As a teenager, I idolized Tom Wolfe after reading Bonfire of the Vanities. By the end of high school, I had read every single book read by him, and his too-brief description of the muscle cars of American astronauts in The Right Stuff instantly came back to me (along with the smells of my high school cafeteria) upon seeing this ad.
Wolfe recounts a story of the astronauts befriending car dealer and 1960 Indy 500 winner Jim Rathmann. Rathmann was also friends with Chevrolet head Ed Cole. The two of them made sure that the astronauts got behind the wheel of Cole’s products
Eventually, Gus and Gordo had Corvettes like Al Shepard’s; Wally moved up from an Austin-Healy to a Maserati; and Scott Carpenter got a Shelby Cobra, a true racing vehicle. Al was continually coming by Rathmann’s to have his gear ratios changed. Gus wanted flared fenders and magnesium wheels. The fever gripped them all, but Gus and Gordo especially. They were determined to show the champ, Rathmann, and each other that they could handle these things. Gus would go out rat-racing at night at the Cape, racing full-bore for the next curve, dealing with the oncoming headlights by psychokinesis, spinning off the shoulders and then scrambling back up on the highway for more of it. It made you cover up your eyes and chuckle at the same time. The boys were fearless in an automobile, they were determined to hang their hides right out over the edge—and they had no idea what mediocre drivers they actually were, at least by the standards of professional racing.
Like Gus Grissom and Alan Shepard, Neil Armstrong evidently had a Corvette at some point in his life. This example, now owned by a private citizen who apparently bought it from a NASA employee after Armstrong’s use, isn’t in the best condition. British classic car fanciers would tout its “lovely patina” and “provenance”.
Just what type of restoration the car would need is up for debate. I’m of the opinion that cars should be driven and enjoyed, not garaged and gawked at, but it’s important to strike a balance between keeping the car’s history intact, and bringing it up to an appropriate condition.