Sharon was a friend to my Mom back in 1962 when I was 15 years old. It was Sharon who introduced me to the magic of Corvettes and started my 50+ year love affair with the Original American Sports Car! Thank you Sharon!
The story of how this all happened is found in Chapter 10 of Beltsville Shell: You Are What You Drive! Then, in the Epilogue of the book, Chapter 41, the story of how I was miraculously reconnected with Sharon, after so many years (thanks to Darryl Richards) is recounted.
“What’s a tach?”
Cary Thomas, 1962
In 1962 I was 15 years old. My world was limited to Yucca Street in Beltsville, going to school, and delivering newspapers for the Washington Post on the motorbike Charlie Hopkins built. The Dads on my street drove mostly used cars and no one had a sports car. My Mom had taken her first job outside the house working at the American Research Bureau, we called it “ARB”, with Johnny Bradley’s and Gail Shirey’s Moms. One of my Mother’s ARB coworkers, Sharon Cox, would stop by the house from time to time. Sharon had graduated from Howard High School a year earlier in 1961. She was slim, with pretty red hair and a sexy smile. I had a secret crush on her. Sharon drove a spotless blue Corvair with “baby moon” hubcaps. One day she asked me, “What car are you going to drive when you turn 16?” I told her I did not know. She said, “My boyfriend, Jimmy McEvoy, has a new car I would like to show you!”
The next Sunday, Sharon and a handsome guy showed up at our house in a brand new, Honduras maroon, fuel injected, 360 HP, four-speed, 1962 Corvette. It had a removable hard top, and a convertible top, but this day it was in its top-down wind-in-the face configuration. I’ll never forget the ride I took in Jimmy’s car.
I had never been in a sports car. The only new car I had ever ridden in was my Uncle Tommy’s 1957 Chevy. Most of the time I rode in my Dad’s 6-cylinder Dodge sedan that couldn’t have had more than 90 HP.
Completely awestruck, I slid into the passenger seat of the Corvette to check out the interior. There was a speedometer that went up to 160 MPH. I understood the fuel level, oil pressure, ammeter, and temperature gauges. There was a gauge I didn’t understand. I asked, “What’s a TACH?” Jimmy starts the engine, then gooses the gas pedal, and says, “Tells you how fast the engine is turning.” I got it. Each time he revved the engine the tachometer would quickly arc from idle to brutal.
I was sitting on the edge of the smooth passenger seat as we drove away from the house and headed for the seclusion of Gunpowder Road. At the end of a long straight section of road he stopped the car. This confused me for a moment – no one had ever done this before. Then he revved the engine until it sounded like it was going to explode and without any warning at all he popped the clutch. I was flung back in the seat, instinctively reaching for the grab bar and instantly understanding why this new interior feature was required for a Corvette. The wailing engine never slowed, and instead the rear tires started to screech. I could see the smoke and smell the burning rubber of the poor rear tires. The rear of the car swerved slightly from side-to-side – “fishtail” it was called – and only when I got my own Corvette would I understand the skill it took to keep the car going straight under a full-power launch. I watched the speedometer having a race with the tachometer and was astonished how fast the guy could shift gears. His left foot jabbed the clutch while his right arm snapped the floor shifter. At each gear change the rear tires erupted in smoke and yelled out in protest. The telephone poles looked like a picket fence as we flew down the road, faster than I ever imagined a car could go. Finally, in fourth gear, at something substantially over 100 MPH he let off the gas and the Corvette growled back down to 60. The whole glorious event lasted less than 15 seconds but affected me for a lifetime. He looked over at me with a big grin. I was speechless.
I was stricken not only with the Corvette mystique, but also with the adrenaline rush of drag racing. I would never be the same.
When we got back to the house I told my Dad that someday I was going to have a Corvette. I know that he didn’t believe me.
