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Tulsa Belvedere Time Capsule... Bad Idea, Even Back Then!



  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,067
    Not sure, but didn't they have the Plymouth on a steel platforn not only to keep the tires off the vault floor but also to raise and lower it into the vault? I'm sure with all the water in the vault, the platform rusted away.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,575
    Kids simply didn't lust after Chrysler products. Those were "adults" cars. The '57 Ford was also very popular. In the New York/Long Island cruise/drag culture, it was Chevys and Fords in the 50s, with some custom early 50s Fords and Mercurys.

    True, but who buys new cars? Adults or kids? BTW, Chrysler products DID start turning the corner and catering to a more youthful market starting with the 1955 models, and the wildly advanced looking 1957 models drew even more in. In fact, I recall that DeSoto ended up being a victim of its own success in 1957, because the swoopy new styling drew in tons of people who never would have otherwise considered one. But then the quality control was enough to ensure they'd never buy another DeSoto. On top of that, the DeSoto faithful, who traded an older model in on a new '57, got burned as well, because they had been used to the high quality reputation of the older models, and suddenly felt screwed.

    1957 was also the year that Dodge really emerged as Chrysler's performance division, and was considered a much more youthful car.

    Back in college, when I worked as a waiter, one of my managers mentioned a 1957 DeSoto Fireflite that he once had. It was a pink and white 4-door hardtop. This was back around 1965, and he paid maybe $500 for it. He said people ragged on it all the time, partly because it was pink, but also partly because it was a DeSoto. People tend to not like orphans, no matter how pretty or capable they might actually be. Well, he said he used to be able to embarrass the heck out of many more desirable cars. I guess it's one thing to get blown off by a popular muscle car that looks the part, but when you get wasted by a big, bulky 4-door orphan from a bygone era, you tend to feel a bit of shrinkage between your legs.

    Anyway, he ended up selling that thing, and bought a '57 Chevy convertible with a 283. Also for $500. I forget which engine, but probably just a 2-bbl. Maybe a 4. Definitely not a dual quad or fuelie. He said that it was a dog compared to that DeSoto and that he really missed the power, but the car just had that much more of a "cool" factor.

    I still remember the day soon after I bought my '57 DeSoto, and I brought it up to show this manager. I hadn't worked at that restaurant in about 5 months, but kept in contact with some of the people there. And oddly, just like DeSoto, this manager ended up getting the axe! He couldn't come out and see the car because he was getting pulled into a meeting by his superiors, and they were about to fire him.
  • grbeckgrbeck Posts: 2,361
    Mr. Shiftright: Chrylser's ran the best I think overall, and Ford scored last on all counts. Funky motors, grim styling from 1958-62, and all rattles and rust.

    Are you saying that Fords also had the worst build quality? Because from what I've read, Chryslers were dead last on that count - even worse than AMC at the time. And Ford styling was cleaned up after 1960, especially with the 1961 Continental.

    At the Macungie Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) show, andre, lemko and I talked to a man who had a 1957 Dodge Coronet sedan.

    The owner said that he had talked to a Chrysler dealer who toured a Chrysler plant in 1957 or 1958. The dealer noticed a worker using a sprayer to apply undercoating to a car. But nothing was coming out of the sprayer! The worker was making 12 sweeps, but not applying any undercoating.

    He asked the worker why, and the worker said, "I have to make 12 sweeps for each car (according to the UAW contract). But management doesn't always keep me supplied with undercoating. I make the 12 sweeps, but if there is no undercoating in the machine, it's not my problem."

    He then went back to making the 12 sweeps! So much for quality control...

    As for exciting Chevrolets - I recall reading that the 1959 Chevrolet was actually popular with the younger set at the time, not so much because of its wild styling, but because Chevy offered the best and most complete lineup of performance engines and transmissions for that time period.
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,626
    Nah, that's just my clumsy sentence structure. I meant that Ford was dead last in engines and transmissions. I agree, Chrysler was easily the worst for build quality but I think best for drivetrains. A Chrysler V8, Torqueflite trans and typical Chrysler differential were very tough units.

