A C3 Corvette with ties to one of the most historic events in world history has become the 25th vehicle added to the National Historic Vehicle Register.
The 1969 Stingray coupe with an unusual paint theme originally belonged to Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean, the fourth person to walk on the moon.
The “AstroVette,” as it’s come to be known, will be displayed Thursday, Sept. 12 through Sept. 19 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., as part of the Historic Vehicle Association’s fifth annual automotive heritage exhibition.
In addition, HVA will host “Cars at the Capital and Coffee,” with the AstroVette and the 1966 Volkswagen Deluxe Station Wagon owned by civil rights leaders Esau and Janie B. Jenkins on display Saturday, Sept. 14 from 7:30 a.m. to noon.
The AstroVette is actually one of three nearly identical Corvettes done in Riverside Gold with custom-painted black accent “wings” representative of the colors of the Apollo lunar module. Besides Bean, the other owners were his Apollo 12 crewmates, Charles “Pete” Conrad and Richard “Dick” Gordon. They were the second crew to land on the moon, touching down at the Ocean of Storms on the lunar module Intrepid during a journey that lasted from Nov. 14 to Nov. 24, 1969.
“The iconic black over gold design of the ‘Astrovette’ was created by legendary automotive designer Alex Tremulis, with input from the Apollo 12 astronauts. Tremulis proposed three different sketches for the trio of Corvettes, which the Apollo 12 crew used to come up with the final pattern to be put on their matching cars,” HVA explained in a social media post.
The only difference in the cars was the red, white, and blue stickers on each fender used to identify which Corvette belonged to which astronaut, with the color corresponding to their assigned colors for food packaging aboard the space capsule, according to HVA. Bean’s color was blue and he was the Lunar Module Pilot, hence the “LMP” on the blue section of the sticker on his car.
“I had a lot of fun in this car a long time ago,” Bean said in a 2009 documentary (“James May on the Moon,” BBC). “When we went to work, we’d park them side by side; they’d look great.”
Former Indy 500 winner Jim Rathmann, who ran a Chevrolet dealership in Melbourne, Fla., leased the Corvettes to the three astronauts for $1 a year.
The cars became famous when the three astronauts posed with them for a LIFE magazine photo spread but over the years, it’s believed that the AstroVettes belonging Conrad and Gordon may have been destroyed. Fortunately, Corvette enthusiast Danny Reed spotted Bean’s car for sale on a GMAC lot in his hometown of Austin, Texas way back in 1971 and bought it for $3,230. He’s loaned it to HVA for the special displays in the nation’s capital over the next few days.
The AstroVette will be unveiled on the National Mall hardscape between the National Air and Space Museum and the National Gallery of Art during a special lighting ceremony for the car’s glass enclosure at sundown (approximately 7:30 p.m. EDT) on Wednesday, Sept. 11.
The National Historic Vehicle Register documents the United States’ most historically significant automobiles, motorcycles, trucks and commercial vehicles in an archive held by the Library of Congress. Entrants in the register are chosen based on four criteria, including their association with an event or person important to U.S. history, their distinctive design or their status as the first or last remaining example of a particular type of vehicle.