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A Half-Century Underground in Tulsa

Jerry Gallery of Waterloo, Iowa, poses with his perfectly restored 1958 Belvedere. This is the model used in the horror film <em>Christine</em>, as the license plate suggests.
Charles Phoenix for NPR /
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Jerry Gallery of Waterloo, Iowa, poses with his perfectly restored 1958 Belvedere. This is the model used in the horror film <em>Christine</em>, as the license plate suggests.

Fifty years ago, the citizens of Tulsa, Okla., buried a 1957 Plymouth Belvedere in a vault, in what has to be one of the most interesting time capsules ever.

Mid-century historian and car nut Charles Phoenix has been driving with NPR's Steve Proffitt from Los Angeles to Tulsa to see the '57 Plymouth, which is finally being unearthed this Friday.

But already, those anticipating the car's unveiling have received disturbing news: The vault leaked, and over the years, the Plymouth was submerged in water.

According to those working on the project, the car was wrapped inside a huge plastic bag designed to keep it dry. But that solution wasn't perfectly watertight.

The news has tempered — but not dashed — the hopes of car fans who had imagined seeing a showroom-new '57 Plymouth.

The car's unveiling also coincides with "Tulsarama," the city's celebration of 100 years of Oklahoma statehood. Thousands of visitors are descending upon the city for the event, which, in addition to the '57 Plymouth, also includes an exhibition of 500 vintage cars.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.