20 years ago, the city of Tulsa buried a Prowler in an underground time capsule

Tulsa, Oklahoma, has an odd habit when it comes to time capsules. These buried cases are, in general, meant to capture a moment in time, preserving that time period until the capsule is unearthed decades later for those in the future to gain a unique insight into days gone by. Items like letters, newspapers, and other documents are popular inclusions—but Tulsa thinks bigger.

Tulsa puts cars in its time capsules.

That’s right. This city of roughly 400,000 residents documents time like a real gearhead. It was 20 years ago that it established the practice, when it wrapped up a 1998 Plymouth Prowler and put it underground.

The Prowler’s resurrection won’t occur until the city’s 150th anniversary in 2048, but if we look to the past for any indication of what the future holds, it is not bright for the purple hot rod. Tulsa celebrated 50 years as a city back in 1957 by putting a 1957 Plymouth Belvedere in its own sarcophagus, which was opened in 2007.

The effects on the Belvedere were… not good. Water seeped in, and the car came out of its tomb was more than a little rough. Multiple museums turned it down, and the Smithsonian even went so far as to describe bringing the rusted heap into its hallowed halls akin to “bringing the bubonic plague in there.” Rust never sleeps. Perhaps you’ve heard.

Hopefully the time capsule gurus have come up with a better plan before they bury the next car, but, sadly, the first failed experiment could not influence the second—the Prowler was sent underground 10 years prior to the Belvedere’s resurfacing. 

The Prowler was enclosed in a custom-welded aluminum box with half-inch-thick walls. While that stands a good chance of doing a better job than the Belvedere’s concrete tomb, we won’t know for sure until 2048. We’ll keep our fingers crossed. The Prowler is a perfect vehicle to symbolize American car production of the 1990s, and to think that at least one will still be in existence in 2048 is a nice thought. Hopefully it will age better than the music CDs, student school projects, and cell phones that are keeping it company underground.

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