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.