Jim McEvoy was four years older than Sharon. He graduated from Laurel High School where he was an active student in glee club, prom committees and was even vice president of the student council. His ambition was to go into the Air Force, and after graduation he did. Jim got the Corvette bug in part by driving his father’s 1961 Corvette.
Sharon Cox was the first girl I ever met that actually knew something about cars! And she knew a lot. Her Dad had taught her about engines and how to do her own routine maintenance. Her independent nature was reflected in her taste in cars as well. For example, she liked Dodge Lancer hubcaps, whether other people did or not!
She liked cars, she liked driving cars, and she liked cruising in cars. She passed her driver’s test while in the 10th grade in a 57 Chevy Convertible – what class! She then began lobbying for her own car. Finally she got a ’57 Ford Fairlane for high school graduation, traded it to her brother for a VW Beetle, and then traded in the Beetle for a Corvair.
“All Corvettes are red. The rest are mistakes”
John Heinricy, Corvette Test Driver
It’s Tuesday morning, December 3, 2002. Nan and I are in Bowling Green, Kentucky at the National Corvette Museum, across the street from the assembly plant where Corvettes are built. The odyssey here has been longer than one would imagine. So was the odyssey in completing this book.
I thought “The book” was “finished” on January 31, 2002. The next day, Nan and I flew to Paris to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. When we returned home, there was an e-mail message from Darryl Richards. Darryl had tracked me down through the internet and sent a message to me from his retirement home in St. Petersburg, Florida. Darryl’s message asked if I remembered him. How could you forget someone like Darryl, Beltsville Shell’s guardian angel/Cop? After an exchange of e-mails and long distance phone calls I was lucky enough to visit with Darryl a few months later in his home for a fantastic reunion.
This phenomenon continued for a year! Every time I though the book was complete, someone from the past would appear in my present! Through Darryl I located Jimmy Noll. When we visited in August 2002, Jimmy gave Nace and me a ride in his ’55 Chevy and suddenly it was 1969 again.
Darryl also helped me locate Sharon Cox. I had been trying to find Sharon and her boy friend since 1998 when my own ’62 Corvette appeared in Vette Magazine. Hundreds of internet searches and countless e-mails titled “In Search of Sharon Cox” sent to all the wrong Sharon Coxes had proved fruitless. When I explained my frustration to Darryl, he said, “I know someone who can help us. T Quill! T knows everyone in Laurel, Maryland.”
Darryl picked up the phone and dialed a phone number. He handed me a second cordless phone. Someone answered then Darryl said, “T – hey it’s Darryl here. How are ya? Listen, I’ve got an old friend here from Beltsville Shell. Name’s Cary. He’s trying to locate some girl named Sharon Cox or somethin’ who drove a blue Corvair and dated a guy with a ’62 Vette. Can you help us?”
First there was a pause. Then the voice on the other end of the line said, “Yep. Her name was Sharon Cox. Dated a friend of mine named Jimmy McEvoy. The Vette was a ’62 fuelie, Honduras maroon. Jimmy lived on Bond Mill Road, not far from my parents’ house.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Someone actually knew the people I was searching for. T and I exchanged phone numbers and he agreed to see if he could track down Sharon or Jimmy for me. Then the night before Thanksgiving 2002 my phone rang at home. It was T Quill. He said, “Cary, I got a number you’ve been looking for.” T’s sister-in-law had been to a high school reunion and had secured Sharon’s address and phone number from a mutual friend.
On Thanksgiving Day, 2002, I called a phone number in Harpers Ferry West Virginia. An astonished woman at the other end of the line was at first confused by the caller, but when I said, “You drove a blue Corvair with baby moon hubcaps”, she was convinced that the call was genuine. I had a lot to be thankful for that day. Sharon and I finally met face-to-face again in March 2003 forty-one years after our first meeting.
I am so happy to have Sharon in my life again, and to be savoring our history as well as our love for cars! Thank you, Sharon, for having an amazing influence on my life!