Plymouth beats Volvo by 50 years.
July 11, 2006 10:56 PM   Subscribe

On June 15, 1957, a new gold and white 1957 Plymouth Belvedere Sport Coupe was buried in a time capsule in downtown Tulsa, OK. The car was entombed in a concrete vault beneath the then lawn of city hall as part of Tulsa's semi-centennial.The interment, forgotten by Chrysler Motors according to one report by a former employee, is sparking interest largely due to the fact that the car is scheduled to be exhumed on June 15, 2007 as part of Tulsa's centennial celebration. It was buried to establish the timelessness of Plymouth design, an assertion that has proven both ironically wrong and ironically right. Oh, the car goes to the person who correctly guessed the population of Tulsa in 2007 at the time the car was buried, or that person's heirs. The problem will be finding them.
posted by VMC (47 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
hmm, a shedload of VX gas and an estimate of '0' ... free classic sport coupe 50 years later!
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 11:15 PM on July 11, 2006


10 gallons of gasoline and 5 quarts of oil
Probably worth more than the car, nowdays.
posted by mrbill at 11:17 PM on July 11, 2006


Correction: It's not Tulsa's centennial; that was in 1979. It's Oklahoma's centennial.

It's funny that everyone forgot about the car. We all knew about it growing up. The car under old city hall. I think even my father (who would have been 11) put in an entry.

There's been some thought that the car is a pile of rust, since the vault may not have been waterproof.
posted by dw at 11:24 PM on July 11, 2006


Actually i would imagine that the gasoline will have evaporated, although I suppose they could have kept it sealed.
posted by delmoi at 11:47 PM on July 11, 2006


the only problem with winning a car like that is that no one would take you seriously if you drove around in it.

you become "that dude (or for the sake of argument, gal, sure) with the old car," and are thereby eternally condemned to popping the hood on saturday evenings outside '50s-themed diners.

way to go, daddy o. see you at the suck hop.
posted by Hat Maui at 12:22 AM on July 12, 2006


This is surely a time-capsule from one month ago, isn't it?
posted by Laotic at 3:15 AM on July 12, 2006


Oh, silly me, 2007 is next year.
posted by Laotic at 3:23 AM on July 12, 2006


Even if the gas is in a sealed container, if they didn't add a stabilizer, it won't burn in that engine. Good luck finding the leaded gas the monster needs, too.

". . .the kind of lasting appeal that will still be in style 50 years from now." Hahahaha! That tail-finned monster was in style for about twenty minutes.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:49 AM on July 12, 2006


Did I mention it's a monster?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:49 AM on July 12, 2006


Did I mention it's a monster?

Christine was said to be a 1958 Plymouth Fury, which had similar panels and trim to the 1957 model. When the Fury name was introduced, it was essentially a sport and trim package on the Belvedere - notably two doors, gold anodized trim, gold grille, and dual four-barrel carburetors. Christine, as shown in the movie, could have been any two door Belvedere with a 318 or 350 engine. Although over 5300 Furys - and far more Belvederes - were built in 1958, they have since become very rare and are now collector's items. There were 13 or 16 (depending on source) Belvederes/Furys smashed in the making of the movie (out of the roughly 25 used during filming), but it is unknown whether they were 1957 or 1958 models, or a combination. (from the IMDb)
posted by Joeforking at 4:06 AM on July 12, 2006


"The contents of a women’s purse, including bobby pins, a bottle of tranquilizers, cigarettes and an unpaid parking ticket, were added to the glove compartment of the car shortly before burial."
posted by myeviltwin at 4:44 AM on July 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


Actually, Kirth Gerson, you can get leaded. You can't get it at the pump (last time I got real leaded gas for my 70 impala was ~1992), but there are still tetraethyl lead additives you can put in primo gas to effectively, make leaded gas.
posted by notsnot at 4:52 AM on July 12, 2006


a bottle of tranquilizers

Aaah to be a lonesome housewife in 1957. . .
posted by Jimbob at 5:01 AM on July 12, 2006


That settles it. I'm going in my back yard to bury my jar of pennies. If anyone of you can tell me how many pennies were in there at the time of burial, you can have all the pennies (the jar too!)...in 2056.

