Posted 2007-06-19 11:42 PM (#86773) Subject: VERY LONG!!! My Tulsa Trip.
Location: Blythewood, SC
Here’s my story and I’m sticking to it. It took me fifteen years to get to this point and it has been worth the effort.
First the players:
Me- Brian Cooper. Certified lunatic and 1957 Plymouth owner
The Car- 1957 Plymouth Savoy four door sedan purchased new by my great grandmother
and my first car. Red and white with a flathead six.
The Truck- 1980 Dodge Lil Red Express Clone, custom built to tow the 57 to Tulsa.
Miss Belvedere- The buried 1957 Plymouth Belvedere in Tulsa
I began this trip fifteen years ago when I determined that I was going to be in Tulsa to see the then unheard of buried Tulsarama 1957 Plymouth be raised. Four years ago I started building a truck to tow my car there. I built a Lil Red Express Clone for the job, and sank roughly $15,000 in. I bought a new trailer to pull the car on this past winter at roughly $2,200. Little did I know what was to happen…
Angie and I left Blythewood at roughly 7:00 Wednesday June 13 headed to Tulsa. We had loaded the 57 on the trailer the night before and were packed and ready. Our goal was to hit Jackson, Mississippi that night which would be halfway on our southern “no mountains please” route. We were on schedule and the truck was doing fine when we got to Birmingham, Alabama. This would be our third fuel stop. I turned off the interstate onto Hwy. 150 and headed up the hill for gas. I missed a shift from third to second, and instead shifted into fourth. I quickly shifted over into second and let out the clutch. Big mistake. Now a word about the truck is in order here. The truck is a 1980 Dodge with a 340, an A833O/D manual transmission and an 8 ¾ rear axle with 3.55 Sure Grip gears. I had removed two rear leaves during my frame-off build to soften the ride, but had added air bags to return the cargo capacity. The fatal flaw here is that the softer springs induced severe wheel hop. Back to the story… When I let out the clutch, the truck lurched, popped and stopped dead still. I had broken the rear universal joint and straps and the driveshaft was lying on the ground. I pulled the driveshaft out of the transmission and rolled the truck to the shoulder of the road. The road I was on was a busy highway, right at a merge area, uphill with a gravel shoulder. I looked under the truck and thought I could fix it. Angie called AAA, who sent a cab. A local police officer called a local parts store and had the parts pulled off the shelf. A cab took me to get the parts, and back to the truck. I put the new universal joint in the driveshaft and bolted it back in with new straps, and filled the tranny from the gear oil that drained after the driveshaft was removed.
During this time the cell phones were both ringing non-stop. Dave from ForwardLook.net had sent me a text message inviting me to join the group in Tulsa for drinks. I sent him a message back saying that I was broken down in Birmingham, and things didn’t look good. He called me back and offered several good options for repair and a lot of encouragement. I was then called by the staff of the Invitational Car Show in Tulsa, asking if I could make it, what help could they offer, when I could be in Tulsa, etc. I was then and am now quite impressed that people I had never met were interested in my well being and did what they could to help from over 800 miles away.
After replacing the universal joint, we got back in the truck to get under way. Things went from bad to worse. I broke the universal joint again, but this time I noticed the pinion was at roughly a 45 degree angle to the ground. I looked at the axle housing closer and found that the spring perches had broken their welds to the axle tubes. Here’s what I think happened: The truck weighs 4200 pounds, the trailer 1600 and the 57 Plymouth 3600. All this weight combined, going uphill with enough traction and enough horsepower and torque from the motor was too much for the welds on the spring perches, which likely had been weakened by the wheel hop the softer springs had induced. The welds broke and the pinion turned up, and the universal joint and straps were the weak link. The sight of another broken universal joint and the twisted pinion angle was too much for me, and reduced me to a sobbing pile on the side of the road. Angie had to not only call AAA for a tow truck, and talk to the police when they came by, but she also had to console me. AAA sent a tow truck to get the broken truck, but told us they could not tow my 57. The tow truck driver didn’t seem to care about the rules. He pulled the truck on the roll-back, hooked up to my trailer, and pulled the whole thing to a repair shop without hesitating. We left the truck at the repair shop, unloaded the 57 and checked in to a hotel next door.
