Astronaut Virgil "Gus" Grissom is an American hero and icon.

One of the original Mercury Astronauts, he was the second American in space, the first American to go into space twice, and would have been the first to do so three times had he not died tragically in January 1967 when he and fellow Astronauts Roger Chaffee and Edward White fell victim to a fire during a launch pad test at Kennedy Space Center.

The Astronauts, unsurprisingly, had a thing for fast cars -- Corvettes in particular. Gus was no exception and owned a red 1967 427 Corvette with which he used to regularly challenge Alan Sheppard (also a 'Vette owner) to races in Florida. Grissom pretty much dominated Sheppard thanks to the 4:56 rear he had installed in the car. Sheppard wasn't immediately let in on that little secret, which explained why Grissom was so unbeatable in the quarter mile.

Since his death, the car changed owners several times and underwent a frame-off restoration along the way. Today, it's a beautiful, concours-level machine, absolutely loaded with optional equipment like leather seats, power steering, power brakes, and power windows. The most important options have nothing to do with luxury, however. The 427 CID / 435-horsepower monster underhood and the four-speed manual it's mated to are this 'Vette's heart and soul, and also make it a valuable car regardless of its famous original owner.

Highly desirable in its own right, the Corvette's association with Grissom elevates it to Very Important Car status. It's up for auction at eBay, and as of this writing, the current bid is $200,099. The reserve has not yet been met.

Based on what the seller has written in the auction description, if it goes unsold on eBay (the listing runs until 6/26), it will probably make its way to Scottsdale next year for the Barrett-Jackson auction, where it should generate significant interest and draw big money.

If you have deep enough pockets, though, it's there for the taking this weekend. Check it out. The auction listing tells the car's full history, and it's a great read.

Thanks to CorvetteBlogger for the tip!

[Source: eBay via CorvetteBlogger]

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