Miss Belvedere

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Miss Belvedere
Miss Belvedere, Before Burial, 1958.jpg
Miss Belvedere, before burial, 1957

Miss Belvedere is the nickname given to a new desert gold and sand dune white two-tone 1957 Plymouth Belvedere sport coupe, with only four miles on the odometer, that was sealed for 50-years in a time capsule vault below the ground on the Tulsa City courthouse site on June 15, 1957.[1][2] The car was sealed in the underground concrete vault as part of the city of Tulsa's "Tulsarama" Golden Jubilee Week festivities celebrating Oklahoma's 50th year of statehood.[1] Miss Belvedere was intended to be a prize awarded upon the vehicle's unearthing to the individual, or their descendant, who came nearest to guessing Tulsa's population in 2007.[3] A second matching Plymouth Belvedere was also awarded in a separate contest a few days prior to Miss Belvedere's burial in the vault.[4]

Miss Belvedere was unearthed on June 14, 2007 during the state's centennial celebration and was publicly unveiled on June 15, 2007.[5] 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.[6][7] The enclosure, however, was not airtight and allowed water to leak in, which caused significant damage to the vehicle.[8][9][10]

Efforts were made to stabilize the vehicle's conditions and some suspension repairs were made with the hope that the car could be placed in a museum.[11] After being stored for seven years, in which time numerous museums declined the offer of the car as a display piece, in 2015 it found a home at the Historic Auto Attractions Museum in Roscoe, Illinois.[12]

History[edit]

1957[edit]

As part of the city of Tulsa's "Tulsarama" Golden Jubilee Week festivities celebrating Oklahoma's 50th year of statehood it was decided was decided to bury, in an underground vault, a new desert gold and sand dune white two-tone 1957 Plymouth Belvedere sport coupe along with other contemporary items as a time capsule for the people of the year 2007.[1][13] It was felt that these items, when the vault was opened in 2007, would help acquaint future generations with life in 1957. When asked why the 1957 Plymouth Belvedere was chosen event chairman Lewis Roberts Sr. was quoted that the car represented "an advanced product of American industrial ingenuity with the kind of lasting appeal that will still be in style 50 years from now."[14] The car was donated by Plymouth Motors and a group of Plymouth car dealers from the Tulsa area .[1] Ultimately, the car was intended to be a prize awarded upon the vehicle's unearthing for the individual, or their descendant, who came nearest to guessing Tulsa's population in 2007. An additional prize of the value of a savings account, started with a $100.00 deposit in 1957, would also be awarded to the winner of the car.[3] A second matching Plymouth Belvedere was also awarded in a separate contest a few days prior to Miss Belvedere's burial in the vault.[4]

A large number of items were placed inside the trunk and glove box of the Miss Belvedere. A partial list of items included a five gallon container of gasoline, a case of motor oil, a case of Schlitz beer, an unpaid parking ticket, a bottle of tranquilizers and items that were considered typical contents of a women's purse.[15][16][14] Some of the items placed in the sealed steel capsule, welded shut and painted white, behind the car included a 48-star American Flag, letters from various state and city officials and documentation for a savings account valued at $100 in 1957 along with entry postcards for the contest regarding the city's population in 2007.[10][17][18]

An underground concrete vault had been prepared in the courthouse lawn with the top of the vault being three feet below the surface. The Miss Belvedere was placed on a steel skid with her tires off the ground. The car was coated in a cosmoline like substance and was then wrapped in layers of sealed plastic that was hoped to protect the car from moisture.[19][20] The steel skid containing Miss Belvedere was lowered into the vault and the vault was covered with concrete beams that were then sealed with gunnite. Following the replacement of dirt and sod a bronze marker, donated by a local cemetery, was placed to mark the spot.[20]

2007[edit]

In the years leading up to the anticipated opening of the vault speculation abounded on the car's condition. Many felt that the car would be found in near pristine condition but others expressed concern that moisture may have entered the vault causing anywhere from moderate to extensive damage.[1][21]

After eighteen months of preparations by a group of volunteers the vault was opened on June 14, 2007 during the state's centennial celebration.[9] Those working on the project were dismayed when it was found that the car was sitting in nearly 2,000 gallons of standing water four feet high.[10] It had also appeared that at some point the vault had been fill with water to a point just below the lid level covering the car.[9] 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 but was not airtight which allowed water to seep in.[22][23] While the car was still wrapped in the coverings the exact condition of the Miss Belvedere was unknown. Previous speculation that water entering the vault may have caused significant damage to the vehicle was realized.[9]

The Miss Belvedere was lifted from the vault and transported to the Tulsa Convention Center where it was publicly unveiled on June 15, 2007. Vehicle customizer Boyd Coddington and his team were on hand and had volunteered to start the car; however that proved impossible due to the car's condition.[23][24] While items buried with the vehicle in their own protective vault emerged unscathed, anything buried unprotected in the vehicle was heavily damaged or had deteriorated completely.[5] Among the items recovered from the trunk were rusty cans from a case of Schlitz beer and the five gallon container of gasoline which was at one time full and was intended to be used to start the car in 2007 if gasoline was no longer the fuel of choice for motor vehicles.[15] Following the unveiling ceremony the Miss Belvedere was temporarily placed on display at a local car dealership.[3]

