This is a project car that is out of this world.
A 1971 Chevrolet Corvette originally driven by Apollo 15 astronaut Al Worden, all but forgotten and left to the elements in a used car for years, is ready to hit the road again soon.
The coupe was one of three leased to Mission crew members for just $1 a year by Melbourne, Florida, Chevrolet dealer and 1960 Indy 500 winner Jim Rothman.
Rothman was leasing Corvettes to astronauts from the Mercury program, fully aware of the publicity value of crushing American heroes in his cars, but the last of the Apollo 15 crew.
Command module pilot Worden and his crew, James Irwin and David Scott, ordered in red, white and blue coordinating stripes. The Warden chose a white color with a 454 cubic-inch V8 and Muncie 4-speed manual transmission under the hood.
He returned it at the end of the lease and it was sold to private ownership, changed hands several times and ended up in Texas.
Noted Corvette collector Danny Reed discovered it and added it to his collection in 2017, officially documenting its history in the process.
Reid also owns Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean’s 1969 Corvette, which he bought directly from GM in 1971, along with Dave Scott’s blue 1971 model. Worden’s car was functional when Reid found it, but had a lot of weather from sitting outside for who knows how many years.
Max Kaiserman, owner of space program merchandise marketplace Luna Replicas and a friend of Warden’s, told Fox News Autos that Warden’s grandson, Will Penczak, learned about the car and visited it in 2020 in Reeds. Worden died the same year and Penjack died, and Reid had to talk about what should happen to the car.
“We want to continue Al Worden’s legacy of inspiring young people to get into science and math and the arts.”
Kaiserman and Pennjack decided to team up and buy it; Not to fix and flip it at auction, but to become its custodians and share it with the world. They are now Launched Project Astrovet effort And plan to restore it to some extent and use it as an educational tool by displaying it at science museums and other events.
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“We want to continue Al Worden’s legacy of inspiring young people to get into science and math and the arts, all of which the space program and the Corvette represent,” Kaiserman said.
The 80,000-mile car currently runs and is mostly rust-free, but it’s had some minor repairs and some parts replaced over the years, so they’re deciding what to do with it. It should be preserved as it is or restored to its original state as much as possible.
While a refresh can run more than $100,000 by the National Corvette Restorers Society’s standards, an elaborate rotisserie show car-quality restoration can cost a quarter-million or more, according to Kaiserman.
They are willing to lend any support to the project and are asking anyone who has photos of the 1970s car to share them to help better understand its original condition. For now, they only have one photo from Life magazine, of the three astronauts and their cars parked behind the Lunar Roving Vehicle of the first mission to the moon.
“It’s incredible how the first astronauts to drive on the moon were also the last to drive the Rothman Corvettes,” Kaiserman said.
“Al always exuded the classic ‘right stuff’ attitude you associate with Apollo-era astronauts”
“Al always exuded the classic ‘right stuff’ attitude that you associate with Apollo-era astronauts,” American space program historian and CollectionSPACE Editor Robert Perlman, who also knows Warden, told Fox News Auto.
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“I’m sure he’ll be thrilled to know that his Astrovet is not only being restored, but that it’s being done with the help of his grandson. And he’ll definitely want to be back in the driver’s seat when it’s ready to hit the road.”