TULSA, Okla. – A concrete vault encasing a 1957 Plymouth Belvedere buried a half-century ago may have been built to withstand a nuclear attack, but it couldn’t beat back the natural onslaught of moisture.
At a Friday ceremony complete with a couple of drum rolls, crews removed a multilayered protective wrapping caked with red mud, revealing a vintage vehicle that was covered in rust and wouldn’t crank.
There were a few bright spots: Shiny chrome was still visible around the doors and front fender, and workers were able to put air in the tires.
But the unveiling in front of thousands of people at the Tulsa Convention Center confirmed fears that the past 50 years had not been the kindest to Miss Belvedere.
“I’ll tell you what, she’s a mess. Look at her,” said legendary hot rod builder Boyd Coddington, who was unable to start the thing up as planned.
Event organizer Sharon King Davis, a fourth generation Tulsan whose grandfather helped bury the Plymouth, joked that the car needed a little Oil of Olay to help it out.
In the trunk, organizers meticulously pulled out some of the objects buried with the two-door hardtop to celebrate Oklahoma’s 50 years of statehood – a 5-gallon can of leaded gasoline, which went for 24 cents a gallon in those days, and rusted cans of Schlitz beer.
Workers also searched for 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 – would win.
That person, or his or her heirs, will get the car by June 22, along with a $100 savings account, worth about $1,200 today with interest. So far, all they found were guesses of the population written on postcards.
The elements could not penetrate a separate time capsule buried with the car. Its top was sawed off Friday, and organizers removed and unfolded an unfaded American flag, sending up a rousing cheer through the crowd.
Other historical documents, aerial maps of the city and postcards were in good condition.