Miss Belvedere, Before Burial, 1958
Miss Belvedere is the nickname given to a new 1957 Plymouth Belvedere sport coupe sealed in a 50-year time capsule and finally unearthed on June 14, 2007. It was chosen primarily for its Virgil Exner styling as a way of showing the people of 2007 the good taste and forward thinking of the people of 1957.
The car, with only four miles on the odometer, was sealed in an underground concrete vault as part of the festivities of the U.S. state of Oklahoma's 50th Anniversary, celebrated near downtown Tulsa. It was unearthed June 14, 2007 during the state's centennial celebration and was publicly unveiled on June 15. In line with the Cold War realities of late 1950s America, the concrete enclosure was advertised as having been built to withstand a nuclear attack. The concrete enclosure, however, was not airtight and allowed water to leak in, which caused significant damage to the vehicle.
Vehicle customizer Boyd Coddington and his team volunteered to start the car, once un-buried. That, however, proved impossible due to the car's condition. While items buried with the vehicle in their own protective vaults emerged unscathed, anything buried unprotected in the vehicle deteriorated completely. Among the items recovered from the trunk were a case of Schlitz beer and a large can of gasoline, intended to be used to start the car in 2007 if gasoline was no longer the fuel of choice for motor vehicles.
The car was intended to be a prize awarded upon the vehicle's unearthing, going to the individual who came nearest to guessing Tulsa's population in 2007, or their descendant. The winning entrant, one Raymond Humbertson, guessed 384,743. The actual figure became 382,457. Mr. Humbertson died in 1979 and now only distant relatives remain.
In November 2007, Humberton's relatives shipped the car to the New Jersey facilities of Ultra One, a restoration firm whose specialty product is a de-rusting solution which is designed to remove only rust while leaving the underlying metal, paint and decals intact. It is estimated that the stabilization project would take roughly six months or perhaps longer given the difficulty of removing the mix of cosmoline and mud which caked on the car; there are no plans to disassemble and restore the vehicle. There is, however, discussion regarding the return of the driveline and electrical system to operating condition.
As of June 2008, the preservation process was still underway, as shown in a video posted by the New Jersey Star Ledger, with the stated goal to preserve the car as an artifact, not to restore it to roadworthy condition.
In December 2008, Ultra One deleted all the topics in their forum regarding Miss Belvedere. Attempts to contact Ultra One for comment went unanswered. The vehicle condition and state of repair have been presumed unknown until May 2009, when Dwight Foster of Ultra One participated in a podcast and provided details and new pictures, showing the Belvedere's restoration to be still underway, the car's exterior having been virtually freed of its rust and mud concretions. In that same podcast, Foster noted that he has purchased a rust-free 1957 Plymouth Savoy as a donor car to replace needed parts to keep Miss Belvedere from further deterioration. The frame and trunk underframe will be used from the Savoy to replace the weakened parts in the Belvedere. Miss Belvedere's ignition system is totally fused into a useless lump of metal, so the Savoy will provide replacement parts for this as well.
Foster stated that he believes Miss Belvedere's engine may be salvageable; however, they have not yet tackled the drivetrain. He was confident that Miss Belvedere can be returned to a condition that would reflect her state had she not been exposed to the damaging moisture that caused such extensive deterioration of the car's condition.
An article published in the TulsaWorld website in 2012 indicated that Mr. Foster is trying to get the Smithsonian interested in Miss Belvedere. The online article includes 53 digital photos of the original event in 1957 and the car's removal in 2007. It also shows the car as it came out of Mr. Foster's treatments. It appears that he has supplied $20,000 worth of work to the preservation.
- Ultra One bulletin board discussing the progress on Miss Belvedere including recent photographs[dead link]
- Boyd Coddington Helps Exhume Buried 1957 Plymouth Belvedere in Tulsa, Oklahoma
- The Forward Look Network's Miss Belvedere Discussion
- Video of Preservation Process circa June 2008
- Article in TulsaWorld about the current state of Miss Belvedere and the efforts to donate it to the Smithsonian dated June 15,2012