Belvedere drama grows

By David Arnett    
Wednesday, 13 June 2007
The first sight was heartbreaking Wednesday as crews opened the top of Tulsa’s time capsule.  With the first light in fifty years, it was clear to officials, workers, and observers in many adjacent buildings that water had done damage.  Rust was apparent in various heights and intensities on the inside walls of the vault and the covering wrap of the 1957 Plymouth Belvedere.  

Sharon King Davis said, “We had three and a half feet of water in the vault when we opened the lid.”

So much for a vault meant to withstand a nuclear attack and keep the Belvedere in good condition for 50 years.  Official hope now relies on three different layers of protective covering including Metalam, a composite aluminum foil-like material officials at the time assured was water-retardant.

Art Couch, W.N. Couch Construction said, “One of my men rubbed a bit of chrome on the tail-fin and it easily cleaned and looked shiny.  They knocked the metal in several places through the wrapping and it did not sound or feel decayed.”

Maybe it is not a total rust bucket compromised by weather over the years, but it is clear that water had filled the vault, not from recent rains, but by years of rain.  To some observers the roof appeared slightly concaved.

Before close inspection, fencing was moved outward from the site and the Belvedere covered with a tent.  Great care will be taken in lifting the vehicle Friday at noon.  Preparations are ongoing by Taylor Crane.

After the lift, the Belvedere will be transported by trailer to the Tulsa Convention Center Arena for the evening unveiling.

Boyd Coddington, host of “American Hot Rod” and his crew are in Tulsa to assist with mechanical restoration as event planners had, at one point, hoped the Belvedere could be driven under its own power after the unveiling.

Boyd will sign autographs and display two of his cars at the invitational car show Saturday.  Boyd also plans to film one to two episodes of his show while in Tulsa.

Officials remain cautiously optimistic on the vehicle’s condition and note that within the Belvedere are many treasures of the time and more than a few eccentric mementos.  Asked if those were independently sealed from moisture, Davis said she just didn’t know.  

“We still don’t know what shape [the Belvedere] is in,” Davis said.  “Regardless, we will bring her right on out of there on Friday.”

Thousands of Tulsans and visitors will be on hand.  Lori Hendricks, Director of Group Sales for the Crowne Plaza said, “All the hotels are booked solid for the weekend.”

Hendricks is one of many Tulsans personally attached by memories of the heart to the Belvedere.  “I can remember as a little girl sitting on my granddad’s lap listening to him tell my sister and I about this car they buried in the middle of downtown Tulsa," Hendricks said.  "I didn’t really believe him as a kid, but when the Centennial began this year and people started talking about raising the Belvedere – I knew that was the car granddad was NOT telling me a line about.”

The Belvedere was offered as a prize in the 1957 Tulsarama festival to any person (if deceased – their descendents) that could predict Tulsa’s population now.  Guesses were recorded and placed on microfilm inside the car – the closest guess wins after a review of that record.

Good or bad, the car and contents of the time capsule will be revealed Friday at 6 pm in the arena.

For more on Tulsarama history and current events visit the web site dedicated to the event by clicking here.

Last Updated ( Friday, 15 June 2007 )