Tributes paid to Exmouth’s ‘remarkable’ vintage vehicle enthusiast
PUBLISHED: 12:30 25 April 2017
Robert Davies Photography 2012
Tributes have been paid to intrepid deaf pensioner Reg Imray, who died at his Exmouth home aged 94.
Over the years, the vintage vehicle collector built up an impressive array of classic cars and motorcycles, which he displayed at World of Country Life, at Sandy Bay and Bicton Park Botanical Gardens.
In 2003, Reg and his vehicle collection appeared on See Hear, a BBC magazine programme for deaf people. He was stunned to learn his motorbikes alone were worth £100,000.
But Reg, of Hulham Road, who said his hobby had become his life, was most proud of his record of never having an accident after more than 70 years behind the wheel. He said he received a letter from Buckingham Palace congratulating him on his safe driving record.
Reg, who had been deaf since birth, was born on April 8, 1922. He died at home aged 94 on Sunday, April 2, 2017.
His sister Janet Dodge, of Seaton, said: “I feel very, very proud to have called him my brother. What he achieved being deaf; all his life he achieved so much, he’s a remarkable man.”
Born in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, Reg became interested in vehicles from the age of eight after his school teacher told him he would never own a motorbike because he was deaf.
Reg remembered spotting the vehicle while walking along the street with his class and teacher. Stopping to look at the motorbike, he was told to ‘get a move on’. Reg explained he wanted to look at the motorbike; the teacher said he would never have one because of his deafness.
Reg said his teacher’s dismissal ‘made me determined to get one!’.
Between 1940 and 1945, Reg worked in an RAF factory to support the war effort; he made De Havilland Mosquito aeroplanes.
His wish to become a pilot and fly a Spitfire during World War Two was thwarted because of his deafness.
Instead, his services were rewarded when Geoffrey De Havilland presented him with a medal for his work.
Around the same time, he got his first motorbike, a BSA, worth £10, which he got from his dad.
From there his passion for vehicles, two- and four-wheeled, blossomed, and Reg’s collection began to slowly gather pace.
In 1962, he raced at Silverstone and in 1949 was a speedway rider – known as the Raleigh Rocket.
In 2003, Reg and his vehicles appeared on See Hear. During the filming, Reg was astonished to learn his motorbikes alone were worth £100,000.
“I was shocked,” he said at the time. “I only thought they were worth about £50,000.”
In 2006, an 84-year-old Reg took his passion for cars one step further, driving from Morocco to the Sahara Desert.
In the same year, he yearned to own a quad bike, but was told his age was against him.
In 2011, he realised a dream to ride a motorcycle on a public highway without a crash helmet while holidaying in Hawaii.
His passion for driving took him on adventures to most of Europe and North Africa.
His extensive car and motorbike collection boasted an Austin Healey Sprite, a Harley Davidson, and an Aprilla scooter. Also in the collection was a 1961 BMW Isetta, better known as a bubble car, a 1957 two-seater Messerschmit KR200, which he found in a barn in Derbyshire and a 1922 McKenzie Hobart motorcycle.
Among his favourite items were a 500cc Royal Enfield and a 1942 Harley Davidson.
He also owned a Los Angeles Police Department uniform and bike, inspired by the 1980s show Chips; Reg was regularly seen in this guise around Exmouth for many years.
The keen amateur mechanic, who bought and restored all the vehicles in his collection, won more than 200 trophies from exhibiting his vehicles.
In recent years, Reg added a Smart car and Suzuki Grand Vitara to his collection.