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1 of 3 AstroVettes: 1971 Chevrolet Corvette

In 1971, three similar Corvettes were leased to NASA’s Apollo 15 crew by Chevrolet to help promote the space program. A now-white Corvette with red and blue stripes would be driven on Earth by command module pilot Al Worden, who also drove the first vehicle on the Moon. After being lost for many years, Worden’s grandson has found the car and plans to restore it to its original glory. Thanks to Barn Finder Patrick S for bringing his cool story to our attention here on collectspace.com.

Worden’s AstroVette is one of only six that were customized appearance-wise for the space program. Other astronauts drove Corvettes under a special $1 lease deal struck with General Motors, but only two of the crews’ coupes had custom paint jobs. Three of these cars would go to Worden, Dave Scott, and Jim Irwin, who were all assigned to serve as the backup crew for Apollo 12 before getting into space via Apollo 15. The latter was NASA’s fourth mission to land astronauts on the moon and it featured the first lunar roving vehicle and the first deep-space EVA (or spacewalk), for which Worden performed the latter himself.

Other sources indicate that Worden’s ‘Vette disappeared several years after the NASA connection and was found in a trailer in the middle of nowhere. Worden’s grandson, William Worden-Penczak, created Project AstroVette Endeavour to return Al’s white coupe to the condition it was in on the day that it was leased to NASA for the Apollo 15 crew. The restoration will be a partnership between Endeavour and Luna Replicas, a space collectibles company licensed to reproduce the late astronaut’s flight jacket.

This ‘Vette has a 454 cubic inch V8 with a 4-speed transmission, which is how two of the three Apollo 15 cars were equipped. While it doesn’t look bad in the photos we see, we’re told the passage of time has taken its toll so a $150-200,000 initiative will soon be underway to restore the car and promote its significance to the space program (and Worden’s family). “It’s a unique preservation of what we deem as a very important part of American history,” Worden-Penczak said. “It is a symbol for a very important chapter in aerospace history.” A 250,000-mile road trip is on the horizon, as Penczak wants to cover the same number of miles as it is between Earth and the Moon.

Comments

  1. alphasud Member

    Don’t touch it! Keep the paint and perform a sympathetic restoration mechanically to make it drive as it did when it was piloted by Mr. Worden. It’s only original once.

    Like 40
  2. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Interesting story. $150 to $200K resto? To the moon Alice!

    Like 23
  3. angliagt angliagt Member

    The perfect license plate frame for this would be –

    “MY OTHER CAR IS A ROVER”

    Like 24
    • alphasud Member

      My other car is THE Rover. No offense to the Landy crowd.

      Like 15
  4. Frank Sumatra

    Not sure GM was directly involved. The astronauts got their Corvettes from Jim Rathman Chevrolet in Florida. Please see below-

    “Thus, it should come as no surprise that the upcoming TV series, “The Right Stuff,” an adaptation from Tom Wolfe’s account of the early days of the U.S. space program, decided to recreate one of the buildings here in Titusville to resemble American race car driver Jim Rathmann’s 1960s Chevrolet car dealership.

    “The Space Coast is such an important character in our actual story,” producer for “The Right Stuff,” Llew Wells told FLORIDA TODAY via email. “Being able to shoot parts of ‘The Right Stuff’ series in some of the places that the events actually took place is invaluable. It will lend levels of authenticity and a sense of place that we simply can’t capture any other way.”

    The story goes like this: Back in the early 60s, Rathmann owned a Chevrolet dealership in Melbourne, where he leased Corvettes to the Apollo astronauts — including first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong — for only $1 a year.”

    Like 13
    • drew

      GM was involved directly early on. There is a picture of Alan Shepard being handed the keys to a ’62 Vette at GM Technical Center in Warren by Ed Cole. Maybe later on GM could not be involved in such a program.

