Thread: Blast from the Past
09-02-2008, 10:49 AM #1
Blast from the Past
Blast from the past
Austinite Danny Reed owns the 1969 Corvette once driven by Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean.
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By Ricardo Gándara
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Austin,TX - Danny Reed's one-of-a-kind car, a 1969 Corvette coupe, is out of this world. In fact, its first driver, Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean, walked on the moon nearly 40 years ago. That's just the beginning of the story behind one of America's most documented and prized cars, nicknamed AstroVette.
And Reed thinks he has the lone car remaining of three matching black-and-gold beauties specially ordered for the Apollo 12 crew of Bean, Richard Gordon and Charles "Pete" Conrad.
"Every time I touch it, I smile," said Reed, 65, a third-generation Austinite and owner of Danny Reed Advertising.
He speaks of it as an only child. He's spent hours researching its origin, including finding NASA film footage of Bean pulling up to Cape Canaveral in the car in 1969 and chatting with Conrad and Gordon.
"Look, that's Dick Gordon sitting on my car. Is that cool or what?" he said, pointing at this laptop screen.
The AstroVette with 34,000 original miles is one of his three classic Corvettes. He also owns a Daytona blue 1964 convertible and a Roman red 1962 convertible. His everyday vehicle is a 2007 Toyota Tundra pickup.
But the two-seat AstroVette causes all the fuss. To prove that Bean really drove it, Reed produces the original order document with astronaut's handwriting and a shipping invoice with the astronaut's name and a price tag of $6,022.20. Through a special General Motors lease program, astronauts were allowed to drive any car for a year for $1. Bean and his Apollo crew ordered matching Corvettes distinguished by the black "wings" and red, white and blue logos on the front fenders reading "LMP" for lunar module pilot.
"It was a great-looking car," said Bean, now an artist in Houston. "Just for fun, we ordered matching cars. The cars felt like Corvettes, and they had those wide tires so you had to be careful driving them in wet weather or they'd hydroplane."
Reed bought the car in 1971 from a GM Acceptance Corp. car lot in Austin through a sealed bid. He was initially outbid by $10,000, but GMAC called him a month later to say that the winning bidder had defaulted. "And I was only $30 over the third bid. I was meant to get this car," he said.
He first saw the astronauts' Corvettes in a December 1969 issue of Life magazine. Coupled with his love for Corvettes — he's owned at least 20, beginning in 1963 with that year's split window coupe — he thought astronauts were national heroes.
"I got out of the service in 1962 and then came the Vietnam War. Racial tensions pulled people apart. The space program, however, pulled people together. President Kennedy said we'd land on the moon. And this car was made for an astronaut," he said.
He put in about 500 hours restoring the car to its original condition under the guidance of Ray Repczynski, a renowned Corvette restorer and historian from Houston. Reed said he saved all the original mechanical parts that failed through the years. He returned the parts to working condition and re-installed them.
Bean said he's grateful that the Corvette ended up with Reed. "He's restored it better than I can remember. He's taken great care of it," he said.
The car received the Duntov Mark of Excellence Award in 2003 for its original parts and the prestigious American Heritage Award from the National Corvettes Restorers Society.
The car has been displayed at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Ky., the Johnson Space Center in Houston and the 2002 30-year anniversary of the Apollo 17moon landing at Houston Space Center.
Bean attended the reunion and was floored by the car's mint condition. "It's as perfect as it can be," Bean recalled.
Reed plans to keep the car as long as he can drive and perhaps donate it to a museum.
"It's a piece of history, and I'd hate for it to end up in a private collection somewhere."
The 1969 Stingray Corvette coupe:
- Chevrolet produced three special-order Corvettes in Riverside Gold and black for the Apollo 12 crew — Alan Bean, Charles "Pete" Conrad and Richard Gordon.
- 390 horsepower, 427 cubic inch turbo-jet V-8 engine
- 4-speed transmission
- 4-season air conditioning
- Positraction axle 308 ratio
- Turbine-style hubcaps
- AM/FM push-button radio
- Head restraints
- 3-point seatbelt and shoulder harnesses