HomeCar CultureAstronaut’s Corvette, Civil Rights VW join Historic Vehicle Register

Astronaut’s Corvette, Civil Rights VW join Historic Vehicle Register


Astronaut Alan Bean was the first owner of this specially painted Chevrolet Corvette

Not only have two more cars been selected for inclusion on the National Historic Vehicle Register, but the Historic Vehicle Association will showcase them in its Cars at the Capital exhibit in September.

From September 12-19, the 1969 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray formerly owned by Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean will be displayed between the National Gallery of Art and the National Air & Space Museum on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. 

From September 20-26, the HVA’s glass display case will contain the 1966 Volkswagen Deluxe microbus formerly owned and used during the Civil Rights Movement by Esau and Janie B. Jenkins.

The Jenkins family

“The automobile has left an indelible mark in our culture and we believe America’s automotive heritage should never be lost nor forgotten,” Diane Parker, HVA vice president, was quoted in the announcement.

“To support that belief, our mission is to share America’s automotive heritage and to tell the human-interest stories behind the horsepower, share their cultural impact, and to ensure their histories are captured in perpetuity.”

The Historic Vehicle Register was established in 2013 in collaboration with the U.S. Department of the Interior to permanently archive significant historic vehicles within the Library of Congress. So far, 26 vehicles have been selected and documented. 

The newest being included are the astronaut’s Corvette and the Jenkins’ VW van.

Apollo 12 astronauts and their Corvettes

The HVA notes that Bean, the fourth human to walk on the moon, got his Stingray through a $1-a-year lease program that General Motors offered to the astronauts. Bean and fellow astronauts Pete Conrad and Dick Gordon not only took advantage of the program, but asked for their cars to be painted in a unique black-and-gold color scheme that included a red, white and blue plaque on each left-front fender indicating the driver’s role in the Apollo 12 flight. In Bean’s case, the car got the letters LMP for lunar module pilot.

Bean’s car, driven 35,000 miles since new, has been owned for 48 years by Danny Reed and is the only Corvette to have won both the Duntov Award of Excellence and the American Heritage Award from the National Corvette Restorers Society. 

The Volkswagen also has a storied history. 

“Esau and Janie B. Jenkins were pioneers before and during the civil rights movement,” the HVA says.  “As business owners, community organizers, and founders of organizations and institutions, together they dedicated their lives to providing opportunities, and hope, to the people of Johns Island, SC and beyond.

“In the 1940s, using money from farming and selling produce, they would purchase buses to transport children to school and workers to jobs in Charleston, SC. During the bus rides, Esau and Janie B. would teach their adult passengers the information needed to pass the literacy exam so they could become registered voters. 

“Along with others, they were responsible for The Progressive Club, a co-op started in 1948 that housed a grocery store, gas station, day care, and classroom space. Leaders including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and others, participated in workshops there.”

The HVA notes that the Jenkins’ VW carried the words, “Love is Progress, Hate is Expensive” on its back panel.

In 2014, the Jenkins family donated the vehicle to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


  1. I have had the GREAT PRIVILAGE of a ride in the Danny Green Astronaut Corvette. In fact Danny offered to let me drive the car! As the car is 427 powered and I am known for a heavy right foot I declined the offer for fear I would get it out of shape (ie" sideways). One of my scrapbooks contains a number of pictures of this experience,wowser.


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