      Like 10
    • SC/RAMBLER

      When I lived in Cocoa Florida I worked at the Merritt square Mall on Merritt island directly across from Jim Rathman Chevrolet dealership. If he started out in Melbourne I wouldn’t know. But in 1988 his dealership was on Merritt island

      Like 2
      • joenywf64

        I was down there many times on vacation in the ’90s to visit Teasers on A1A with its $5 “dances”. Once, a tornado hit just that building(of course when i was down there) & people got wet inside(glad i wasn’t inside then getting a dance) & i had to do Disney & Universal instead that week – was not happy. lol
        Also saw Steppenwolf & Flock of Seaguls at the Cocoa Beach pier.
        & a space shuttle on a 747 flew over me, when i was laying on the beach!
        Also saw a launch from Merritt Island, but saw no classic cars there even in the late ’90s.

        I think the racing stripes on these vettes would have looked better if they were centered on the hood.

        Like 2
  5. Michelle Rand Staff

    John Glenn eschewed the $1 Corvette lease to drive his NSU Prinz. Said it had better gas mileage, and since he commuted quite a distance and was putting lotsa kids through college, every penny counted.

    Like 8
    • Mark

      Bet he didn’t worry about the gas mileage on the moon rocket.

      Like 7
    • Frank Sumatra

      John Glenn had two children.

      Like 5
  6. cccruisers

    The astronauts’ cars are profiled in the middle portion of The Grand Tour Season 3 Episode 9

    https://thegrandtour.fandom.com/wiki/Aston,_Astronauts_and_Angelina%E2%80%99s_Children

    Like 1
  7. Steve

    As the CM pilot, Mr. Worden never stepped foot on the moon, let alone drive the rover.

    Like 6
    • Joe Parkmoor

      You beat me to that, Steve. I was going to make the same correction. The rover was driven by Apollo 15 mission commander, Dave Scott.

  8. John Worden

    I wish that I would have had an opportunity to buy this car. As a life-long Corvette aficionado and owner of more Vettes over my lifetime than is mentally healthy, I would have loved to own this car. But, I’m not related to Al Worden, so I’m glad that the car is staying in the family and being properly restored.

    Like 5
  9. FrankD Member

    If its real its gone!

    • FrankD Member

      Oops, Didn’t read the article. I say no restoration. It will devalue the vette.

      Like 1
  10. AMCFAN

    I would leave it alone. Also the hubcaps look good.

    I mean they all don’t need the ralleys that have been over used and put on everything GM made.

    Like 5
  11. ThunderRob

    Gordon Cooper…always the wildman…got a 66′ Galaxie with a 427 SOHC from Ford to tool around in..so..he had the fastest car as befitting his style :P
    https://www.hemmings.com/stories/2019/05/03/hey-that-doesnt-go-there-sohc-powered-galaxie-500-may-be-the-last-of-its-kind

    Like 3
  12. Mitchell

    Im sceptic if they would cover the distance between earth
    and moon as usually, products from GM fall much earlier apart.

    This is a shaking found as the moon thing from the nasa
    was a big public race at its time. Good to know that the
    family want to keep it and do not concern about the final price
    of an auction. I think these cars have to sit in a museum.
    Partially.
    If ya looking for a super refinish or restoration i can point
    you to some savvy shops in la France and Germany.

    Like 1
  13. Brian Lee Weyeneth

    I’m with 2 comments here: leave it alone cosmetically and do the transmission, engine and suspension upgrades. However, as a GM product and fiberglass, it will never see 250,000 miles without a couple of major overhauls. I’d keep Grandpa’s car as is and concentrate on the Rover which wa as all electric as I remember.

  14. Rltrahan

    History books say Al Worden never drove anything on the moon let alone ever even stepped foot on it. To boot he was grounded from ever flying again for Nasa because of an unauthorized self promoted scandal to make money selling autographed post cards he took with him on the mission. 150-200k to restore this vette kind sounds like his grandson is trying to get some extra side cash like his granddaddy.

    Like 1

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