The biggest event of 1969 wasn’t Woodstock but it did occur during the legendary Summer of ’69.
It was the Apollo 11 mission and the highlight came on July 20, 1969 when Neil Armstrong stepped off the lunar module Eagle and into history.
The 50th anniversary of this incredible event is a great reason to look back at some really cool names that defined the space age automotive era.
The Mercury Comet is the perfect example of celestial automotive names because it has a planet and a giant fiery spaceball in its name.
Ford built Comets from 1962-69 and then they had another run from 1971-77 so they caught the peak years of the Space Race and the Apollo 11 finale.
The Ford Galaxie was another great space name for a car.
Galaxies debuted in 1959 just when the Space Age took flight and it survived until 1974 so it covered the full duration of the classic space era.
The Chevrolet Nova debuted in 1962 and the timing was perfect because it was a year after the first man in space (USSR’s Yuri Gagarin) achieved orbit in ‘61 and it was the same year (’62) John Glenn orbited the planet several times.
The Nova was built on and off from 1962 until it finally crashed to earth in 1988.
The Pontiac Star Chief technically debuted during the jet age in 1954 but it definitely has a celestial name.
They made these classic Ponchos from ’54 to ’66 so they had a run during the peak era of the NASA program when the run to the moon went from a dream to a few years away from reality.
The Chevy Vega caught the tail end of the space race and it had a run from 1971-77.
This car named after a star was in its second year of production when Apollo’s 17’s Gene Cernan stepped off the moon for the last time on December 14, 1972.
The Mercury Meteor debuted in 1961 and ended production in 1963 so it had a brief run but the car’s history did cover some important years in the space race.
The car named after a planet and a falling star debuted the same year two men orbited earth plus JFK made his “man on the moon” speech in 1962 and the X-15 made two suborbital flights in ’63.
The Plymouth Satellite debuted in 1965 and had a 9-year run until it crashed to earth in 1974.
1965 was the year of the first Gemini (two-man) mission so it marked another stage on the journey to the moon plus Ed White made NASA’s first spacewalk in June, 1965.
The Oldsmobile Starfire was another great space name even though it debuted in 1954 when the Space Age was still on the drawing board.
The Starfires came in several incarnations over the years but its peak era from 1961-1966 covered some incredible classic space race years and its final version from 1975-80 covered the peak years of the NASA Space Shuttle development.
Last—but certainly not least was the legendary Moon.
This is an obvious 50th anniversary lunar landing choice even though they built Moons long before Apollo 11. Moon Motor Car Company manufactured cars from 1905-1930 so they missed the lunar landing by 39 years but one thing was certain.
Every guy who owned a Moon was a rock star on July 20, 1969.
By: Jerry Sutherland
Jerry Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer with a primary focus on the collector car hobby. His work has been published in many outlets and publications, including the National Post, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette, Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Regina Leader-Post, Vancouver Sun and The Truth About Cars. He is also a regular contributor to Auto Roundup Publications.
- CLICK HERE to Like us on Facebook
- CLICK HERE to Follow us on Twitter
- CLICK HERE to Follow us on Pinterest
Please re-post this if you like this article.