Curious crowd waits for undigging of 1957 Plymouth Belvedere

Hundreds onlookers gathered Friday to open the secrets of a gold and white Plymouth Belvedere buried half a century ago under this city's courthouse lawn.

The 1957 two-door hardtop - buried to celebrate Oklahoma's 50 years of statehood - was encased in a 12-by-20-foot (3.6-by-6.1-meter) concrete vault, supposedly tough enough to withstand a nuclear attack.

Event officials already had to pump out several feet of water from the crypt that held the Belvedere for a half-century. But the condition of the car, wrapped in three layers of mud-caked protective material, remains a mystery.

Will it be a rust-bucket? Will it even start? Is the bit of shiny chrome visible on the bumper a good omen?

Not many people seem to care.

"I just need to see it," said Marc Montague of Auckland, New Zealand, among the couple hundred spectators amassed at the downtown site Thursday afternoon. "I've been waiting 15 years for this."

Also buried with it were 10 gallons (37.9 liters) of gasoline - in case internal combustion engines became obsolete by 2007 - a case of beer, and the contents of a typical woman's handbag placed in the glove compartment: 14 bobby pins, a bottle of tranquilizers, a lipstick, a pack of gum, tissues, a pack of cigarettes, matches and $2.43.

There was also a spool of microfilm that recorded the entries of a contest to determine who would win the car: the person who guessed the closest of what Tulsa's population would be in 2007 - 382,457 - would win.

That person, or his or her heirs, will get the car and a $100 savings account, worth about $1,200 (901 EUR) today with interest.

Thursday afternoon, legendary hot rod builder Boyd Coddington inspected the vault and what he was able to see of the car with his crew.

The task will fall to Coddington, host of the TV series American Hot Rod on The Learning Channel, to try to start the thing up at a ceremony Thursday evening. Tens of thousands of tickets were sold for the event.

"We're optimistic," Coddington said. "I'm really concerned about the rust on the bottom of the car."

Back on the day the Belvedere was buried, all Bixby resident Marlene Parker wanted to do was find a photographer for her wedding. Catching a glimpse of the car being lowered into the ground was the last thing on her priority list.

Unfortunately, not for the photographer: he was shooting the burial.

This weekend, the 70-year-old will celebrate 50 years of marriage and may come downtown to see what all the fuss was about back then.

"Probably across the pond people know about it," Parker said. "If nobody knew where Tulsa, Oklahoma was before, they do now."