TULSA, Oklahoma (Reuters) - A car buried half a century ago in a time capsule had been transformed into a hunk of junk by the time it was unveiled on Friday as part of Oklahoma’s Centennial.
The concrete vault, built in 1957 and meant to be opened this year to celebrate Oklahoma’s Centennial as a state, has leaked in the intervening 50 years and most of its contents were ruined, to the dismay of those hoping to find a pristine, gold ‘57 Plymouth Belvedere.
Would-be auto restorers unwrapped 1950s-era protective covering from the mud-caked relic onstage Friday evening at the Tulsa Convention Center, revealing a ruined hulk with rotting upholstery, collapsed suspension, flat tires and an engine that appeared to be a solid chunk of rust.
Officials said they feared the worst when the time capsule was opened earlier this week to reveal four feet of standing water.
The unveiling of the car was to be the centerpiece of a city celebration featuring a classic car show, a “sock-hop” and the showing of a film playing in 1957 at the time the car was buried. “When we saw the water in there we were completely devastated,” said event co-chair Sharon King Davis.
“We had such hopes.”
The capsule was buried on the lawn of the Tulsa County Courthouse in 1957 to be opened in 2007.
According to the event chairman back then, they chose the Plymouth Belvedere because it exemplified “an advanced product of American industrial ingenuity with the kind of lasting appeal that will still be in style 50 years from now.”
The two-tone, gold-and-white behemoth sported white-wall tires, a V-8 engine and high tail fins trimmed in chrome.
Items buried with the car included jugs of leaded gasoline, a change of oil and a case of Schlitz beer.
All items were covered with mud and appeared to be ruined.
A sealed steel capsule buried with the car, however, opened to reveal a pristine 48-star American Flag, letters from various state and city officials and documentation for a savings account valued at $100 in 1957, which has now appreciated to a little over a thousand dollars.
The capsule also contained postcards from citizens guessing what the city’s population might be in 2007.
The person who guessed a figure closest to Tulsa’s current population, estimated by census officials to be 382,457 as of June 1, or that person’s descendant, will win the car and the savings account.
Officials reviewing the documents said they would announce a winner in the coming weeks.