One Man’s Journey to his Dream Rolls-Royce
Someone, somewhere once said that you can tell a lot about a person by the type of car they drive. While this might not be true of the average person (who’s choice in vehicle tends to be affected by cost, insurance and other factors), it most certainly rings true for Reg Beer, a resident at the Lord Dufferin Centre in Orangeville.
Those who have driven by the retirement home during the spring, summer and fall months have likely noticed the beautiful 1960’s Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud sitting in the wheel-chair section out front. The car has been owned by Mr. Beer for forty-five years, and has been his main mode of transportation during that time. It has travelled all over the United States and Canada, but has never been shown or rented to anyone.
“It’s strictly a working car,” said Mr. Beer.
The first word that comes to mind upon meeting Mr. Beer is distinguished. Perhaps it’s merely the obvious fact that he is British, but like everything else about him, that ‘distinguished’ comes with its own twist. He is relaxed and content knowing that the life he has led has been one filled with adventures and joys beyond anything he could have imagined.
“I don’t know of anybody that’s led a better life than me and my wife,” he said. “I’ve got history as long as your arm. I live on memories now, and boy are they good. No complaints whatsoever.”
That history includes a very lengthy courtship with the Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud. It started long before the car was even created, when Mr. Beer joined the war in 1941. After suffering an injury during training, he was sent to the British Grenadier Guards stationed at Buckingham Palace for two years, before being stationed at Chequers with Winston Churchill.
“I was let go in 1947, and they were supposed to have kept the jobs for the soldiers, but they were gone,” Mr. Beer explained. “I had to try and find work and a place to live because everything had been bombed.”
At the time, his sister knew someone who worked in the Coach Car manufacturing industry and helped him get a job working at a factory that produced different Rolls-Royce parts and vehicles. During that time, he learned everything about building the vehicles and met his wife.
One day, he found himself infuriated with the situation England had left the country and its soldiers in, and decided that he was moving his family to Australia. At the time, however, Australia had closed its doors to British immigrants due to the sheer number of people who had already moved, so they went to Canada instead.
“As far as I was concerned, England let me down – they let a lot of the troops down,” he said. “So we immigrated to Canada – myself, my young wife, two babies, and a thousand dollars. That was the second good move in my life. The first, was marrying my wife.”
After moving to Canada, things began to go uphill. He started a business in Bolton, Reg Beer Coachbuilders, where he focused on the restoration of classic cars. The business grew greatly, as he added new business partners and found himself restoring cars for very well-off people in the area, including Conrad Black.
Cars he has worked on are featured in private collections, in museums such as the Reynolds Museum in Alberta, and one even ended up in the hands of Jay Leno, who purchased the restored vehicle from a client of Mr. Beer’s in Windsor.
“I’ve been very successful, and I’ve become very well known,” he said. “We’ve passed over the business to our two sons. They’ve got their own houses and all their own toys, so the trade has been good to the whole family.”
It was because of his business that Mr. Beer was able to acquire the Rolls-Royce, which he purchased for $11,000 in the late 1960’s.
“It came out in 1960, and to me it was the most beautiful car,” he said. “I would never be able to afford one I thought. It so happened that it got within my range, and I was in the business. If I hadn’t been in the business, I wouldn’t have bought one I don’t think.”
An associate he was in business with in the States knew Mr. Beer had been looking for a Silver Cloud, and phoned him to say he had found one in Minneapolis. It was an estate deal, including two Rolls-Royces. The owner had purchased one for himself and one for his wife, but passed away shortly after. His wife put the cars on blocks, and when she passed away, their sons put the estate up for sale.
Over the years, he has both restored the antique vehicle, as well as made modifications to improve the luxury quality of the vehicle. The Rolls-Royce now boasts power windows, power breaks, power steering, as well as a cocktail cabinet in the back and a picnic table that folds out from the trunk.
“It has everything but a toilet,” Mr. Beer added jokingly.
Though Mr. Beer is no longer able to drive the car himself, as he is legally blind, the Lord Dufferin Centre allows him to park the car out front, and a driver comes to take him around when he wants to go out. And while he may not show or rent the car, he does use it to take two different Lord Dufferin residents and a worker to the Black Birch restaurant in Hockley every weekend while the car is out.
“This summer I was able to take ten to fifteen people,” he said. “I’ve been told they are already getting a list together for next summer.”
This past year, the car has received a lot of attention, by locals, the residents, and even the media. Mr. Beer and the Silver Cloud were featured recently in a piece by Rogers Cable during a segment called Having a Seniors Moment.
Mr. Beer explained that he finds the increased attention towards the car slightly amusing. When he first purchased the car, no-one paid much attention as it was considered a rich man’s car.
“Now, it’s an antique, like the owner. But they don’t look at me as much as they look at the car,” he said jokingly, laughing as he added “we’re both antiques, I don’t know what the trouble with this world is.”
Written by Tabitha Venasse