March 9, 2012
By the time the Apollo 12 crew landed and enjoyed a leisurely stroll on the moon in November 1969 (the sixth manned space flight under the Apollo program but only the second Apollo crew to land on the moon), Astronauts had garnered (and enjoyed) an almost Rock ‘n Roll-like fervor about them, undoubtedly helped along by their psychedelic space-travelling ways. So, what better way to augment this public appreciation (and have fun) in the vehicular sense than with matching, bespoke 1969 ‘AstroVette’ Stingray Corvettes.
Through a special GM lease program, Astronauts were given the privilege of driving any GM car, for a year, for only $1. The Apollo 12 crew of Alan Bean, Richard Gordon and Charles Conrad decided to take GM up on this rather kind offer by obtaining matching ‘vettes distinguished by their Gold and Black paint-scheme and distinctive red, white and blue logos on the front wings reading ‘LMP’ for Lunar Module Pilot.
To this day, sadly, only Alan Bean’s ‘Astrovette’ is accounted for and has undergone a full, extensive restoration… In a recent BBC Documentary from Top Gear’s James May titled ‘James May On The Moon’, Alan was reunited with his old Corvette Astrovette after some 40 years…
December 19, 2011
Today’s POTD focuses on Sir Jackie Stewart and his nemesis: The Nurburgring Nordschleife.
Flying at the Nurburgring in 1969
It was Sir Jackie himself who coined the famous term ‘The Green Hell’ towards the demanding and terrifying circuit, yet it was also Sir Jackie who studied it, mastered it and conquered it. And nowhere was this most impressively evident than in 1968 during the German Grand Prix held at the Nurburgring amidst simply appalling weather conditions…
Starting grid at the rain-soaked/fog-blinding 1968 German Grand Prix
The notorious heavy rain and thick fog of the region had descended upon the Eiffel mountains with a vengeance that day and, even then, teams and spectators were surprised that the race wasn’t cancelled.
Accidents were a-plenty and many cars retired within the first few laps of the race, but Sir Jackie drove on throughout the rain-battered, fog-engulfed mellee with exquisite, precisional concentration – almost ‘feeling’ his way around the course lap after lap, usually relying on his memory of the endless dips and cambers as the blanketed fog prohibited any real view of what lay ahead… Incredible.
Stewart 'feeling' his way around the terrifying circuit
As the chequered flag fell, Jackie crossed the finish line a full 4 minutes ahead of the next car and soon after offered-up his descriptive ‘Green Hell’ tag that has stuck with the challenging circuit to this very day.
Brave brave man...
A short vid from the ‘Murray Walker F1 Greats’ series…
December 13, 2011
The 1969 Le Mans 24HR race was the stuff of legends. Before the race even started, many had bagged Porsche to win outright victories with its impressive (yet controversial) fleet of 908 and 917 long-tails. Ford had already performed a hat-trick at Le Mans with their 3rd victory in-a-row from the previous year’s 1968 race, so Porsche (along with Matra and to some extent, Ferrari) were adament in knocking Ford off of the top-spot for outright victories in 1969.
Ferrari entered two 312P Berlinettas (essentially F1 cars dressed-up in different bodies) driven by Perdo Rodriguez/David Piper (#18) and Chris Amon/Peter Schetty (#19) but unfortunately both failed to finish the race – the Amon/Schetty car being forced to retire on the very first lap after John Woolfe crashed his Porsche 917 (sadly, killing him) which subsequently dislodged its fuel-tank, of which the Ferrari drove straight over top of and exploded in the process.
The race came down to the final laps with Jacky Ickx (in the same Le Mans-winning Ford GT40 from the year before) doing lap-after-lap battle with Hans Herrmann in his Porsche 908, both of them exchanging the lead position on each lap. At the final turn, Jacky was able to take advantage of the Porsche’s ailing brakes and out-breaked Hans in his 908, coming out ahead in the final turn and winning Le Mans 1969 by mere seconds.
I’ve always loved the fact that Jacky Ickx made a subtle statement against the traditional sprint-to-your-car-and-get-in-and-go start of the Le Mans by merely strolling over to the GT40 when the flag dropped. He then calmly got in, buckled himself up and casually drove off… and, of course, in last place.
Ickx winning by mere seconds...
*** There’s a great DVD out there from Duke called ‘Le Mans 1969 – La Ronde Infernale’ that I highly recommend for your motoring DVD library, by the way. In the meantime, here’s the uploaded YouTube version of it… Enjoy.