A light mist of rain failed to dampen spirits in downtown Tulsa Friday morning as the sodden 1957 Plymouth Belvedere was exhumed from its 12-by-20 foot vault beneath the Tulsa County Courthouse lawn were it has rested (and possibly rusted) for nearly half a century. Amid much fanfare and the to the tune of dual whirling news-choppers, hundreds of onlookers from around the globe turned out catch a glimpse of the car and to learn for themselves the condition of the buried car.
“It is a piece of history,” said John Carter who traveled with his son all the way from Australia to photograph the unearthing. “This is a once in a lifetime event that has captured the interest of car crazy people the world over.”
Miss Belvedere, as the car has properly been named, was shrouded in three layers of muddy cloth liners that were so carefully placed around the car to protect it from the stagnant water that would eventually engulf this symbol of an optimistic bygone era. The car was carefully lifted from its tomb around noon with the help a 20-ton crane, an immense outpouring of optimism and the hopes of many who were in attendance on a similarly rainy day fifty years before.
Despite the fact that the cement vault had long ago failed to protect the gold and white two-door hardtop from the ravages of nature, as the car was hefted from the ground an audible gasp could be heard coming from the crowd of hundreds who had journeyed to the site to view the unearthing.
While suspended from the crane, workers slowly rotated the car in mid-air so that the crowd could view the ’57 Plymouth from all angles. As the car completed its aerial pirouette, a mud and rust encrusted fin could clearly be seen poking through a tear in the lining.
Also buried with Miss Belvedere were 10 gallons of gasoline — in case internal combustion engines had become obsolete by 2007 — a case of beer, and the contents of a typical woman’s handbag placed in the glove compartment: 14 bobby pins, a bottle of tranquilizers, a lipstick, a pack of gum, tissues, a pack of cigarettes, matches and $2.43.
Encased in the cement vault along with the car was a steel time capsule that, among other things, contains a spool of microfilm that recorded the entries of a contest to determine who would win the car: the person who guessed the closest of what Tulsa’s population would be in 2007 — 382,457 will win. However, event organizers do not expect to announce the name of the winner, if the microfilm actually survived and a winner can be determined, until later this month
That person, or his or her heirs, will receive what remains of the car and a $100 savings account, estimated to be worth about $1,200 today with interest.
To the dismay of many in attendance who fear that any alterations to the car will diminish its relavance, television personality and hot rod builder Boyd Coddington and his crew of car customizers have been granted access to the car before tonight’s unveiling. Coddington has been given the task of assessing the car and determining what, if anything, can be done to get the car started.
According to Coddington, after seeing the car removed from the vault, “It don’t look good.”
Following the unearthing, the car was loaded onto a trailer and driven to the Maxwell Convention Center arena, where it will be unveiled before a sold-out crowd of more than 7,300 car enthusiasts later tonight.
Check back later tonight for photos from the Tulsarama event and additional articles.