Heroes Fight To Save NASA Astronaut's Abandoned Corvette

Classic Cars / 3 Comments

This Vette was once owned by the astronaut who piloted the Apollo 15 to the moon.

The Chevrolet Corvette here might not look like much right now, but its original owner helped change humanity forever. Al Worden was the NASA astronaut who was the command module pilot on the Apollo 15 mission. If you're not up to snuff on your space history, that was the fourth manned mission to land on the Moon. It was also the first mission to include the first use of the Lunar Roving vehicle, as well as the first spacewalk, handled by Worden himself. The 12-day mission totally changed our understanding of the Moon as we know it, and that's why this Corvette is being carefully restored.

'Project AstroVette Endeavour' aims to restore this car this one-of-three special edition 'Vettes leased to the three crewmen of that mission. The project is led by William Worden-Penczak, Worden's grandson, and Luna Replicas, a company that is licensed to produce copies of Worden's flight jacket. "It's a unique preservation of what we deem as a very important part of American history," Worden-Penczak told CollectSPACE. "It is a symbol for a very important chapter in aerospace history, as well as my family's history."

Luna Replicas/Facebook
Luna Replicas/Facebook

The project has only just kicked off, largely because the car was not in the Worden family's possession for many years. Originally, GM leased these cars to the crewmen for only one dollar. But, at the end of the year-long lease, the astronauts had to return them. For a variety of reasons, some were sold off to new owners, including this white one. The other two were painted red and blue with similar stripe motifs, intended to recall the American flag colors.

The owner of the white car was a collector of these astronaut Corvettes, of which there have been several. That collector also owned an Apollo 12 astronaut's 'Vette, in addition to the blue one pictured above. Worden-Penzcak reached out to him two years ago while visiting his parents. A meeting was set up, and eventually, the previous owner told Worden-Penzcak he could be the "heir to the 'Vette."

Restoration will be a long and harrowing road, according to Worden-Penczak and Luna Replicas founder Max Kaiserman. Unfortunately, the car spent years living out its life in a field, slowly returning to the earth. "In its current condition, it will continue to deteriorate," Kaiserman said. "It is not only the consumables - the rubber goods, seals, and gaskets - that need to be replaced, but we are also looking at some fiberglass and paint damage because it sat outside for so long."

Luna Replicas/Facebook
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"There is a certain level of invasive preservation techniques, or restoration, that needs to happen. It cannot just be preserved as it is as it's a little too far gone for that," Kaiserman concluded. Of course, that level of work won't be cheap. Restoring classic cars is never a cheap process, and the pair estimate the whole process will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $150,000-$200,000. The duo is trying their hardest to have the car restored by the Apollo 15 mission's 53rd anniversary in two years' time.

Raising the funds has been incredibly difficult. "We want as many people to be able to see the car as possible and be inspired by it. I mean, if that means even charging to sit in the driver's seat and take a picture, we are going to do that," said Kaiserman.

A YouTube channel and documentary are in the works to get the word out, and the pair are hopeful that GM corporate will lend a hand in the process. Eventually, the two want to drive it 250,000 miles cross-country, the same distance needed to get from Earth to the moon.

Project AstroVette Endeavour
Luna Replicas/Facebook
Source Credits: collectSPACE

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