The Astronaut's Ride
Alan Bean's 1969 on Display
John Gunnell - January 27, 2014 09:00 AM
A recent auction featured a special Corvette once owned by astronaut Gus Grissom. While that new owner is happily showing off his treasure, visitors to the Corvette Chevy Expo in Houston, Texas, will get a chance to see an astronaut’s car up close.
The 1969 Chevrolet Corvette called the “AstroVette”, once owned by Alan Bean, Apollo 12 astronaut who was the fourth man to set foot on the moon, is featured attraction at the Feb. 15-16 show at Reliant Center. The car with the special gold and black paint has a very interesting history.
1960 Indy 500 champ Jim Rathmann had a Chevrolet-Cadillac dealership in Melbourne, Fla., close by the Space Center. Rathmann became friends with many astronauts, including Shepard, Gus Grissom and Gordon Cooper. He negotiated a special lease program to put the astronauts into Chevys of their choosing for $1 a day. Astronaut Alan Bean ordered a 1969 Corvette.
Bean and crewmembers Pete Conrad and Dick Gordon decided to order lookalike Corvettes. However, unlike other buyers who lived with standard paint choices, the astronauts got an additional perk. Designer Alex Tremulis was commissioned to do custom paint schemes for the astronauts. Bean chose a combination of Tremulis’ proposals including red, white, and blue logos for each owner. Bean's was blue with the initials LMP that signified him as the Lunar Module Pilot.
Bean was 37 when he received his car. By day he would train for his moon mission. At night, he enjoyed driving the Corvette around Cocoa Beach. The car is one of just three special program cars ordered and registered in the lessee's name. It has a gas tank sticker with the wording: "Courtesy car delivered to Alan L. Bean." Bean left NASA in 1981 to become a painter and he continues to paint at the age of 81 (www.alanbeangallery.com)
Danny Reed, the current owner of the car now, was a space enthusiast and Corvette fan. He’d seen photos of the car in Life magazine in 1969. In 1971, he spotted it sitting in a GMAC lot in his hometown of Austin, Texas. The car was for sale and GMAC was taking closed-bids. Reed put an offer in, but didn’t have the highest bid. Several weeks later, GMAC called because the winning bidder had failed to come up with $3,230 in cash.
Reed has owned the car for over 42 years. He’s done extensive research and gathered vast amounts of official documentation. The car has been displayed at NASA events, the National Corvette Museum, the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center, the Johnson Space Center and the Houston Space Center. Reed starts the car weekly, brings it up to temperature, and drives it for about four miles every third week. The odometer shows 35,000 total miles.
See www.corvettechevyexpo.com/feature_cars.htm for information.