On the Road – Back to the Future 1957

Today started out as a very rainy and wet day.  Not the sort of day that you want to have if you are planning on pulling a car out of a concrete coffin after it has been buried for fifty years.


None the less I made my way to the center of Tulsa and found a parking spot at the convention center.  The convention center is only about a block away from the hole where the car was buried, but because of the limited space around the burial site only a select few people were allowed to be there.  Everyone else was able to go to the convention center and watch it as it happened on a huge screen.


Given the weather the lucky ones were in the convention center for the screening.  The extraction would take place at noon.  While I waited I talked to Jim and Ila Liner who had brought a 1965 Mustang to the car show.

With much drama the crowd watched as the workers hooked up a special framework and cables to beams of steel under the car.  With a modest amount of fanfare the carcase was hauled out of the hole and on to a waiting truck and trailer. 


After the car was secured a metal cylinder about the size of a 40 gallon air tank was hauled out as well and placed on a specially made cradle on the trailer.  This was the actual time capsule.

Everything that came out of the concrete coffin looked waterlogged and rusty. 

The concrete coffin had been covered inside and out with Gunite (also called Shotcrete) in the hopes of waterproofing it.  The lid was in three sections also sealed with Gunite.  When the capsule was uncovered and the three sections of the lid were removed what they found was at least a couple of feet of water in the coffin.  This was not a good sign.

Prior to burial the car was coated in cosmoline and then covered with a special covering of plastic and foil, similar to the methods used at the time to protect airplane engines that the government put into storage during the war.  Neither the Gunite nor the wrap prevented the inevitable effects of water on the contents.

Boyd Codington was at the event and when he took a look at the underside of the Belvedere he was not optimistic.


Once the car and capsule were on the truck it would be at least six hours until the major event in the convention hall would take place.  That would be the actual unwrapping of the car and the opening of the time capsule.

It was time for me to find some lunch.  I decided to eat at the hotel across the street.  It was a good choice.

Then I spent some time wandering around the streets and parking lots of Tulsa snapping photos of the many cars that were from the 1957 era that people had brought to the event.






By three in the afternoon it was time for the car show.  This was one of several events that took place over this weekend to celebrate Tulsarama.

The car show was actually a fantastic event.  There were cars from all over the US.  I even met one of the exhibitors that came from Massachusetts.  He was talking to a couple of folks, one of which I found out went to the same high school I did on Cape Cod.

The really great part about this kind of a car show was that the car owners were right there and they were happy to talk to you and answer any questions you might have.  It was like going to a museum where you could talk to the curator when ever you needed to.

Of course there were several examples of the Plymouth Belvedere, but there were many other types of classic cars as well.

Here is a sampling:




By six thirty it was time to get a seat in the big hall and see the unveiling of Miss Belvedere, as the 1957 Plymouth was called.

The Tulsa folks put on quite a show, reviewing many of the aspect leading up to the original burial of the car and information on the many items that were placed in the car.  Things such as a couple of cans of gasoline, a case of Schlitz beer, and maybe a black and white television (the trunk was huge – really).

Finally it could be put off no longer and they raised the curtain to reveal the car, still covered in the wrappings.  Then a crew pealed back the wrap to reveal – a very rusty car. 

Yes, it was more than a little sad to see that there wasn’t much of a car left, but I don’t think the point is to pull a pristene car out of a concrete coffin after 50 years.  There are other ways to preserve a car than to bury it in a concrete vault.  No, it was to show that things really do change in fifty years.  That hopes, dreams, concepts, and plans, all change with time.  That maybe we shouldn’t wait to appreciate our treasures in  fifty years – but should savor them now for what they are and not for what we hope they will be in the future.

They cut open the steel capsule to find that its contents were perfectly preserved.  It contained many interesting and important items and messages from 1957. 

When all this was buried in June of 1957 the residents were given a chance to predict how large the 2007 population of Tulsa would be.  The winner (or their heirs) would get the car and the proceeds from a savings account started with $100.

In the time capsule were all the original letters and postcards with the people’s best guesses. 


The car won’t run and is rusting away, and the estimated value of the savings account was said to be about $700. 

So maybe that is all a guess is really worth. 

This entry was posted in Automobiles, Car Shows, Car Stuff, Cars, Road Trips. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to On the Road – Back to the Future 1957

  1. Pingback: Rust never sleeps for Belvedere « Route 66 News

  2. Ted III says:

    Thanks for these Jim! Looks like it was an experience to remember! I found some more pics from the unveiling – http://news.yahoo.com/photos/ss/events/lf/061507belvedere;_ylt=Au6Kwql07J8gawbzGv401QNsaMYA&auto=yes

    Boyd Coddington is good – but he is not that good!


  3. markitude says:


    Wow! Thanks for the coverage and human elements in the story. I followed the cross posted links to the broader sets of photos. Man – they would have been better off just parking the thing in a field.

    Interesting story from where I grew up circa 1988. One of my friend’s dad ran an autobody shop and some of us would hang out there on occasion at night and look at some of the cars in. Sitting in the shop one night, was a pristine 1969 chevy nova – plain looking wiht painted wheels, hubcaps, with some really old and original bias ply tires. The story behind it was that the car was new, and within a couple months of purchase, the people that owned it got divorced. I don’t recall who did what, but one of the people, in defiance of the agreements parked the car in a garage and had the door bricked up to match the rest of the house. And so the car sat for 18 years. Aparantly, the house had just been sold, and the new owners were doing some remodeling and made the discovery.

    It was astonishing in 1988 to me as a teenager, and now in hindsight, seems incredulous, but along with changes in so many things, are changes to our legal system, and our thoughts as a society – our approaches and attitudes. 1969-1970 was a long time ago, and 1957, even more distant.

  4. Noel says:

    I don’t look all that ragged for all the time it’s been,
    But I’m weakened underneath me where my frame is rusted thin.
    And this year’s state inspection just barely passed
    Won’t you drive me ‘cross the country, boy,
    This year could be my last.

    I’m a tailfin road locomotive from the days of cheap gasoline,
    And I’m for sale by the side of the road going nowhere,
    A rusty old American dream.

    I rolled off the line in Detroit back in 1958,
    Spent three days in the showroom, that’s all I had to wait.
    I’ve been good to all who owned me, so have no fear;
    C’mon, boy, put your money down and get me out of here!

    I’m a tailfin road locomotive from the days of cheap gasoline,
    And I’m for sale by the side of the road going nowhere,
    A rusty old American dream.

    This car needs a young man to own him
    One who will polish the chrome,
    I will give you the rest of my lifetime,
    But don’t let me die here alone.
    Just jump me some juice to my battery,
    Give that old starter a spin,
    Hear me whir, sputter, backfire through the carberator,
    And roar into life once again.

    I’m a tailfin road locomotive,
    You can polish my chrome so clean
    We can fly off into the sunset together,
    A rusty old American dream.

    © David Wilcox, all rights reserved

  5. Bobby Ewing says:

    Here are some high resolution pictures of the car and the items that were stored inside it. Looks like a “fixer upper”


  6. Tim says:

    It looks like they found the winner who guessed the population back in the day:

  7. jim

    just thought i would drop you a line, me and some friends are visiting the uk’s largest indoor classic car show at the N.E.C birminghem england on sunday 11th november.
    it’s a great day for me to get up close to some classic american muscle cars and possibly have a pint of beer also.
    keep up the good work.


  8. jimsgarage says:

    Thanks Ronnie. It does my heart good to hear that folks in the UK enjoy American muscle cars. Enjoy your pint! I hope you get some good photos while you are there.


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