What can I say about this car? It’s a piece of history. My very first collector car was a 1967 red Corvette 427/435HP convertible. It will most likely be my last. I was at the Russo & Steel auction in Scottsdale, AZ when this car came across the block. Other than a red interior, it’s almost identical to my other car. Normally, I wouldn’t be interested in the car, but this was owned by Astronaut Gus Grissom. I turned 16 in 1967, so I grew up at the start of the NASA astronaut program. These guys were my heroes. Needless to say, I bought the car.
I was amazed at all the stuff that came with the car. There were 5 storyboards that were 5’ tall and 3’ wide. That’s 15’ of hard documentation. This included the original title, which was in Betty Grissom’s name. The astronauts weren’t allowed to take gifts like this, so Chevrolet sold it to his wife for $1. There were many trophies, lots of original paperwork, models, books, magazines, letters, etc. It was a treasure trove of history.
To say that the astronauts were competitive would be an understatement. One of my favorite stories about Gus and the car involved Alan Shepard, the first astronaut into space (Gus was the 2nd). According to Wally Shirra, another astronaut:
“Gus was something of a ‘gotcha’ champion, especially in those involving cars. He once really nailed Shepard, which was no mean feat…”. “Gus and Al each had new Corvettes. They would drive in formation as if they were doing engineering test flights, comparing data. Al would hold up three fingers for 3000 RPM. Gus would nod and off they’d go… Every time, Gus would leave Al in the dust. Why? Simple. He had gotten Jim Rathmann to increase his gear ratio so it would produce 4000 RPM, compared to the standard 3000 RPM of Shepard’s car”.
Shepard was furious. He was ‘Mr. Corvette’ after all. He couldn’t believe Gus’ car was that much better. Immediately he went to Rathmann’s shop for a tune-up. Jim of course did nothing. Shepard lost again to Gus and returned to the shop…Rathman said he did all he could. Al finally figured it out and laughed it off, but he didn’t think it was very funny.
Corvette Milestones 2008 2-page
Car Review 09-1986
Car Review 09-1986