Salvaging a Famous Rust Bucket

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WHAT is it about New Jersey and buried bodies? While it’s nothing new for mobster corpses to turn up in the Meadowlands, a far more curious set of remains has surfaced here, an hour west of New York City: a car buried in Oklahoma in 1957, dug up there in 2007 and then shipped to — where else? — New Jersey for cosmetic restoration.

The car, a 1957 Plymouth Belvedere, was buried in Tulsa as a vehicular time capsule to commemorate Oklahoma’s 50th birthday. The car was put into the earth with much fanfare. The city fathers, in news reports at the time, said they were proud of the care with which they buried the car, confident that it would be in good condition when disinterred 50 years later.

The Plymouth was the prize in a contest whose winner most closely guessed Tulsa’s population 50 years in the future.

The winner was Raymond Humbertson, who died in 1979, so the car was awarded to his sisters: Levada Carney, now 86, and Catherine Johnson, 95.

But water had seeped into the concrete crypt housing the car. So when the Belvedere was dug up in June 2007, there was a bit of the same letdown as when Geraldo Rivera opened Al Capone’s vault in 1986. That vault was empty, and the one in Tulsa contained a rusted shell of a once-gorgeous car.

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