Corvette Corner: Astronaut Corvette Named to National Historic Vehicle Register

Historic Vehicle Association Photo
Historic Vehicle Association Photo

Thirty dollars. That was the amount Danny Reed added to the wholesale book value for his silent auction bid on the 1969 Corvette of Apollo 12 Astronaut Alan Bean. When the dust settled, the high bidder was disqualified and Reed was named the winner. His margin over the next highest bidder? Thirty dollars! In Reed’s care, Bean’s Corvette was fully restored to original, award-winning standards. The Apollo 12 Corvette recently added to its honors—it is the first Corvette to be recognized by the Historic Vehicle Association as a historically important vehicle and enshrined in the National Historic Vehicle Register.

Historic Vehicle Association Photo
Historic Vehicle Association Photo

Happenstance Discovery of Astronaut Alan Bean’s ’69 Corvette

Like many of us of a certain age, Danny Reed was fascinated by NASA’s manned space programs of the ‘60s and ‘70s, and back in the day he religiously followed all of the latest news reports and the many publicity articles that appeared primarily in Life magazine. It was one of the many Life photos stored in Reed’s memory banks that led to the happenstance discovery of astronaut Alan Bean’s ’69 Corvette. As Reed was driving by a General Motors Acceptance Corporation resale lot in Austin, Texas, in 1971, he spotted a gold C3 Corvette with a custom paint scheme that he remembered from publicity photos of the Apollo 12 crew and their Corvettes. He immediately pulled into the lot and learned that the car was being sold via a closed bid auction.

Historic Vehicle Association Photo
Historic Vehicle Association Photo

In a closed bid auction, you have only one shot at success—your bid is either the top bid or you’re out of the running. Giving the matter careful consideration, Reed checked the wholesale book value of a 1969 Corvette coupe and found it to be $3200. From past experience in Las Vegas, he considered his lucky numbers to be 30 and 32. Since 32 was already a part of the book value, Reed added $30 and posted his bid of $3230, then nervously waited for the outcome. After initial notification and bitter disappointment that he was only the second highest bidder, his lucky numbers worked their magic. The highest bidder was disqualified and Danny was declared the winner. The difference between Danny’s bid and the next highest bid was the $30 he added for his lucky number! As Danny now says, “That $30 was a great investment.”

Photo Credit: Danny Reed
Photo Credit: Danny Reed

Apollo 12 Corvette Named to National Historic Vehicle Register

Danny Reed’s Apollo 12 Corvette is the first Corvette to be named to the National Historic Vehicle Register (NHVR). The NHVR is part of the way that the Historic Vehicle Association (HVA) carries out its mission “To promote the cultural and historical significance of the automobile and protect the future of our automotive past.” The HVA, founded in 2009, now has over 490,000 members and is the designated U.S. representative of FIVA (Fédération International des Véhicules Anciens), the international federation of historic vehicle organizations. The aims of the HVA are to:

  • Recognize and document historically important vehicles in a National Historic Vehicle Register
  • Establish and share best practice guidelines to ensure that authentic examples of our automotive past will be available for future generations
  • Promote the historical and cultural significance of the automobile through media and events
  • Protect the future of our automotive past through affiliations with museums and academic institutional programs, and support of legislative action
Historic Vehicle Association Photo
Historic Vehicle Association Photo

The criteria for considering a vehicle for the NHVR are:

  • Associative Value-Event – A vehicle associated with an event or events that are important in automotive or American history
  • Associative Value-Person – A vehicle associated with the lives of significant persons in automotive or American history
  • Design or Construction Value – A vehicle that is distinctive based on design, engineering, craftsmanship, or aesthetic value
  • Informational Value – A vehicle of a particular type that was the first or last produced, has an element of rarity as a survivor of its type, or is among the most well-preserved or thoughtfully restored surviving examples

The HVA is working with the Department of the Interior’s Heritage Documentation Programs to create a comprehensive record of our most historically significant vehicles, which will reside in the Library of Congress.

Photo Credit: Danny Reed
Photo Credit: Danny Reed

Historic Vehicle Association’s Documentation Process

Judging from Danny Reed’s experience with his Apollo 12 Corvette, the HVA is very serious about carrying out its aim to not only recognize historically important vehicles, but to extensively document them as well. In Reed’s case, his car was at the National Corvette Museum (NCM) in Bowling Green, Kentucky, after their space exhibit closed and the HVA sent a photography crew to the NCM for a two-day photo shoot, shooting for five hours each day. Danny Reed was impressed: “I’ve been shooting videos and producing commercials for over 35 years and this was the hardest, most detailed shoot I have ever been on or seen.”

