SON CARRIES ON DAD'S STICK-SHIFTING TRADITION
You can faintly hear Hank Williams Jr., singing his famous tune A Family Tradition every time Burnsville, North Carolina's Todd Fox fires up his ex-Modified eliminator 1962 Corvette.
Fox, by his own admission, drives the same classic bowtie his dad Larry used to race as a Modified Production. And before it was raced on a track, the Corvette proved an efficient bootlegging vehicle in a dry county within the mountains of western North Carolina.
“Had it all of my life,” Fox, now 44, said proudly with a smile. “The best part of driving this car is all of the people who come up to me and tell me how they watched it when they were young. Their memories have made all of the work worth it.”
Memories and a seemingly ageless 1962 Corvette keep the second-generation stick-shift racer going in a straight-line.
Fox was in high school when his father went away on “business”, so in the meantime the car was stored away. On occasion, with a friend’s help, Fox would drag the old car out and get a tow around the neighborhood just to keep all the mechanical aspects in working order.
When Larry returned from “business”, the decision was made for the torch to be passed to the next generation.
Father and son went to the drag strip on the night before the father passed away. The first run didn’t produce the anticipated result.
“Broke a gear cluster,” Fox remembered. “I really got on him about it, cussed and hollered, ‘I thought you told me I wouldn’t break this thing.”
Still brandishing a smile of pride, Fox said his dad called him back the same night. Unfortunately It would be the last time the two spoke.
“He never said hello or anything, he wanted us to get together and go over the five-speed,” Fox said. “He told me I might break a cluster but I won’t break a gear. He knew I broke a cluster. He knew I broke it when I was doing a burnout on the street at the house.”
Dad had one last reminder for his son.
“He told me he could do burnouts on the street but I wasn’t to that level yet,” Fox added. “The last thing he said, ‘I’ll tell you one thing 'Big Todd', you’ll never do that again.”
“And, I haven’t yet,” Fox said.
Fox admitted climbing behind the wheel after his father's passing was a tough, emotional decision. It was also a necessary one.
‘I was not a fan of driving and the first few times I got behind the wheel I wondered what I was thinking,” admitted Fox. “I would give anything to have him here – just to ask questions. I had my friends around me but they weren’t dad. I asked my buddy Tom Griffith if I should short shift it and he said just drive it through. I ran a 6.20 [eighth-mile] the first time I let the clutch out and came back the next run and ran a 5.90.”
The Corvette is nearly the same as it was when Larry ran strong in A/Modified Production and Fox still runs the trusty, yet antiquated Doug Nash 4+1 transmission.
“I’ve added anti-roll, coil-overs … which wasn’t legal back then,” Fox admitted.
Structurally the Corvette could easily be converted to street legal specs and become a Pro Street style car.
Fox wouldn’t dare consider it.
“A lifetime of driving this car around town couldn’t compare to one day at the strip,” Fox said with demeanor.
This didn’t mean the street-driven days of the pearl white Corvette didn’t leave more than a lion’s share of memories for Fox.
“I’ve been in the car at 170 mph with nine cases of beer, and 13 pints of liquor under the hood,” admitted Fox. “The car was pretty much stock but when it went through its vibration stage – it smoothed out and rode just fine.”
And just like life, when the vibration of its turmoil smoothed out, Fox and his father’s Corvette has run just fine.