by Robert Earl Lauer, Las Vegas, NV — photos by Jason Veale of tulsachevys.com (except where noted; reprinted by permission)
June 1957 – Residents of Tulsa, Oklahoma are enjoying their state’s anniversary in a party called “Tulsarama!” Tulsa representatives decided they needed something unique to compete with other cities. They decided to entomb an automobile in a time capsule, using a 1957 Plymouth Belvedere. Jubilee chairman WA Anderson explained the choice: “Plymouth is a true representative of automobiles of this century – with the kind of lasting appeal that should be in style fifty years from now.” [For details on the 1957 cars, click here!]
The Plymouth was sprayed with cosmoline, wrapped in plastic, and buried in a concrete tomb, placed on a steel plate so the wheels were off the ground. Stuffed in the trunk were five gallons of gasoline in glass jugs, oil, a case of beer, and other artifacts. Placed inside the glove compartment at the last minute were the contents of a woman’s purse containing fourteen bobby pins, a ladies compact, plastic rain cap, combs, a tube of lipstick, pack of gum, facial tissues, $2.73 in money, and a pack of cigarettes. Also placed in were unpaid parking tickets and a bottle of tranquilizers which the winner of the car may need. During the party in 1957, residents were asked to guess the population of Tulsa in 2007; the guesses were sealed in a steel container and placed in the car. The winner or their heir will receive the Plymouth and a $100 trust fund which was accruing interest since 1957, (reportedly now containing $400). The car was buried in downtown Tulsa with traffic cruising nearby; some were concerned that vibrations may have cracked the concrete tomb allowing moisture to enter. Will the 1957 Plymouth be in mint condition or will it require itself to come back to life like its sister car Christine? I will be there for the unveiling on 15 June 2007 for either a pristine 1957 Plymouth with 7 miles on her or a pile of rust with four dried out rubber tires!
It will be the event of a lifetime!
— Robert Earl Lauer
The 1957 Plymouth Belvedere was pulled out of the vault, wading in four feet of water, as it apparently had been for many years.
After being cleared by a hazmat team, the Belvedere was loaded onto a flatbed trailer and taken to the Convention Center, where it was unveiled. The baggie was removed; inside was rust and mud. The beer cans were located along with the gasoline and oil in the trunk, but they too were in pretty bad shape, and the beer cans had rusted through, leaking their contents.
The keys were in the ignition but were rusted tight. The engine was rusted tight. The tires took air and you can still see the signatures on the whitewalls from the 1957 organizers. The car is brown and red from all of the mud and rust attaching itself to the cosmoline, a metal preservative that was sprayed over the entire car. They cleaned a portion of the front bumper and to much surprise shiny chrome shone underneath! Maybe the entire car can be cleaned and shined after the cosmoline is removed, however the car itself will probably never run again unless it is completely restored. The cosmoline may also only have been applied to the exterior, allowing rust to attack from the other side.
The time capsule that was next to the car in the vault was in perfect shape when it was opened, having been designed to withstand decades of water. An American flag, letters from Tulsa officials, and the original postcard guesses from the individuals who guessed the population of Tulsa in 2007 were inside. Someone will get this beauty, and I still say beauty because this car is a classic piece of American dreams. Looking at the front I swear I could see tears coming from the headlights, well it was actually water and mud dripping!
The poor girl never made it the way we had hoped, but she will always be remembered as a perfect 1957 Plymouth Belvedere...
— Robert Lauer, Las Vegas, NV
(Robert traveled all the way to Tulsa for this event!)
Allpar note - we tried the live coverage from Tulsa’s TV station and newspaper, but got very little detail until the next morning. Buriedcar.com ended up slowing down to a crawl and wasn’t updated with the news... fortunately, Robert Lauer came through with a live report from the unveiling, and J.P. Joans found Jason Veale’s photo album; Jason was kind enough to allow us to reprint some of his photos from the event.
DPatt67 wrote: “I checked the car out at a local Dodge dealership. I was at the unveiling, but only got within 25 feet or so. I wanted the car to be restored but it may be wishful thinking. It appears that the entire body is bubbling up with rust. There are relatively few holes, concentrated on the lower parts of the body. It's odd in that parts of the bumpers have brilliant chrome and two feet down, all the chrome is gone. They had a mirror underneath and the underbody looked good. I didn't see any rust-through. I was worried that the spring perches may have fallen through when you see how low the rear of the car is, but it looked stout. The passenger side leaf springs have broken. The car, to be restored, would have to be dipped. I wouldn't blast it. It was amazing to see the perfect trim with no dings or scratches. I did find something odd: this is a 2 barrel car, but it had dual exhaust.
The rust-colored gunk is a coating - the material underneath might not be rusted at all -
the rear window certainly hasn’t rusted!
See all 179 photos at Tulsachevys.com!
[For details on the 1957 Chrysler-Plymouth and Dodge line, click here!]
The 1957 Plymouth Belvedere was awarded to Bowling Green resident Catherine Johnson, who is the closest relative to Ray Humbertson, who predicted the city's population most accurately. Ms. Johnson's nephew, Robert Carney, received the car on her behalf, in Tulsa, on September 14. He brought it to New Jersey-based rust-removal company Ultra One Corp. to remove all possible rust. (Thanks, Thomas Mize).
2011 update from Jim Benjaminson: Ultra One has been unable to do much work on the car due to the recession and economic issues. An Allpar member who attempted to contact them was unable to.
These were kindly shared by permission of Dave and Juley Stragand of forwardlook.net:
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