I've got my Excel spreadsheet ready. Start guessing!
posted by Sir BoBoMonkey Pooflinger Esquire III at 5:09 AM on July 12, 2006


Anyone know how much the savings account, started with $100, is worth now?
posted by Hogshead at 5:29 AM on July 12, 2006


A brief history of time capsules.
posted by stbalbach at 6:09 AM on July 12, 2006


Actually, Kirth Gerson, you can get leaded. You can't get it at the pump (last time I got real leaded gas for my 70 impala was ~1992), but there are still tetraethyl lead additives you can put in primo gas to effectively, make leaded gas.

Looks like avgas - the stuff they put in light aircraft - still contains lead-based goodness.
posted by kcds at 6:13 AM on July 12, 2006


"Anyone know how much the savings account, started with $100, is worth now?"
According to this calculator with a annual yield of 6% you're looking at just over $1200.
posted by PenDevil at 6:13 AM on July 12, 2006


Oops that should be 5% yield. (6% gets you just under $2000)
posted by PenDevil at 6:14 AM on July 12, 2006


I'm going to bury a time capsule with a modern time capsule inside it so that the people of 2106 will be able to compare it with the time capsules they leave for the people of 2206.
posted by Drexen at 6:15 AM on July 12, 2006


Drexen: My brain assplode.
posted by joecacti at 7:14 AM on July 12, 2006


The car could be worth more than the savings account if it's survived. Aside from the cachet of owning a brand new car with a great story, the collector value of a 1957 Plymouth isn't too shabby.
(Great post, VMC. I was working on one about this but got distracted.)
posted by Floydd at 7:21 AM on July 12, 2006


Cars from the 50s run just fine on unleaded, you knobs.
posted by keswick at 8:19 AM on July 12, 2006


"Cars from the 50s run just fine on unleaded, you knobs."

As long as you have the valve seats hardened.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:23 AM on July 12, 2006


mrbill writes "Probably worth more than the car, nowdays."

I'll trade 10 gallons of and 5 quarts of oil to anyone for a complete 57 Fury in any condition, no questions asked.

Kirth Gerson writes "Good luck finding the leaded gas the monster needs, too. "

Nothing to it, leaded fuels are readily available from any race gas dealer.

mr_crash_davis writes "As long as you have the valve seats hardened."

It takes a good 20-40K miles for the seats to receed from lack of lead to the point they need replacing. At which point just pop the heads off, take them to the machine shop and then put them back on.
posted by Mitheral at 8:52 AM on July 12, 2006


"It takes a good 20-40K miles for the seats to receed from lack of lead to the point they need replacing. At which point just pop the heads off, take them to the machine shop and then put them back on."

I think I'd rather be proactive, but whatever floats your boat. Or land yacht, in this case.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:06 AM on July 12, 2006


"The contents of a women’s purse, including bobby pins, a bottle of tranquilizers, cigarettes and an unpaid parking ticket, were added to the glove compartment of the car shortly before burial. "

the OK DMV is going to be right there when it's opened too. They still want that damn parking ticket paid off.
posted by drstein at 9:57 AM on July 12, 2006


Burying the gold and white Plymouth in the concrete vault of Tulsa, eh?
Nudge Nudge. Say no more.
OK--More.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:03 AM on July 12, 2006


This reminds me too much of a scene from Neil Gaiman's American Gods. You just know there's something rotting in the trunk that *nobody* wants to discover.
posted by craniac at 10:05 AM on July 12, 2006


So, did the car have the oil and gas in the engine and tank respectively? Not to mention radiator fluid and transmission oil. How bad would the car be if that was the case?
posted by JJ86 at 10:51 AM on July 12, 2006


Now if someone could empty the capsule before it's dug up, car and all, that would be a story...
posted by gottabefunky at 10:51 AM on July 12, 2006


Wow. What a great story!

For the first time in my life, I feel a desire to go to Tulsa.
posted by Sheppagus at 10:59 AM on July 12, 2006


"The contents of a women’s purse, including bobby pins, a bottle of tranquilizers, cigarettes and an unpaid parking ticket, were added to the glove compartment of the car shortly before burial. "

Heh!

Person who wins the car would be taken into custody immediately after delivery... for possession of controlled medication sans prescription.
posted by The Confessor at 11:02 AM on July 12, 2006


"Anyone know how much the savings account, started with $100, is worth now?"
According to this calculator with a annual yield of 6% you're looking at just over $1200.


