Sure astronauts get to lease Corvettes for a dollar a year, which is a pretty sweet deal but it’s nothing compared to those lucky few that got to drive Lunar Roving Vehicles on the moon. These moon buggies are the ultimate off-road vehicle designed for the ultimate off-road adventure. NASA’s missions, Apollo 15, 16 and 17, each used an LRV to help astronauts perform tasks up to 4.7 miles away from their respective landing sites.
I frequently talk about exclusive cars like the Aston Martin One-77 where 77 examples were produced and sold for $1.4 million each, or the classic Ferrari 250 GTO with a production run of 39 cars that originally sold for $18,000 but are currently commanding prices over $30 million. If you want truly exclusive then the Lunar Roving Vehicles are in a league of their own. Boeing manufactured four LRVs in 1971 for a total cost of $38 million. Only three of them were driven with the fourth being used for spare parts. Astronauts David Scott, John Young and Eugene Cernan are the only three people ever to have driven on the moon.
For all of you conspiracy theorists out there that believe the moon walks were staged as some sort of government plot, I give you a giant raspberry…. THPPTPPTPPTTTTT!!!! I agree that it’s important to question authority but the questions I see being asked seem to stem from partially understood photographic principals and out-of-context interview statements. The best proof that we’ve been to the moon are the photos taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera of the various Apollo mission sites. My favorite shows the Challenger Descent Stage, an LRV and lots of tire tracks left behind by the Apollo 17 crew.
Now, with the LRVs abandoned on the surface of the moon a case could be made they could be claimed as salvage if a collector were able to find a way to bring them back down to Earth. This would directly violate guidelines presented by NASA for the preservation of lunar exploration sites but those are just guidelines. The laws surrounding salvage rights outside of Earth’s atmosphere are not very well developed and depending on who you speak to, you could reasonably bring back an LRV for your private collection but you should be prepared for a wicked legal battle.
I’m pretty sure there aren’t any collectors currently with both the means and the will to mount such an expedition so the actual LRVs will remain on the moon for the time being and the ensuing legal battle will remain entirely theoretical. Until someone actually brings back an LRV from the moon, collectors will need to satisfy themselves with various reproductions that are available.
Australian artist Peter Hennesey has created a fantastic life sized model of a Lunar Roving Vehicle using laser cut plywood and a bit of steel and canvas. It’s currently a one of a kind work but I’m sure that he would make another for far less than the price of a trip to the moon if you asked him very nicely.
In a slightly less ambitious vein, there have been a number of scale models produced that can be found with a little bit of searching. The Code 3 model of the LRV would be my first choice to add to my collection. Of course, I’m not in a position to pay $1,500 for one of these out of production beauties so I would turn my attention to hunting down one of the Minichamps models, which are surprisingly hard to find given that they sold for less than $100. There are also models by Ertl, Mattel, Dinky, Hallmark and even a 1/6 model for Action Man figures available. For more industrious collectibles, there is the free to download paper model from Surfduke that stands as one of the more challenging models I’ve seen in a while (I recommend checking out gpw’s build for instructions).