At this point I had three options: wait on the repair shop to fix my truck (there was no way I could repair it without jack stands and a welder), turn back for home and give up, or call U-Haul and get a truck to pull the trailer the rest of the way. We called for U-Haul. A truck lined up, we went to dinner. The next morning we got the U-Haul, loaded everything up and hit the road. I must admit that we rode the rental hard, driving nearly 900 miles in one day at 70-75 mph. We crossed Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and finally Oklahoma. Mississippi has some of the worst roads we ever encountered. Louisiana led us 190 miles on a two lane road through farm country, with tractors slowing our progress constantly. Oklahoma was a welcome sight.
Upon arriving in Tulsa tired and stressed out, we pulled the truck and trailer right up front in the covered entrance area to check in. While I got our room keys and found out where to park the truck and trailer, a crowd gathered around the 57 on the trailer. There were Christine Clone Owner’s Club members, Plymouth Owner’s Club members, Forward Look members, and general car buffs. What amazed me most is that most of the people knew I was the guy that had broken down and they had been looking for me. I parked the truck around back and went back inside for a well deserved refreshing beverage. At the bar I met more Forward Look fans. It seemed to me like I had met long lost brothers! We all seemed to know each other, each other’s cars, and my story of roadside agony had beaten me to Tulsa. When the bar closed down, we adjourned to the parking garage, where a Forward Look car show had taken place, simply because there were 30 or so of them parked there. We hung out, drank moonshine, and had a great time looking forward to the BIG EVENT the next day.
Friday morning Angie, Nathan, Mike and I piled into the 57 and took it over to the invitational show. When we finally found the right entrance, they told me to pull up to the roll-up door and honk the horn for entrance. This was a scene right out of the movie “Christine” with us riding a red finned car up to the door and honking. We got in, and again, everyone seemed to know who I was as soon as the car got inside. Unfortunately, I had to parallel park the car, which isn’t easy in a big car with manual steering and brakes. It was made worse by the fact that the cars in front of me and behind me had set up rope stanchions around their car so my spot was even tighter. I got it parked, cleaned it and walked around scoping out other cars. Up to this point, I had never seen more than two 1957 Plymouths in one spot. Now I was in a room with roughly 20 together! It was staggering to me. I had not even begun to see cars though…
At noon the BIG EVENT started. Since it was raining, and I somehow just knew that going to the site would provide limited visibility, Angie and I went to the coverage in the Convention Center. There we sat indoors nice and dry and watched the televised coverage with great angles and a clear shot. When I finally saw that car clear the ground wrapped in the paper it had been in for 50 years, I cried. It was beautiful. I watched the car lifted out, carried to a trailer, and loaded. The time capsule was removed and loaded on the trailer. The trailer was pulled away to the Convention Center. Angie and I dashed outside to get a good view of the car being moved into the Convention Center. We got up close for a clear view of the car as it was backed into the loading area. It was clear from the moment I saw the car that it would be a total loss. News had spread already about the 1800 gallons of water pumped out of the vault, and we had seen the water lines up the side showing that it had been flooded repeatedly, but it never sank in until the car was actually in front of me. The support skid the car had sat on for fifty years was cut free, and the tires were inflated. Shockingly, three of the tires held air and supported the car! The car was moved inside and out of sight until the unveiling that night.
At the unveiling I had reasonably good seats. I was front row on the balcony, not floor level, but still good. That very moment was the one I had been looking forward to for fifteen years. I was physically present at the unveiling of the now legendary buried 1957 Plymouth Belvedere. When the cover was finally rolled back, I cried again. The car was the most beautiful car I had seen in my life. Since half of one leaf spring was still in the vault, the rear suspension had collapsed. The rear of the car was touching the ground. The car was completely covered in rust and sediment from the flooding. From my distant vantage point I could see parts of the floor pans hanging down. Immediately the entire crowd had to know that the car was now art, and no longer a vehicle. After the car was unveiled, Boyd Coddington and his employees opened the hood and the trunk showing the devastation there. The trunk bracing had rusted away from the trunk skin, so the trunk could not be opened very far. The Coddington group broke the vent window pivot on the passenger side to get the window down, and broke the vent window on the driver side to get that window down. The glass was too dirty to see through. The sight inside was not pretty. The interior was destroyed, the rear seat is literally nothing but a few springs. Most of the springs are even gone; the front seat has some cloth still on it, but not much. The cardboard headliner did not fare well, and all of the interior trim, which is pot metal, is a chalky white mess. Under the hood the carburetor is a pile of white powder, the battery (still connected) is likely the cause of the deterioration. It is likely that the acid in the battery floated out with the flooding and ate away at the cloth, paint and aluminum, leaving the steel to rust.