Using 50 years, starting at 100 dollars and 6% I figured 1,846 (using future value tables.)

Seems like a small amount to me considering 50 years, but then again that amount of money 50 years ago was probably a years salary for most...
posted by fluffycreature at 12:10 PM on July 12, 2006


So, did the car have the oil and gas in the engine and tank respectively? Not to mention radiator fluid and transmission oil. How bad would the car be if that was the case?

Pretty bad, most likely.

But I just have to say, I love me some Belvedere. Some old fart in my town has one. You've never seen such busy tailfins. There's a multitude of shapes on each one.
posted by scratch at 12:10 PM on July 12, 2006


My father collects Chrysler cars from the 50's and 60's, specifically the letter series. He has about 12. They're pretty amazing.
posted by nekton at 1:27 PM on July 12, 2006


If you clean the engine I don't see why the thing wouldn't run. The oil is probably all gummy by this time.
posted by zorro astor at 1:51 PM on July 12, 2006


For the first time in my life, I feel a desire to go to Tulsa.

As a native, I should probably tell you to suppress that desire. But if you're following old Route 66 (11th St), it's actually pretty interesting. The Blue Dome District has popped up where there used to be brothels and taverns, and it has a lot of 1930s Art Deco architecture.

Honestly, if you like architecture, especially Art Deco, then a couple of days in Tulsa is worth it.
posted by dw at 2:18 PM on July 12, 2006


Waking up a sleeping beauty.
posted by Floydd at 2:21 PM on July 12, 2006


How much time do you suppose between when it comes out of the hole and when it appears on eBay?
posted by spock at 2:26 PM on July 12, 2006


hey dw, i'm here too. and yes, you suppressing the desire to visit is a good idea.

also there is a 1966 belvedere in my driveway right now.
posted by lescour at 2:30 PM on July 12, 2006


I require updates!
posted by drezdn at 3:57 PM on July 12, 2006


hey dw, i'm here too.

Actually, I'm not. I graduated from high school and just visit on holidays.

Required question every Tulsan asks another Tulsan: Which high school you go to?
posted by dw at 5:05 PM on July 12, 2006


Thanks for the correction, DW.

The video provides some clues to the steps taken to preserve the car. A foil sheath is shown being clumsily fitted over the engine, plastic draping is visible over the car as it rests at the bottom of the vault while the whole shebang is shown being blasted with an industrial spray hose, containing, almost certainly, Cosmoline.

The big danger of corrosion would come from standing water in the vault. Cosmoline works great when it is in direct contact with the metal it protects, not sure how it will behave in this context. But if I had to bet, I would say the thing is going to come out of the ground in great shape. (I am an optimistic fellow.)

If it does emerge unravaged, I doubt it will be driven more than enough for photo ops. The car's value is that it is brand new. If it was truly preserved with care then it will become a car show princess and no one will ever worry about the amount of lead in today's gas.

Not so sure how that case of Schlitz Beer they stashed in the trunk is going to fare. (Schlitz sucked in a way Cosmoline could only improve) but I would chance a sip myself anyhow.

I am feeling a strange and powerful urge to book a campground in Tulsa and take the family out there in the RV over Father's Day weekend next year to see the Plymouth's resurrection.
posted by VMC at 6:18 PM on July 12, 2006


Required question every Tulsan asks another Tulsan: Which high school you go to?

HAH! In St. Louis, that's known as "the St. Louis question."
posted by Afroblanco at 6:25 PM on July 12, 2006


HAH! In St. Louis, that's known as "the St. Louis question."

It's a real caste system. I think it's mainly because each school is so very different socioeconomically and racially.

Oh, I just remembered from my aging brain -- the gas is in a jerry can, not in the car's gas tank. I think ditto on the oil.
posted by dw at 8:40 PM on July 12, 2006


dw - no doubt. In a sense, it's a purely social thing - the asker genuinely wants to know if you have any mutual friends. However, in another sense, it's an attempt to "size you up" socioeconomically. Very much a midwestern thing.

Here in NYC, people ask "What do you do for a living?" or "Where do you live?" Both serve pretty much the same purpose as the highschool question. However, I like the NYC question more, because it's more about what you're doing with your life, and less about what your parents did with theirs.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:44 PM on July 12, 2006


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