Apollo 15 Astronaut Al Worden’s 1971 Chevrolet Corvette Rediscovered
It is an extraordinary project car.
A 1971 Chevrolet Corvette originally driven by Apollo 15 astronaut Al Worden, which was nearly forgotten and left to the elements on a used-car lot for years, will soon be ready to hit the road again.
The coupe was one of three that were leased to mission crew for a year for just $1 each by Melbourne, Florida Chevrolet dealership and 1960 Indy 500 winner Jim Rathmann.
Rathmann had been leasing Corvettes to astronauts from the Mercury program, fully aware of the promotional value of having American heroes cruising in his cars, but the Apollo 15 crew was the last.
Command module pilot Worden and his crewmates, James Irwin and David Scott, ordered theirs in red, white and blue with coordinating stripes. Worden chose a white with a 454 cubic inch V8 under the hood and a Muncie 4-speed manual transmission.
He returned it at the end of the lease and it was sold to a private owner, changing hands several times and ending up in Texas.
This is where famed Corvette collector Danny Reed discovered it and added it to his collection in 2017, officially documenting its history in the process.
Reed also owns astronaut Alan Bean’s 1969 Corvette from Apollo 12, which he purchased directly from GM in 1971, as well as Dave Scott’s 1971 blue model. Worden’s car was functional when Reed found it, but badly battered after sitting outside for who knows how many years.
Max Kaiserman, owner of the Luna Replicas space program merchandise market and friend of Worden, told Fox News Autos that Worden’s grandson, Will Penczak, discovered the car and visited it at Reed’s in 2020. Worden died the same year, and Penczak and Reed began talking about what should happen to the car.
Kaiserman and Penczak decided to team up and buy it; not to fix it and return it at auction, but to become its custodian and share it with the world. They now have launched the AstroVette Endeavor project and plan to restore it to some extent and use it as an educational tool by displaying it in science museums and other events.
“We want to continue Al Worden’s legacy of inspiring young people to enter the sciences, math and arts, which the space program and the Corvette all represent,” Kaiserman said.
The 80,000 mile car is currently running and mostly rust free, but it has had some minor repairs and a few parts replaced over the years so they are still deciding what to do with it. Whether to keep it as it is or bring it back as close as possible to its original state.
A refresh to National Corvette Restorers Society standards could cost more than $100,000, according to Kaiserman, while an extensive rotisserie show car-quality restoration could cost a quarter of a million or more.
They are open to any support for the project and are also asking anyone with photos of the car from the 1970s to share them to help get a better idea of its original condition, right down to the tires that were on it when Worden had it.
So far, they only have one photo from Life magazine showing the three astronauts and their cars parked behind the mission’s Lunar Roving Vehicle, which was the first to go to the moon.
“How incredible that the first astronauts to drive on the moon were also the last to drive Rathmann corvettes,” Kaiserman said.
“Al always exuded that classic ‘good stuff’ attitude you associate with Apollo-era astronauts,” U.S. space program historian and collectSPACE Editor Robert Pearlman, who also knew Worden, told Fox News Autos.
“I think he would be delighted to know that his AstroVette was not only being restored, but that he was doing it with the help of his grandson. And he would certainly want to be in the seat of the driver when he is ready to get back on the road.