1957’s heat and dust must have affected the movers and shakers of Tulsa, Oklahoma. How else to explain their burying a perfectly good 1957 Plymouth Belvedere?
They buried it, though, as a time capsule, to be dug up by those very advanced people of the 21st century, in 2007, for the centennial of Oklahoma’s statehood in 1907. (Quick quiz: How many states joined the union in the 20th century? What is the longest period the U.S. has ever gone without adding new states?)
Good heavens! This is 2007!
The car was seen as a method of acquainting twenty-first century citizens with a suitable representation of 1957 civilization. According to event chairman Lewis Roberts Jr., the Plymouth was chosen because it was “an advanced product of American industrial ingenuity with the kind of lasting appeal that will still be in style 50 years from now.”
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.
Other items included in the time capsule were:
- 10 gallons of gasoline and 5 quarts of oil
- A Douglas Aircraft Co. aerial map of airport facilities and legend
- Statement from Tulsa council of Churches and prayer for greatest good next 50 years a recently completed history of churches in Tulsa and a directory of the present churches
- Statement from board of education – historical data related to 50 years of education in Tulsa and copies of “School Life” all-high school publication issued by Tulsa high schools each month
- Statements from Mayor and Chamber of Commerce officials
- Flags which have been flown over the national capitol, state capitol and in the county and city
- Other aerial photos of the area
- Statement from Tulsa Trades and Labor Council
- Statements from all former mayors of the city – their record of service and civic accomplishments in the city, state and nationally.
How the world changes in 50 years. The Plymouth nameplate was retired by Chrysler in 2001, after a 73-year run — Chrysler having been bought by the German automaker Daimler-Benz in 1998, to form DaimlerChrysler. Chrysler had killed the Plymouth’s sister company, DeSoto, in 1961. Fins died out, except on Cadillacs, by about 1963.
The time capsule creators included ten gallons of gasoline — had they invested an equal amount of money in the in the stock market, the gasoline would have been an even trade in 1987, but today they would have been able to cash in the stocks to purchase double the amount of gasoline, at least.
My first car was a 1961 Valiant, which was a Plymouth, if I recall correctly. It was well past its prime, with an odd 3-speed manual transmission with a floor shifter, and looking a lot more like an old paint pony than a sleek automobile by the time I got it. It cost my brother $125.00 in about 1966, and we sold it for the same amount four years later. My second car was a used, though less abused, 1967 Plymouth Barracuda sedan. It had no radio, and an automatic transmission with a steering column shift lever. It cost $450 from a Ford dealer, and we sold it five years later for $700. No one makes cars like that anymore — thank heaven!
We were a GM family. My father’s 1956 truck (which died finally in 1972 or so) was a GMC. We drove Chevrolets, then Oldsmobiles, except for the occasional Buick, the odd Ford my father picked up later in his life. My Plymouths were outcasts with everyone except my oldest brother, who sold nearly every car made at some point in his life, and who claimed Chrysler had the best engineering in the world.
That’s changed, too.
The last year I drove the Barracuda, some weird Japanese cars showed up in the U.S. — Toyotas. In Ogden, Utah, one dealer gave up on the poor quality vehicles and told Toyota to take all the unsold vehicles and keep the franchise.
That’s changed, too.
Our 2002 Toyota Camry (5-speed manual, 4-cylinder) will turn 100,000 miles this year, perhaps on a run to Tulsa to see a 1957 Plymouth Belvedere. I wonder whether it had the push-button transmission — anybody know?
What will become of the Belvedere? Poobahs of Tulsa were asked to guess the population of Tulsa in 2007. The guess closest to the actual total wins the car, and that person, or that person’s survivors, will have a 1957 finned monument to American automobile freedom.
The press release doesn’t say if they get the gasoline and oil.
Christine? Is that you?
Quiz answers: Five states joined the union in the 20th century: Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska and Hawaii. The longest period the U.S. has gone without admitting a new state is 47 years, and running. It was 46 years between Arizona and Alaska, it has been 47 years since Hawaii. Is Manifest Destiny dead?