The 1969 Corvette Stingray AstroVette that was given to the Apollo 12 astronauts has been added to the National Historical Vehicle Register.
The history of the AstroVette is directly linked to the Apollo 12 space program. Crew members each received a new Corvette thanks to an existing contract NASA had with General Motors, with the company leasing the vehicles to the astronauts for just $1 per year. Apollo 12 members Alan Bean, Charles Conrad and Richard Gordon each chose identical Riverside Gold 1969 Corvettes with custom-painted black accent wings that were intended to evoke the Apollo Lunar Module. All three of the vehicles were identical, however each had a different colored fender sticker, which corresponded with the astronaut’s designated color for food packaging onboard the lunar capsule.
All three of the custom AstroVette cars were delivered to the astronauts by Indy 500 winner Jim Rathmann, who ran a Chevrolet dealership in Melbourne, Florida. They then drove the vehicles back to NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center Houston together before posing with them for a LIFE magazine article shortly after. Bean, Conrad and Gordon frequently used the cars, even driving them to work and parking them next to each other.
As part of its induction into the National Historical Vehicle Register, one of the AstroVettes, Alan Bean’s car, will be in display at the National Mall this month as part of the annual Cars at the Capital event. Bean’s vehicle is denoted by its blue fender stick, which was Bean’s food packaging color during the Apollo 12 mission, along with the ‘LMP’ motif on the sticker, which stands for ‘Lunar Module Pilot’ – Bean’s position in the crew. The fates of Conrad’s and Gordon’s respective AstroVettes is not currently known, although it seems likely they were scrapped or destroyed. Bean’s car was purchased by sharp-eyed enthusiast Danny Reed after he spotted it on a General Motors Acceptance Corporation lot Austin, Texas in 1971. He purchased it for $3,230 at the time and still owns it today.
Catch the 1969 AstroVette on display at the National Mall from September 12 through to September 19.