Preservation Expert Eric Gill to Lead Restoration of Neil Armstrong's 1967 Corvette
When is a car more than just a car?
How about when it once belonged to the first man who walked on the moon?
That’s right, a 1967 Corvette once owned by Neil Armstrong—known for his “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”—is on its way back to being carefully restored, thanks to new owner Joe Crosby. Crosby has commissioned a team of experts, led by respected automobile preservation activist Eric Gill, to lead the project, which could take years because they want the job done right since its owner was such an important part of world history.
“Ultimately, this will help humanize one of America’s iconic heroes,” Gill said. “Maybe someday a schoolchild will look at the car and realize Neil Armstrong was a real guy, like his or her dad. While a child can aspire to a hero "larger than life" that hero is a real person, so isn’t that a better goal, to humanize this inanimate artifact?”
Like so many of his fellow space travelers, Armstrong was a fan of the Corvette, buying the 1967 427, from Jim Rathmann Chevrolet for $1. He drove it most of the year before trading it back in to Rathmann for a 1968 Corvette.
The second owner, who prefers to remain anonymous, bought the car the very next day and kept it for 31 years before selling it to Crosby in February.
No word on what price Crosby paid, but he did say the seller took the money and bought a new Corvette.
Gill is carefully documenting the restoration process with video and still photography. “Because we are recording this digitally, we’re not doing anything to hide or fool,” he said. “The digital record of the car, you’ll be able to see the before, during, and end result.”
Gill believes the car will inspire future generations of astronauts. “To do this properly, you’re talking about hundreds of hours for what is probably 12 linear feet,” he said. “What is the return? The payback is huge because future generations will see this as an artifact found.”
Armstrong, who passed away earlier this summer, still remembered the 1967 Corvette, according to Jack Legere, a member of the Cape Kennedy Corvette Club, who just happened to run into Armstrong during an April visit to the Space Center.
“I asked Mr. Armstrong, ‘I understand you used to own a 1967 Corvette,’ ” Legere recalled. “He turned around and looked at me and said, ‘The blue one?’ I was hoping he would answer that way.
“I answered him back, ‘Yes, sir.’ He asked me if I owned it, and I told him no but I knew the guy that does own it. ‘Where’s the car,’ he asked me. I told him it was here on Merritt Island and he flashed a big smile, a big toothy smile.”
It’s too bad that Mr. Armstrong won’t get to see the final result.
Automotive preservation specialist Eric Gill with Neil Armstrong’s 1967 Corvette. Photo Credit: Jim Tiller
See additional photos of Armstrong’s Corvette at www.news-journalonline.com.
I’ve attached this video we found on the Daytona Beach News-Journal’s website: