Thursday, June 14, 2007

A Cool Dip

Chrysler Corporation planned a very dramatic show car for the 1957 season. The fashion statement of the moment was personified by tail fins and the wrap around windshield. The 1957 production cars had the tallest fins of their day and dramatically swept wrap around windshields- but the show car would do them one better- it had NO windshield pillars at all. Door glass met windshield glass in a dramatic sweep. It also featured concealed headlamps, a fastback roofline and tall tailfins, of course. Named the Norseman, it was hand made by craftsmen at Ghia Studios in Turin, Italy.

Unfortunately, we never got to see it. Once completed, the car was carefully wrapped and placed on board a ship to New York. They loaded the Norseman aboard the Andrea Doria in July of 1956, and as you can imagine, it is still there. One cannot imagine if anything actually remains after 50 years in cold salt water.

Like other gearheads, I have often had dreams about finding a truly lost car- stumbling upon something amazing. Perhaps that is the root of my fascination with Tulsarama- the brand new 1957 Plymouth Belvedere Hardtop, nicknamed Miss Belvedere, locked away (in this case, literally underground) and untouched for fifty years. I imagine the world that encased it and the one that unearthed it. Perhaps she won't want to come out...

A pair of unfortunate events for Tulsarama this week-first, that my co-driver flaked on Monday and left me unable to attend, which is deeply disappointing, and second, that the vault was opened Wednesday to find Miss Belvedere resting in two feet of water. Water marks on the walls of the vault indicate that it may have been completely filled at times. Rusty streaks running down the sides suggest that the watertight seal of the roof simply did not hold.

I have to admit that I am not terribly surprised. The description of the vault, concrete lined with waterproof gunnite, was a fairly common construction technique of the postwar decade. It is, in fact, a swimming pool. And like the swimming pool, had much more tendency to keep water in than keep it out. The planners were aware of the possibility, even inevitability, and took steps to waterproof Miss Belvedere. To quote an article from the Tulsa Tribune of June 6, 1957:

"The car will be covered with a special preservative provided by the Dobeckmun Co. of Cleveland, Ohio, a casing developed during World War II to protect military equipment. The encapsulating, the goo itself, and two company representative all were donated by Dobeckmun."

So in the end, it will all come down to the plastic, kind of like Twin Peaks. I'm hoping with fingers crossed that Miss Belvedere remained vacuum tight in her five layers of plastic. Otherwise, she'll be another Norseman. Either way, I think of the (possibly myopic) vision of the City Fathers fifty years ago to bury a car as a gift to the future. I imagine all of the planning, the hard work, the feeling of accomplishment when the vault was sealed. I hope they pulled it off. I just can't wait to meet her.

1 comment:

BigAssBelle said...

oh boooo! so you didn't get to come after all. i guess that's just as well, given the disappointment of the queen's exit from her crypt.