    Yeah, Chevrolet really won its popularity with its bewildering array of engine and transmission options. I had a '59 Chevy convertible. It was a very good car. Chrysler products were not very sexy for some reason. They were like tanks, not very delicate...kind of brutal in design really. Is it any accident that "Christine" was a Mopar? :shades:
  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,067
    ...that among the 1957 Mopar lineup that the Chryslers and DeSotos had much better workmanship and that the problems were mostly confined to the Plymouths and Dodges. I also heard the Imperial was very well-made.

    An earlier poster mentioned that the 1957 cars were actually slated for 1958, but they were rushed into production. I think it would've been a darned if they do/darned if they don't situation as 1958 turned out to be a recession year. Sure, the cars may have been much better assembled, but they wouldn't have so as well. Were any significant design changes incorporated into the 1958 models?

    Still feel sad about the Tulsa Belvedere. It's kind of like remembering a pretty girl you knew in high school and haven't seen in a long, long time. You finally see her twenty years later 100 lbs overweight, alcoholic, missing teeth, living in poverty, haggard-looking, and married to an abusive oaf.
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,626
    I can't relate to feeling sympathy since I don't think anything of value was lost. It was just a base model sedan after all.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,575
    It was just a base model sedan after all.

    I thought it was a Belvedere hardtop coupe that was buried? The Belvedere was the top model for Plymouth that year, equating to a Chevy Bel Air or a Ford Fairlane 500.
  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,067
    Actually, it was a top-of-the-line two-door hardtop. The 1957 Plymouth lineup went Plaza -> Savoy -> Belvedere in ascending order. The Fury was a limited edition two-door hardtop that only came in cream and gold. With what kind of engine was the Tulsa Belvedere equipped?

    I remember seeing pictures of a car similar to the Tulsa Belvedere in excellent condition. At first, I thought it was the same car and thought, "Wow, that vault really did preserve the car!" That is until I read that the Tulsa Belvedere had yet to be unearthed.
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,626
    well then certainly unimpressive for top o' the line...'course, it's a Plymouth not a Chrysler and that was always a pretty cheap car to begin with. If you compare a '55 plymouth with a '55 Chevy, there's no comparison. Even the Dodge Royal Lancer was spiffier I think and of course the Chrysler 300 was the cat's pajamas or whatever they used to say back then....the bee's knees? BEE-YOU-TEE-FUL?
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,575
    With what kind of engine was the Tulsa Belvedere equipped?

    I'm pretty sure it was a V-8, but don't know if it had a 277 or the larger 301 V-8. Both were versions of the old poly-head "A" engine that spawned the 318 wideblock that first saw duty in the 1957 Fury.

    There's a bunch of pics of the car here:

    It turns out that a lot of the gunk on the car is mud and rust that stuck to the cosmoline, a metal preservative that was sprayed all over the car. They cleaned off a portion of the bumper and found shiny chrome underneath. So once the mud and gunk and cosmoline is cleaned off of the car, it may not be *as* bad as it looks. Probably would still be a labor of love to restore, though!
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,575
    If you compare a '55 plymouth with a '55 Chevy, there's no comparison.

    Actually, I prefer the '55 Plymouth! The '55 Chevy is just too "pretty", I guess. I never cared for that Ferrari-esque grille and the swells under the headlights that gave it kind of a puffy-eyed look. The '55 Plymouth just had a sleeker, more aggressive look to it, IMO. It was also about foot longer, which might explain why it looked sleeker, whereas the Chevy was kind of boxy in comparison.

    But yeah, compared to the nicer Mopars, a '55 Plymouth was a little grubby looking, where in contrast I think a '55 Chevy is nicer looking than a '55 Pontiac. And while I still prefer a '55 Olds or Buick, which just seemed sleeker and more modern looking, they still don't make the Chevy look, well, grubby.

