincoln, which was shipped out of Auckland via Famous Pacific Shipping and arrived here earlier this summer.
A short spin in Mary’s back seat Friday was a trip back in time. Acting as chauffeur, Ron Selia opened those back-seat “suicide doors,” with their rear rather than front hinges. Sitting in luxury on tuck-and-roll leather-like upholstery, I couldn’t find a seat belt — there aren’t any in the back seat.
A leather box in the car was filled with music Pickford may have loved — Frank Sinatra, Vikki Carr, Barbra Streisand and Connie Francis. It was all on mid-1960s eight-track tapes. We rode along to Lake Cassidy listening to Mitch Miller, as Vicki Selia laughed about watching the ’60s TV show “Sing Along with Mitch.”
Anyone needing a reminder of how life has changed in nearly 60 years should try a trip in a car called Mary. What a ride.
Cruising along a country road, Vicki Selia said “I love this. Isn’t it like floating?”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.