The time capsule is a different story. While it is rusty on the outside, it was still sealed well and the contents are perfectly preserved. Among the contents is a paper copy of the famous “list of entries” containing the population guesses to determine the new owner of the car. The microfilm copy had not been found, but this complete paper copy has the information needed to determine the new owner. If only the car had been sealed in a steel container, the story would be different.
One would think that the story would end there. But the real fun is only just beginning!! That evening in the bar we sat around lamenting the condition of the car, speculating on its restorability, swapping details we saw, etc. We saw the car being towed past the hotel to the display area, and all rushed out to cheer it on. After the bar closed, it occurred to us that there may still be an open door to the display area, and we may be able to sneak in and get a close peek. Like a band of thieves we slipped around to the rear door of the display area, and found it open! We rushed inside, and asked the security guard if we could get a close look, assuring her that we had our passes for clearance. (We did have Invitational Show passes, so it was legit!) The guard (who shall remain anonymous for protection) allowed us access, even letting us move the ropes for good group photos! We all were able to get photos under the hood, in the interior, under the car, around the car, close in on details, posing with the car, etc. Just when we had been raised to a state of elation for seeing the big unveiling, here we were literally INSIDE the car taking pictures! After a good half hour of filling cameras and giving each other “high fives” we left as to prevent our gracious guard from getting in any trouble for being good natured. We hurried back to the parking garage to brag to everyone else and show pictures. Admittedly, most every one of us took a little pinch of rust off the car for posterity. Mine will likely stay in my beloved 57 forever. Dave also managed to get most of the glass off the stage that was broken, and happily gave the small jewel-like pieces to members of the Forward Look board. Another small treasure!
Saturday was a day of beauty. The entire day was spent looking at the many beautiful cars on display both inside and outside. Inside the Invitational Show there were lines all day to see the Time Capsule contents. The crowd around Miss Belvedere was five people deep all day long. The Open show had even more Forward Look cars than the Invitational. The row of “Golden Fin” 1956-1958 Fury’s was spectacular and a sight to behold. So many cars backed in tail fin to tailfin were like a dream. The weather was beautiful, the cars were gleaming, what a great day. The Forward Look group spent a lot of time signing each other’s posters we bought from the Tulsa vendors, so we would have a visual reminder to hang up of who we met, and that we had made it. The Plymouth Owner’s Club had a dinner that night that I was not able to attend. I had been invited, but since we were on foot basically, we could not make the trip across town to the venue. I regret that I was not able to attend. I later found out that my difficult journey had reached mythical proportion, and that I was presented with a “Hard Luck Award” of sorts for my determination to be at the show. That night was highlighted by the big Sock Hop with three performers, Bobby Vee, Fabian, and the Chiffons all performed classics from the Fifties. Later there was another successful “midnight run” to see the car with just as much fun.
Sunday the car shows continued, winding up with the presentation of the “People’s Choice Awards.” The only judging was by the spectators, and the winners were a 1961 Oldsmobile Convertible, a 1956 Ford Convertible (the cars both in front and behind mine), a Ford Fire Truck, and a 1957 Desoto Adventurer. The Ford Convertible won the Best of Show. After the show, Mark and I were able to pull our Plymouth’s beside Miss Belvedere as she sat on her stand. We got many pictures of the three cars together, like lost friends. I was told that my car, with its story as being in one family since new, etc. was the lynchpin car for the format of the show. Because of the story behind my 57, the show directors decided to change the face of the show and include more of the “everyday” cars like mine that are not the Fury’s or Adventurer’s, or convertibles, but regular sedans. This is why it had been so important to the show promoters that I had my car there. I can only say that I am truly honored that my car was so highly regarded by the promoters. There has never been another show that I have gone to that the management of the show has been concerned if any one car has attended. The show’s organizers did an outstanding job to make a great show. Truly a once in a lifetime event for me.
