A tattered and dirty cover and rusty exposed tail fins didn’t stop the sold-out crowd in the Maxwell Convention Center in Tulsa, Okla., from bursting into applause when the cover was pulled back from the nose of the buried 1957 Plymouth Belvedere.
Tulsa residents, and the world, get their first look at the 1957 Plymouth.
Despite its condition, the weathered Plymouth, affectionately referred to as “Miss Belvedere” by Tulsarama! officials, remained the star of the Tulsarama! activities June 15, 2007. Once the car’s cover was completely pulled back, it became obvious that the car had suffered from being completely submerged in its vault under the lawn of the Tulsa County Courthouse. It was also clear that the bottom two feet had been exposed nearly door-handle high in water, leaving an even line of darker corrosion around the bottom of the car. Making the car appear even worse were shredded remnants of the rust-colored and white protective bag stilling clinging to areas of the skuzzy-looking, once-gold car’s surface. (Think “Christine” at the start of the Stephen King-based novel.)
The moisture also caused the car’s rear springs to break, dropping the rear end of the car. It was rumored that pieces of the car’s rear springs remained in the bottom of the vault, which was completely filled in with earth by the end of the day.
Being careful not to damage the car, workers slowly raise “Miss Belvedere” from her vault using the four original lift points and four newly added lift rings designed to keep the car from flexing.
Several hours separated the car’s unearthing from its vault at noon and its evening unveiling in the convention center, and Boyd Coddington and his crew used the time to determine what they might be able to do to the car. Coddington’s crew is believed to have pulled back part of the car’s rust-brown bag and opened the rusted hood during that time, but even the hot rodder conceded that the car should be left in its deteriorated condition, likely because he felt nothing could be done. Still, several of “Boyd’s Boys” began picking at sludge covering the trim and front bumper, exposing shiny areas and offering a false ray of hope.
Work immediately began by searching for the keys to the car and the container holding the microfilm with all of the 1957 entrants’ guesses of the 2007 Tulsa population count. Since Boyd’s workers couldn’t open the doors, they forced the windows down (as 1957 photos show, the windows were left cracked open), and reached their arms into the decimated and slimy interior in search of keys, with no luck. Worse yet, when the film canister was found in the backseat, it was found to have a gaping hole and no sign of the film.
The 1957 Plymouth is loaded on to a flatbed trailer to be transported to the Tulsa Convention Center where it is to be unveiled Friday evening.
Shockingly, most of the tires still held air, as well as the signatures of many of the people who signed the whitewalls before the car was dropped into the ground. Unfortunately, items placed into the trunk and passenger compartment didn’t fare as well as the tires. Had many of the car’s contents not been identified and remembered from 1957, the rusty and deformed Schlitz cans in the trunk and woman’s purse found in the remains of the interior may have never been positively identified. A can and two glass jugs still containing gasoline were also removed from the Plymouth’s trunk.
The Plymouth receives a police escort through the streets of Tulsa.
While Coddington’s crew buzzed around the Plymouth, the Tulsarama! committee members moved on to opening the keg-sized time capsule believed to contain an American flag and other items. Though this propane container-shaped item was as rusty looking as the larger Plymouth, it proved to be an excellent preserver of Tulsa history.
Once cracked open, the inside of the time capsule lid revealed a brilliant blue bumper sticker for the 1957 Tulsarama! event, as well as the American flag, notes from Tulsans and photos from the city in 1957, newspaper clippings and several other historic items. Most importantly, it also held the original entry blanks with population guesses, as well as the printed documents listing each contestants name and 2007 population guess. Yes, someone may find themselves to be the new owner of the 1957 Plymouth with not only the lowest mileage, but also in the worst condition.
The Plymouth awaits her unveiling Friday evening on the stage at the Tulsa Convention Center.
Officials also noted that the winner, who will be announced June 22, 2007, will receive the Plymouth, but not the contents of the time capsule, which will go to the Tulsa Historical Society.
The years of water damage become evident as the 1957 Plymouth is uncovered for the first time in 50 years.
Despite having been submerged in water for many years, with a little rubbing, parts of the car’s chrome bumpers still shine.
Despite having been wrapped in paper and plastic for the past 50 years, the engine compartment of the 1957 Plymouth has seen better days.
Beginning June 16, the Plymouth will be on display within the invitation-only car show at the convention center in Tulsa. An outdoor car show will be held in conjunction with this event, which is scheduled to run through Sunday. Officials expect 400 cars to be attendance.