Photo Credit: Danny Reed
Photo Credit: Danny Reed

The HVA team then transported the Corvette to its headquarters in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where over a period of three days more photos were taken. Following the Allentown shoot, the Corvette was transported back to Danny in Texas and a crew arrived for another two-day photo/video shoot through the Texas Hill Country and Enchanted Rock State Park. Danny drove and maneuvered the Corvette while two cameramen shot photos and video. Danny, in his new role as photographer’s assistant, said, “I must have started, stopped, and moved the car 20-30 times.”

Historic Vehicle Association Photo
Historic Vehicle Association Photo

Cars at the Capital

Having a car named to the National Historic Vehicle Register is not all work and no play. The HVA has an annual Cars at the Capital exhibit on the National Mall in Washington DC between the National Gallery of Art and the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum. Each year, the latest cars to be selected for the NHVR are exhibited in a full-size, transparent, lighted display case just like the small ones you used to display your model cars. The Apollo 12 Corvette was displayed from September 12th through September 19th. Owners and invited guests were part of the HVA evening ceremony in which the display case was lit to officially open the exhibit. With the lighted Capitol building and the illuminated Washington Monument in the background, the overall exhibit was most impressive and was a fitting tribute to the honored vehicle.

The Astronaut-Corvette Lease Program

Indy 500 winner Jim Rathmann owned a Chevrolet Dealership in Melbourne, Florida, not too far from NASA’s launch site, then known as Cape Kennedy, and recognized the publicity value of having the astronauts and their families seen in General Motors products. In a special marketing program by General Motors executive Ed Cole and Rathmann, each astronaut was able to lease two GM vehicles per year for the grand sum of one dollar per car. Being adventurous types, most of the astronauts chose a Corvette for themselves and a more suitable sedan or station wagon for their families.

When their leases were up, the astronaut Corvettes were returned to the dealership and re-sold to the general public through normal dealer channels. Except for the cars of Apollos 12 and 15 crews, all of the astronaut Corvettes bore standard Corvette colors and none had any special markings denoting them as astronaut Corvettes. Once in the re-sale channels, the astronaut Corvettes looked just like any other Corvettes. After purchase, many new owners, being typical Corvette enthusiasts, took it upon themselves to modify and personalize their vehicles, adding another degree of difficulty to tracking down the astronaut Corvettes.

Other Awards and Honors for the Apollo 12 Corvette

Danny Reed is an experienced Corvette restorer and under the guidance of Ray Repczynski at Corvettes by Ray, he put his National Corvette Restorer’s Society (NCRS) experience to good use in restoring Alan Bean’s gold and black ’69 Corvette to its original standards. The Apollo 12 Corvette is the only Corvette to receive both the coveted NCRS Duntov Award presented to 1953 to 1974 Corvettes that achieve at least 97% out of 100% based on an original “as manufactured” condition and pass a rigorous performance test, and the prestigious NCRS American Heritage Award which recognizes unique, historically significant Corvettes.

Photo Credit: Danny Reed
Photo Credit: Danny Reed

The Apollo 12 Corvette also appeared in the National Corvette Museum’s exhibit From Gas Station to Space Station celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. The exhibit also included Danny Reed’s other two Apollo Corvettes, those of astronauts Alfred Worden and David Scott of Apollo 15.

Kate and Danny Reed with Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean’s Corvette
Kate and Danny Reed with Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean’s Corvette

A Big ‘Thank You’ to Danny Reed

We all owe Danny Reed a big “Thank you” for his efforts in sharing the Astronaut Corvettes with us. He has been in the right place and the right time to become the owner/caretaker of three astronaut Corvettes and we have been the beneficiaries of Danny’s efforts. None of his cars are tucked away in a windowless, temperature-controlled room, nor are they trailer queens. Danny believes in getting his cars out on the road and sharing them with fellow enthusiasts.

Since 1971 when he purchased Alan Bean’s ’69, Danny has regularly shared the Corvette with the NASA community and has exhibited the Apollo 12 Corvette at a variety of car shows, as well as the National Corvette Museum. In addition to showing off the car, Danny’s displays illustrate the accomplishments of Alan Bean and the Apollo program. The Apollo Corvette is a tangible link to one of the most exciting times in American history, a time when astronauts blasted off into the uncertainty of space and conquered new frontiers while the whole world watched.

SOURCES:

Danny Reed via email correspondence

Historic Vehicle Association https://www.historicvehicle.org/

HVA Press Release-Cars at the Capital https://www.multivu.com/players/English/8602451-historic-vehicle-association-cars-at-the-capital/

Diane Parker, HVA Vice President via email correspondence

National Historic Vehicle Register https://www.historicvehicle.org/national-historic-vehicle-register/

National Corvette Museum https://www.corvettemuseum.org/from-gas-station-to-space-station-nasa-exhibit-opening-in-january/

Jalopnik https://jalopnik.com/why-americas-first-astronauts-all-drove-corvettes-5799011

National Corvette Restorers Society https://www.ncrs.org/

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