The car was intended to be a prize awarded upon the vehicle's unearthing going to the individual, or their descendant, who came nearest to guessing Tulsa's population in 2007. Out of 812 entries tabulated the winning entrant was Raymond Humbertson whose guess of 384,743 was closest to the actual figure of 382,457. It was found out that Humbertson had died in 1979, his wife had died in 1988 and the couple did not have any children. The Miss Belvedere and the value of the $100.00 savings account started in 1957, that had grown to the amount of $666.85, was awarded to Humbertson's surviving sisters and nephew.[25][26] Humbertson's relatives expressed surprise because he never lived in the Tulsa area and they were unsure of the circumstances of how he entered the contest.[25]

Stabilization efforts[edit]

In November 2007, Humbertson'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.[19] It was 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. While there were no plans to disassemble or restore the vehicle there were discussions regarding the return of the driveline and electrical system to operating condition.[19]

In May 2009, when Dwight Foster of Ultra One participated in a podcast and provided details and new pictures, it was shown that Miss Belvedere's restoration was still underway with the car's exterior having been virtually freed of its rust and mud concretions.[27] Foster noted that he had purchased a 1957 Plymouth Savoy as a donor car to replace needed parts to keep Miss Belvedere from further deterioration and the initial offer was a promotional stunt for his business.[19] It was hoped that the frame and trunk under body would be used from the Savoy to replace the weakened parts in the Belvedere.[28] However, following an investment of more than $15,000 and the realization of the weakened condition of the frame and body work ceased on the Miss Belvedere.[19] The Miss Belvedere then sat in Ulta One's warehouse for a number of years while a permanent home was sought out.[12]

Search for a permanent site[edit]

Following the work on the Miss Belvedere the city of Tulsa was approached and offered the chance to have the car returned to be used as part of a permanent display.[19] The offer was refused by the city and another offer to the Smithsonian Museum was similarly declined.[12][6] Foster hoped to find another museum that would accept the Miss Belvedere for display.

In 2015, Dwight Foster announced that Miss Belvedere would be permanently displayed at the Historic Auto Attractions Museum in Roscoe, Illinois.[12] Wayne Lensing, owner of the Historic Auto Attractions Museum, stated that he hoped the exhibit would be open by 2016.[12]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Benjaminson, Jim (1994). Plymouth 1946-1959. Motorbooks International. ISBN 0879388404. 
  2. ^ "A rusty classic in trusty hands". NJ.com. Retrieved 2015-11-22. 
  3. ^ a b c "Belvedere brouhaha". Tulsa World. Retrieved 2015-11-21. 
  4. ^ a b "The other Belvedere". Tulsa World. Retrieved 2015-11-21. 
  5. ^ a b "Auto 'time capsule' unearthed after 50 years". msnbc.com. Retrieved 2015-11-22. 
  6. ^ a b "One Lap of the Web: Ditching Miss Belvedere". Autoweek. Retrieved 2015-11-22. 
  7. ^ JUOZAPAVICIUS, JUSTIN (2007-06-16). "Rusty 1957 Plymouth Unearthed in Okla.". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2015-11-22. 
  8. ^ TulsaWorld: Buried Belvedere vault full of water
  9. ^ a b c d "Vaulted hopes for buried car dampened". Tulsa World. Retrieved 2015-11-21. 
  10. ^ a b c "Centennial time capsule car found ruined". Reuters. 2007-06-18. Retrieved 2015-11-22. 
  11. ^ Schembari, James (2010-02-05). "Salvaging a Famous Rust Bucket". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2015-11-21. 
  12. ^ a b c d e Covington, Hannah. "A grand old dame': Miss Belvedere heads to new home," Tulsa World, June 22, 2015. Accessed June 22, 2015.
  13. ^ "Belvedere - burial 1957". Tulsa World. Retrieved 2015-11-21. 
  14. ^ a b "Tulsarama - Buriedcar.com". 2007-07-03. Retrieved 2015-11-21. 
  15. ^ a b "What's Buried in That Car?". Tulsa World. Retrieved 2015-11-21. 
  16. ^ "Truth Unearthed!". Tulsa World. Retrieved 2015-11-22. 
  17. ^ "Tulsans bury a new car". Tulsa World. Retrieved 2015-11-21. 
  18. ^ "That Buried Car? A Bucket Of Rust". www.cbsnews.com. Retrieved 2015-11-21. 
  19. ^ a b c d e f "Though freed from a muddy gumbo, Miss Belvedere now mired in limbo | Hemmings Daily". Hemmings Motor News. Retrieved 2015-11-21. 
  20. ^ a b "Tulsans bury a new car". Tulsa World. Retrieved 2015-11-22. 
  21. ^ "Memories: Recalling events of 50 years ago can be fuzzy". Tulsa World. Retrieved 2015-11-22. 
  22. ^ TulsaWorld: Buried Belvedere vault full of water
  23. ^ a b Bustillo, Miguel (2007-06-16). "Time is kinder to Tulsa than to buried auto". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2015-11-21. 
  24. ^ "Car's poor condition comes as no surprise". Tulsa World. Retrieved 2015-11-21. 
  25. ^ a b "Miss Belvedere, you have a winner: But Raymond Humbertson died in 1979". Tulsa World. Retrieved 2015-11-21. 
  26. ^ "Bye, Miss Belvedere". Tulsa World. Retrieved 2015-11-22. 
  27. ^ Hemmings Collector Car Radio, episode 16: De-rusting Miss Belvedere, why cash for clunkers doesn’t work
  28. ^ Schembari, James (2010-02-05). "Salvaging a Famous Rust Bucket". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2015-11-21. 

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