Thomas Gooding’s fascination with cars started as a child but he never knew that this same fascination would bring him the love of his life.

He used to spend his afternoons sitting on the corner of his street with friends and they would compete on who could identify each car that passed by. “Not only checking if it was a Lincoln, Cadillac, Ford or even Duesenberg, but if it was a special model, standard or specialty deluxe series vehicle,” he said. He indicated you lost face with your friends if you could not accurately identify each one so he became good at it.

He first met his wife Shirley, when she was on a date with one his good friends. “I had my own date but I liked her better when I found out that at the age of 12, she taught herself to drive and without a license.” Gooding said.

The attraction became even more interesting when he learned her brother drove a 1920 Model T Ford. The car was 30 years old at the time.

“It was a match made with a mutual love of fast and interesting cars,” Tom said. “She liked British cars like the Morgan and MGs and I thought the most beautiful car in the world was an E Type Jaguar.”

It was a good thing that they both enjoyed the same hobby because when they were a young married couple, Tom found his dream car a Jaguar SS100 and just had to have it.

“I took a loan off my life insurance to buy the car,” he said. “I bought it for low price probably less than $10,000 sold it years later for nearly $100,000.” Shirley was still in high school when they met. “She was the head majorette and I admired how she could really twirl a baton.” Tom was in college and they married shortly afterward.

“Her father paid for the wedding so the first week before we were married, we bought a Chrysler New Yorker Club Coupe together,” he said. “Shirley put in half the money so that’s real love.”

Tom went to the University of Florida with a BA in History. He was then commissioned in the Army as a LT. and went on active duty. When he got out of the service he went back to school on the GI Bill and earned two more degrees. Originally planning on becoming a history teacher, he went on to graduate school and became the principal of a parochial school in Tampa. He received a master’s in administration and then went on to study for a doctorate degree in educational psychology at the University of Florida.

After the children were grown, they started collecting sports cars. When they needed money to put down on a new home, they sold two of their favored sports cars a 1937 Jaguar and Shirley’s favorite 1952 MG.

After 65 years of marriage they still have cars in common. The couple own two sports cars a 1998 Jaguar XK8 Convertible and a 2004 Jaguar XJ Sedan.

“We are members of several sports car clubs, the Suncoast British Car Club of Sarasota and the Jaguar Car Club of St. Petersburg, Florida,” Tom said.

Shirley misses her MG convertible but still drives one of the Jaguars when they have a car club outing. “I don’t think she can still twirl a baton, but she still sure can drive.” Tom said.

The couple live at Jacaranda Trace.

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