    Somehow, the '55-56 Plymouth ended up being LONGER than the '57, but I'd never know it just from looking at the two. Maybe it's just because the '57 is so much lower, it makes it look longer. The '55-56 Plymouth also had a pretty long rear deck, while on the '57 it seems a tad shorter.
  • MrShift@EdmundsMrShift@Edmunds Posts: 43,626
    I think the '55 is really goofy looking, if you don't mind my saying. Chaotic styling IMO, very clunky car. Look at it, it's a mess...the headlights fall forward, the grille comes back, the side panels are leaving town, and the pillars stand straight up. It's like the car was designed by people living in different cities without ever meeting for the final glue-in.


    And then we have the Chevy, which is clean, simple, "just right" IMO:

    And the contrast didn't change much by '57.

    In 1958, everyone lost it, so you'll get no defense from me about GM styling in 1958.

  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,575
    Well, I actually like that forward thrusting look of the Plymouth. And I give Chrysler credit for never jumping on that extreme wraparound windshield phase that left an extreme dogleg just waiting to whack you in the knee when you're getting in. It's actually more like a modern car, getting in and out. Especially with the way cars have gotten taller in more recent years, with higher seats, but not necessarily a lot of stretch-out room for your legs (I hesitate to say "legroom" because a lot of published figures suggest a more generous dimension that what I end up experiencing).

    Personally, I thought the Chevy hit its peak in 1956, even if the styling did look a bit derivative of a Ford. But I thought it was a good looking car overall, with its forward thrusting front-end (similar to the Plymouth, actually), full-width grille, and modest tailfins.

    The '55 Chevy also looks kinda fat to me, probably partly because of its stubby length. Basically the same concept as why a chick who's 6 feet tall could probably gain a few inches in the waist and you wouldn't even notice, but one who's 5'2" would suddenly look porky. But in defense of that '55 Chevy, those skirts aren't helping it.
  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,067
    ...even back in the day. Look at this sad Suburban from 1965:
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,575
    That Plymouth looks pretty rusty along the rocker panel, and the front right tire looks like it's canted at an unholy angle...must be hell on tires! As for that back section of rear quarter panel though, that's not rust-out. That's where they put the spare tire back in the day, and there was an access panel in that spot. The panel is merely missing.

    Here's a page from an old brochure that shows spare tire removal in action.
  • You do realize that back in 1998 they buried another car in Tulsa don't you?

    You can read about it at: link title

    They did a little extra planning this time and hope that this Plymouth will last until 2048 when they dig it up.
  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,067
    Wow! You learn something new every day! Removing the spare for my 1968 Buick Special Deluxe wagon was a real chore. It was in the right rear fender, you opened a panel from the inside, and lifted it up! You had to be pretty strong. The jack was behind the tire.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,575
    I'm not positive, but I think the DeSoto and Chrysler wagons of that era, when equipped with the third row seat, had no spare tire at all. Instead, they used "Captive-Air" tires, which were kind of a pre-historic run-flat that either had a separate inner air chamber, or a solid center section that would allow you to limp for about 100 miles if the outer chamber was punctured. I'm not sure if Dodges used Captive-Air tires or had the spare up in the fin, like Plymouth.

    I'm actually surprised that they went through the effort to differentiate the Chrysler/DeSoto wagons and Plymouth wagons like that. Back then, the wagons of all four divisions used the same body. Dodges and DeSoto Firesweeps were on a 4-inch shorter wheelbase than the big DeSotos and Chryslers, but all that length was taken away ahead of the firewall, so it didn't affect the body. Plymouths were normally on a 4-inch shorter wheelbase than Dodges and DeSoto Firesweeps, and in this case the length was taken out in the trunk area. Normally that would have required some major changes to the body, so to keep from doing that, they simply put Plymouth wagons on the larger 122" Dodge/DeSoto Firesweep wheelbase. They continued to do this through 1961, when Plymouths and Dodge Darts were on the 118" wheelbase, but the wagons were on the larger 122". It made for a huge station wagon...supposedly the roomiest wagon on the market at the time.
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