Back to the Future – 1957

In June of 1957, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a brand new 1957 Plymouth Belevedere was buried in a concrete coffin as a time capsule.  In June of this year the court house lawn is going to be dug up and the concrete time capsule will be opened.

According to event chairman Lewis Roberts Jr., the Plymouth was chosen because it was “an advanced product of American industrial ingenuity with the kind of lasting appeal that will still be in style 50 years from now.” 


By 1957 Plymouth had developed a fully automatic transmission – the PowerFlight 2-speed.  The standard engine was a Dodge straight six of 230.2 cubic inch displacement with a whopping 110 horse power rating. 

Those of you who remember the 1983 film, Christine,  the part of the 1958 car was played by 23 stunt doubles consisting of Plymouth Belevedere and Plymouth Savoy models of that year.

Since this car was to be the centerpiece representation of 1957 they even put the contents of a woman’s purse in the glove compartment.  This included bobby pins, a bottle of tranquilizers, cigarettes, and an unpaid parking ticket. 

The real zinger here is that in 1957 the citizens of Tulsa were invited to guess what the population of their city would be in fifty years.  The guesses were recorded on microfilm and placed in a steel container with the car.  The car and a $100 savings account (tells you a lot about inflation doesn’t it) will go to the person who guessed the closest to the actual population. 


This could prove to be a real challenge as all the city records on the event are lost.  The photos that exist were taken by participants of the original ceremony and many have died.  A lot changes in fifty years.

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11 Responses to Back to the Future – 1957

  1. Dan Paquette says:

    I’ll be curious to see the condition of the car even if they had taken steps to minimize deterioration. Could make for a collectors dream restore.

  2. Jim says:

    A couple of the things they included in the time capsule was ten gallons of high test gasoline and enough motor oil to fill the crankcase. Let’s hope it all doesn’t explode when they open up the vault!


  3. rich says:

    That’s pretty cool. I like the comment about “lasting appeal”, and it kinda makes me wonder how many American cars will have lasting appeal 50 years from now? (Actually, that’s rhetorical ’cause I’m pretty sure there will be no American cars manufactured today that have lasting appeal ten years from now, let alone fifty. That’s just me, though. I’m a left-leaning, gas-guzzling hating snob.)

  4. Dan Paquette says:


    I don’t know…. The current retro designs of the Mustang and the upcoming new Dodge Challenger stand a chance of being classics with lasting appeal. Granted they are based on cars with lasting appeal to begin with….

    If you look at some of the dodge/chrysler designs today, I think they may very well be appealing to collectors 20 years from now.

    The question is whether or not 20, 30, 40 years down the road that today’s cars could even be maintained/restored. While the frames and bodies are designed far better to last longer, one has to wonder if the average garage tinkerer would have the ability to rebuild the modern and complex engines we have today, much less find the working electronics needed to complete a restoration.

  5. mark says:

    I agree – there is a big aftermarket for select “classic” cars, but there are still many parts that are difficult to impossible to come by. Non – classics. Good luck. People aren’t keeping cars for very long, and salvage yards are pulling engines, occasionally come collision repair panels, and scrapping them at a quicker pace. I think the electronics are going to be the challenge with so many ECM / PCM’s etc. Plastic plugs become brittle and it’s hard to get the right harness ends.

    It may also be, that since all the automakers are all trying to have a product in every market space, that there are fewer really stand out vehicles. I agree that the retro movement holds some potential, and I’ve seen sketches of chevy doing a retro Camaro styled after the 67-69 models.

    Around here you don’t see many cars older than 10 years on the road except for some rare exceptions. The exceptions are the notable classics – still a few 65-68 mustangs rolling around, a few old chryslers, corvettes, and classic Benz’s. The other exception is older trucks – I see a number of ’68-72′ chevys. But pretty much the rest of the 70’s is gone, as are the 80’s and a lot of the generics of the 90’s. It’s interesting to see the “hand me down” process for one time high line cars. Growing up, my Grandparants always had big classic Lincolns – Mark IV, Mark V and hated the newer models and refused to buy them until after 2000 when they finally gave up trying to get the dealer to work on keeping a 1977 model car in showroom condition. While they kept theirs up, I would see many similar models far the worse for wear on their 4th, 5th, or 10th owner – beaten up, added on with gaudy accessories, etc – the $500 car. Now I see beat down Infinity Q45’s, old Lexus 300’s and 420 / 560 MB’s rolling around with hanging headliners, dented, dirty, and unkempt.

    Perhaps it’s all the 0% and drastic mark downs that the domestic automakers have been undertaking for last 10 years to keep people buying and things moving out.

  6. Jim says:

    So who is going to Tulsa, OK for the June 15 unveiling?

  7. Judy says:

    I’m wondering …what kind of tranquilizers? Oh come on…I’m kidding!!

  8. Jim says:

    I bet Ed would know!

  9. Judy says:

    I should have thought of Ed myself…

  10. Pingback: On the Road - I are in AR « Jim’s Garage

  11. Debty says:

    Ahaan… I will follow.

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