My 57 loaded back on the trailer, we pointed back for home. Mike and Joy were gracious enough to allow us to stay with them for the night in Memphis. We left Monday morning for Birmingham. We collected the truck, which had worse damage than thought. The repair shop told me that I had bent the driveshaft, bent the ears on the driveshaft, bent the yoke on the differential, and torn the spring perches off the axle tube. We loaded up behind the repaired truck and headed home. Thankfully, the return trip was uneventful. We stopped at the Georgia welcome center to wait out rush hour traffic in Atlanta and met a nice wiener dog, who posed in the car for us.
So the trip took us across two time zones, across the mighty Mississippi River, across eight states, took two trucks with an additional $2400 of expense, and who knows how much gasoline in addition to the cost of restoring the 57, building the truck and buying the trailer. Was it worth it? For this one picture:
Well Brian, that certainly sounds like one hell of a journey. I can't imagine the pressure you were under, what with your Savoy being a centerpiece of sorts and all.
Certainly looks like all turned out well though. Man, just another reminder of how this all was really a once in a lifetime thing. Being that I couldn't attend, I for one appreciate the account of the trip and all 256 of the pics.
Posted 2007-06-20 1:50 AM (#86798 - in reply to #86773) Subject: RE: VERY LONG!!! My Tulsa Trip.
Location: cornpatch county, Southwest IOA
Now this is what I'm talking about! There have been several posts full of negative crap about Tulsarama- Miss Belvadere --and if anyone has a right to whine, piss and bitch, it would be Brian and Angie. In the several times I talked to them--never a complaint. The old saying about taking lemons and making them into lemonaid certainly applies here. I can visualize your car and this great story being passed along to the "youngster" It was a real pleasure to meet you kids..................Steve and Cheryl............................5%........
Posted 2007-06-20 2:24 AM (#86800 - in reply to #86798) Subject: RE: VERY LONG!!! My Tulsa Trip.
Location: DFW, TX
Awesome story, and it is good to see lots of cars I recognize from this site. Whose '57 Fury is that? I'm in love with that car.. most restorations sit too high and that one sits perfect - makes all the difference in the world.
Posted 2007-06-20 8:16 AM (#86806 - in reply to #86773) Subject: Re: VERY LONG!!! My Tulsa Trip.
Location: Blythewood, SC
That's Mark's Fury. I'm sure he will be posting here soon. He got much better shots of his car.
Thanks for the positive feedback. Sure it was a struggle to get there, but I had to be there. Before we went Neil said "you can always wait untill the next time a 57 Plymouth is dug up" (or something to that effect) so I HAD to be there. It was so much fun and such a great time, I'd do it again tomorrow.
Posted 2007-06-20 12:29 PM (#86827 - in reply to #86773) Subject: Re: VERY LONG!!! My Tulsa Trip.
Location: Cape Cod, Ma
I saw your car when you rolled in Friday night. I was so excited to see a 4 door Savoy and yours was beautiful. Sounds like you had quite the eventful trip. Oddly enough your story makes me wish I had tried the drive down with mine.
Posted 2007-06-20 2:27 PM (#86840 - in reply to #86773) Subject: Re: VERY LONG!!! My Tulsa Trip.
Location: SE Arizona
"........You drove 900 miles, then, after pounding down a couple in the bar, drank some of Neil's moonshine in the parking garage ????........" And this was after the mechanical gliches with the truck.
Posted 2007-06-20 10:35 PM (#86928 - in reply to #86773) Subject: Re: VERY LONG!!! My Tulsa Trip.
Location: Blythewood, SC
Sorry Neil, I didn't mean to drain your jar it just sorta happened.
By the way, this post has made it all over the place. It is on several Chebbie sites, Moparts.com, Ramchargercentral.com, etc. I have the job of covering the Plymouth Owner Club Fall National meet that my local chapter is having for the National Club magazine. Not only that, my car is the car to be featured on the shirts and plaques for the Fall Meet. Not bad for a car that the original co-ordinator of the Invitational Show did not want entered!!
Posted 2007-06-20 11:02 PM (#86938 - in reply to #86924) Subject: Re: VERY LONG!!! My Tulsa Trip.
Location: Twin Falls, Idaho
I really enjoyed meeting everyone and finally being able to put faces with the names of all that I met. Thanks too for all the offers of help when I had the harmonic balancer problem. I hope to see you all again sometime soon.