(UPDATED, 16 June: The Plymouth has been unearthed and unveiled. New links below.)
If you happen find yourself in Tulsa, Oklahoma on June 15, bring a shovel. Buried beneath the dirt of the Tulsa County Courthouse lawn, about 100 feet north of the intersection of Sixth Street and Denver Avenue, a 1957 Plymouth Belvedere Sport Coupe has been hidden underground for half a century. Swaddled in rust-resistant preservatives and gently placed inside a giant concrete sarcophagus, the tailfinned Plymouth was interred on June 15, 1957 as the centerpiece of a time capsule created for the 21st century citizens of Tulsa 2007.
They probably expected we would re-open the time capsule with hover-shovels -- unless, of course, we'd already perfected our atomic de-materializers. Regardless, in 1957 Tulsa's civic leaders hoped to dazzle their future descendants with the scope of their own technological prowess. So in addition to burying a brand-new Plymouth, they also packed the car with a variety of advanced products and wares -- including a case of Schlitz beer and the complete contents of a woman's purse. This explains why, when today's auto-archaeologists open the glove box of the buried Belvedere, inside they will find fourteen bobby pins, a ladies compact plastic rain cap, several combs, a tube of lipstick, a pack of gum, a wad of Kleenex, $2.73 in bills and coins, a pack of cigarettes with matches, an unpaid parking ticket, and a bottle of tranquilizers.
Here's how the burial was described by the Tulsa Tribune on June 15, 1957:
A 1957 automobile was buried in the courthouse lawn today - with a bottle of tranquilizer pills in the glove compartment.
Into the hole with the new Plymouth hardtop went a steel "time capsule'' containing assorted documents and artifacts of Oklahoma's semi-centennial year.
The car, mounted on a steel skid and swathed in a plastic and paper wrapping, was lowered into the concrete-lined well no the southeast corner of the lawn during dedicatory ceremonies marking the observance of Golden Jubilee Week here.
"This is the sort of thing that could happen only in Tulsa,'' commented Chairman Lewis Roberts Sr. "We have been amazed - although I guess we shouldn't have been - by the cooperation of every one concerned in making this event possible.
"Although the cost of the automobile is a major item, of course, Tulsans have contributed time, machinery and materials and services far beyond the initial cost.''
The vault will be opened in 2007. The automobile will be awarded then to the person who guessed nearest to the city's population figure at that time. If he or she is not living, the award goes to the heirs, along with the proceeds from a $100 trust fund. Guesses have been microfilmed and are sealed in the steel capsule.
The real question is not who will win the car, but if there will there be much of a car left to win. Plymouth's "forward-look" Belvedere was a great-looking ride -- "a true representative of automobiles of this century," as a Tulsa official put it in 1957 -- but it was also susceptible to rust. Some experts even think the 1957 Plymouths may have been among the most rust-prone cars ever built. Did the concrete time capsule leak? Did the preservatives applied in 1957 protect the tragically-flawed artifact from the deathly hand of damp decay?
Stay tuned at noon on June 15 to find out!
UPDATE 13 June, 2007: Uh-oh! Tulsa's 1957 Time Capsule is Filled with Water!
UPDATE 16 June, 2007: The vehicle has been removed from the concrete crypt, and at a public unveiling it was revealed to be a rusty mess and a sobering monument to the cruel ravages of time.
(Tip of the hard hat: Charles Phoenix)
Buriedcar.com (Official Tulsarama website)
YouTube video of the Plymouth being interred: