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Jun 23, 2007

Belvedere

Belvedere-4


Guest post by
Susan Murray

A brand-new shiny car, buried half a century ago in a time capsule, was recently revealed in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Oklahoma's statehood. People had hoped to find a pristine, gold '57 Plymouth Belvedere. Instead, they discovered a rust-covered relic. The capsule had been infiltrated by water and the car was ruined, keys hardened into the ignition.

I have followed this story closely in major news outlets and on blogs. It is generally presented as a fluff piece, which isn't really surprising. Except that the imagery ought to raise bigger questions.

As Aaron Donovan, writer for streetsblog.com, points out in his piece An Old Car Interred:

What was an asset in 1957 has become an enormous national liability. Fifty years ago, the oil fields of Oklahoma were awash with ever increasing amounts of oil and the United States produced more oil than any other nation in the world. We didn't have to import a drop. Nobody had ever heard of the terms global warming or climate change.

To my knowledge, none of the major media has made this connection. But, perhaps the images suggest the connection. In the photo above (published almost twice this size at the on-line Tulsa World), a yellow wreath serves as a memorial for the car on the spot where it was once buried. It's odd to ascribe mourning to a material object like a car, but perhaps not so odd for a once-futuristic vehicle assigned to symbolize the American way of life.

In 1957, this car represented America's global leader in industry and technology, free of all of the complications of globalization. Today, the yellow flowers and colors remind me more of the recently ubiquitous Gulf War yellow ribbons. Where have those ribbons gone? Have they gone the same way as our hopes for a continuation of life organized around the car?

On classic car blogs, this event elicited tremendous longing for what once was. The most moving image is that of the rusted car, set amid blazing colored lights, as it was "unveiled" to the public. What those lights reflect, though, are old expectations juxtaposed with the reality of raising gas prices -- along with the danger of international conflict that our insatiable hunger for fuel has brought home.

More images here.

Susan Murray is author of The Urban Naturalist, a work-in-progress.

(image 1: Joy Lewis / Tulsa World.  June 2007.  tulsaworld.com. image 2: Brent Burke. autoblog.com.  image 3: Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters. June 15, 2007. via YahooNews)

Comments

Just the whole notion of burying a big, fancy car is so obscene in a so American materialistic, consumeristic way. And, for what reason? Couldn't they have just put it in a car musuem? And, the outdoor big screen image at the upper right: so Felliniesque, night-time, drama, empty-of-clear-meaning visual chaos?

Nature wins!

I think the effect was supposed to be touching, like sleeping beauty awaking unchanged after many years, but instead as Margaret points out we have "visual chaos."

I get over the fact they went through with the plans for the unveiling, lights and all... There were many people there dressed up for a 1950s style sock-hop. Something about it makes me feel a little light headed.

ref : “It's odd to ascribe mourning to a material object

...!

what a bizarre pharisaic, Madame Murray: “...you shall have no other gods before me.
You shall not make for yourself an image beloved, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth...

Babette's Feast : “The crux of the story turns on the conflict between the congregation's austere religion, with its denial of earthly enjoyments (but its requirement of charitable gratitude), and the sumptuousness of the meal Babette prepares...

=> Bon Appétit, Madame

poor girl. give her something she can chew on, sweetie.

Gonzo: you comments have me confused. I'm not the one doing the mourning here. I'm just trying to highlight how deeply intrenched these ideals are in US culture. I mean this is part of the reason we've been slow slow to contemplate change patterns of suburban development to something less oil dependent. People have a lot invented in this dream.

Watching poor dead Steve McQueen reminded me of my grandfather's photos of him with the Rat Pack during Von Ryan's Express. Those guys could say and do anything and everyone thought they were so swell, funny, and smart. Hey! Muscle-cars live on in car shows even with their gas guzzling and high maintenance designs. Just remember, in the 50's people thought in the year 2000 we would be zooming about in our own personal space ships.

I think we could add to the old adage, "Be careful what you wish for." How about,"Be careful what you think the future will bring."

http://www.crooksandliars.com/2007/06/23/saturday-cartoons-7/

"Be careful what you think the future will bring."

I agree we need to start saying this. The new energy bill seems to be suggesting that we can do it if we just make the technology fancy enough. It's banking on higher millage standards and bio-diesel. Since when was burning food for car fuel a "green" idea?

We need to start learning about the c-word: conservation

"People have a lot invented in this dream."

somebody adjust the dosage ~ she's blowin' my mind with her Freudian lisp :)

Clearly, I meant "invested" -- but how is this a slip? You seem to be picking up on something and I don't know what it is. Can you explain?

The only component missing in this story is Geraldo Rivera.

But that aside, the image of Belvedere's corpse is testimony to how temporary we all are. It is not unlike the ancient pharaohs who believed they could take it all with them, only to have their tombs plundered and their mummies on display at the Smithsonian. We bury our God of Combustion Engines in a splendid sarcophagus and only 50 years later, we are greeted with rust and decay.

(Futurebird, I think Gonzo is teasing you but it just isn't coming across as playful. The Internet does not translate some forms of humor very well. I knew you meant "invested" but "invented" gave me something more to think about.)

ref: "It's odd to ascribe mourning to a material object like a car, but perhaps not so odd for a once-futuristic vehicle assigned to symbolize the American way of life."

I grew up going to car shows with my father as he owns a '40 Plymouth. We both belong to the national Plymouth Owners Club, an extremely well organized classic car club. So growing up I read about this event in the Plymouth Bulletin for years. The unveiling of the '57 Plymouth Belvedere was a highly anticipated event.

But what did the future bring us? Not only a petrified rust bucket, but also a discontinued automobile after one of the 'Big Three' (Chrysler) was bought out by Mercedes Benz. They bought it for more than 30 billion and turned around ten years later to dump it on the private equity firm Cerberus for less than 10 billion.

While they owned Chrysler, they decided they didn't need the bottom of the line Plymouth, thereby diluting the Chrysler and Dodge brands. They did have a chance to reinvigorate Plymouth as before the 'merger' Chrysler was going to unveil the successful PT Cruiser under the Plymouth label. But Herr Benz said screw it. We'll label it a Chrysler and scrap the entire Plymouth line/factories/parts/manufacturing plants/auto workers.

Now Cerberus owns Chrysler. I hope they keep Chrysler alive. Of course the only way they'll be able to is to build the cars in China (at least that's what they will tell us). So it's that, or Cerberus says Chrysler's a lost cause and liquidizes it a la Gordon Gekko's tearing apart Bluestar Airlines in the movie Wall Street.

Ahhhhh......the American Way of Life.

Where my mind made a connection was between the rust-colored car and the rust-color ingenuity of intelligent people. And from their use of old technology..., I see the connection of our "post-apocalyptic fiction" of Waterworld, Bladerunner, and Mad Max.

The link to Afrigadget comes through the serendipitous

...the link comes through "BoingBoing-dot-net"

When they buried that car, they probably thought that by 2007, we'd all be driving personal space vehicles, like on the Jetsons.

if you're still wondering were all the ribbons went, they too fell victim to exposure to time and the harsh elements of reality:

the financial times (mar 2, 2007): for three years after the invasion of iraq, it was difficult to drive more than a few miles through middle america without seeing a car displaying a magnetic yellow ribbon.

the magnets, bearing the slogan "support our troops", became a symbol of patriotism for millions of us motorists.

but as support for the war fades, demand for yellow ribbons has collapsed.

magnet america, the largest manufacturer of the product, has seen sales fall from a peak of 1.2m in august 2004 to about 4,000 a month and now has an unsold stockpile of about 1m magnets.

... at its peak, the north carolina-based company employed 180 people to handle sales, marketing and distribution. today, it employs 11 people.

mr pattisall said declining support for the war was not the only reason for the slump.

a flood of cheap imports from china also hurt the company, which has refused to shift production overseas even though it costs three times as much to manufacture in the us.

only about half a dozen companies are still supplying the magnets compared with up to 200 at the height of the fad, according to mr pattisall.

when the company was founded in april 2003, during the initial invasion of iraq, nearly all its revenues came from yellow ribbons. today, patriotic products account for only 6 per cent of sales.

if there were any clearer sign that the war is over ...

What was deluxe becomes debris...

Dig me...
but don't...

bury me.

Well...At least we know that...

We didn't start the fire....

Here are some high resolution pictures of the car and the items that were stored inside it. Also includes updates and a full list of the guesses from the population contest held in 1957 to win the car.

http://www.jlaforums.com/viewtopic.php?p=8700431#8700431

A comment from down the turnpike in OKC that might be of interest to you non-Okies: you may not have heard, but the '57 Belvedere was buried w/ 10 gallons of gasoline (in glass containers) and 5 quarts of motor oil, because even in 1957 they weren't certain that petroleum products would still be available in 50 years!

"tardigrade | Jun 23, 2007 at 11:20 AM

"Be careful what you think the future will bring."

I agree we need to start saying this. The new energy bill seems to be suggesting that we can do it if we just make the technology fancy enough. It's banking on higher millage standards and bio-diesel. Since when was burning food for car fuel a "green" idea?

We need to start learning about the c-word: conservation"

It's much worse than that, tardigrade. Go check out the Free Speech Radio News broadcasts for 6/28/07 & 6/29/07. There is a two part story on how in Indonesia they are clear-cutting virgin peat rainforest to build palm-oil plantations to make millions on the biodiesel mandate. The horrific reality is that this releases more carbon into the atmosphere 1. by cutting down rain forest and 2. by releasing carbon from the peat as it erodes. Boycott palm-oil biodiesel!

A brand-new shiny car, buried half a century ago in a time capsule, was recently revealed in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Oklahoma's statehood.

Update: Oklahoma is commemorating its 100th anniversary of statehood.

But anyway, I'd like to know what the hell else could Oklahoma commemorate? The end of the line for The Trail of Tears? The Dust Bowl? The Oklahoma City bombing? The Boll Weevil Eradication Act?

If we successfully eradicate the planet in another 50 years, the bloggers of the future might be nostalgic for 2007.

From Wikipedia, which I have no reason to doubt:

Although there are more registered Democrats in Oklahoma than registered Republicans, it has become a solidly Republican state in presidential elections, voting for the Republican in every election from 1968 forward. (The 1976 Carter-Ford race was close, however.) In 2004, George W. Bush carried every county in the state and 65.6% of the statewide vote.

Keep on truckin', America!

so here's a question - if they love the cars so very much...why are they burying it!!! Heck fix it up and let a poor sap like me enjoy it instead!

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