The hype surrounding the retrieval of Miss Belvedere, as the car became known, was inescapable in the summer of 2007. Just about every media outlet from CNN to the Podunk Times covered the speculation about the Belvedere’s condition, whether it would start up on command after being pulled from its sarcophagus, who would get the car, and what they would do with it. Boyd Coddington, then at (or at least near) the peak of his popularity, was even on hand for its unveiling that June, but as the layers of plastic wrapped around the car to protect it from moisture damage and oxidation were peeled back, it quickly became evident that water had flooded the vault during the Belvedere’s subterranean sentence, covered it in a mud mixed with all the chemicals that had leaked out of the car over the decades, and possibly destroyed it. Looking to put a positive spin on the debacle, the Tulsa Historical Society displayed the car alongside other relics from the time capsule in a temporary exhibit, and visitors came in respectable numbers to see the car in person.
Carney, in turn, handed Miss Belvedere over to Dwight Foster of Ultra One, a New Jersey manufacturer of a rust-removing chemical that’s claimed to be safe for the surfaces (like paint) beneath the oxidation. In November 2007, with the approval of the car’s owners, Miss Belvedere was shrink-wrapped and shipped to Ultra One’s warehouse in Hackettstown to begin a process of de-rusting and preservation. At first, it was believed that Miss Belvedere’s engine could be saved and restored to run again, and that her lights could be wired to provide a dramatic touch for display. Foster even procured a 1957 Plymouth Savoy as a donor car, and work began in earnest. Miss Belvedere’s leaf springs, which had long since rusted through in the acidic water of the time capsule, were replaced with donor springs from the Savoy. The Ultra One process removed a significant amount of the car’s exterior rust, and in 2009 pictures began to circulate showing Miss Belvedere in a superficial state of preservation.
As Miss Belvedere sits today, its condition remains largely unchanged since 2009, with all of the reasonable preservation work done that could be done. From a distance, the car almost looks presentable, but up close it becomes evident that the damage is irreversible. Foster compares the car’s frame to papier mâché, admitting that “there are spots I could put my hand through if I’m not careful.” Utilizing the frame from the donor Plymouth Savoy would be an option if Miss Belvedere were stronger, but the car’s sheetmetal is in equally poor condition, especially in the rear. While the exterior has been cleaned, the interior of the body is still caked with mud, and as Foster said, “this is actually shoring up the body panels.” The car’s laminated safety glass is damaged beyond repair after water seeped between the glass and plastic layers during the car’s years in storage. While the steering was functional at first, the steering box is “melted inside,” the result of years of corrosion, and none of its electrical systems are even close to functioning. Even transporting the car to another location would be a major undertaking, given Miss Belvedere’s fragile condition.
Until Foster finds a museum or other sympathetic caretaker willing to embrace Miss Belvedere, however, it sits in a corner of the Ultra One warehouse, free from its watery tomb but no less trapped in time and place.
Article courtesy of Hemmings Daily, written by Kurt Ernst.