Having been made redundant at Mercedes-Benz Cheltenham and Gloucester, mechanic Ray Blackwell took up on the opportunity to fulfil his dream of working for himself and built up a successful garage business with a loyal customer base. Two years later, he sadly lost it all when he suffered a cardiac arrest in The Alps and a local hospital made a mistake that would change his life forever.
While on a trip with friends in 2011, Ray fell ill and was rushed into a local hospital where he was left without oxygen for ten minutes causing a hypoxic brain injury.
He fell into a comma and remained unconscious for two months before waking up not being able to see, move or talk.
His future looked bleak and Ray’s wife was forced to close his business, Ray Blackwell Vehicle Repairs in Stoke Orchard, Cheltenham.
Ray said: “I came out of my coma slowly, but was terrified as I didn’t know what had happened to me.
“I could not see, talk or move.”
However, despite the prognosis he learnt how to speak again and continues to make impressive steps forward.
“I’m just getting on with life – there’s no point in sitting around,” he told GW Views.
Today he’s enjoying the benefits of his new found TV fame after his wife, Jackie, secretly contacted the producers of Car SOS to share his story and to call on the help of Fuzz Townshend and his parts blagging friend, Tim Shaw to restore his beloved 1960’s Sunbeam Alpine.
“She [Jackie] knew the Sunbeam was special to me, so did not part with it.
“I had planned to restore the car myself in my retirement but that never came unfortunately.
“Jackie did lots of covering up, pretending to go to a spa day when she filmed a visit to Fuzz Townshend’s workshop.”
Ray was finally reunited with his car at Cheltenham Racecourse last year, where he was told he was there to help film a video at a car show for brain injury charity, Headway.
“After walking round the cars, Tim and Fuzz were sprung on me and then my car was revealed,” he explained.
“My family and friends were there, and I was in total shock.
“I could see the red of the Sunbeam, and it was very emotional, especially when Fuzz started the engine, and Tim passed me the keys.
“To a loud roar and clapping we drove off round the racecourse with the film crew, and it felt fantastic to be out of my wheelchair and in an adapted car.”
He and his wife have since been enjoying their time out on the road together with their dog, Mowgli.
Getting to know Ray
What’s the best car you’ve worked on?
Mercedes, I used to love working on them. Especially when you got to drive a Mercedes SL in the summer with the roof down. Mind you, I did in the winter too.
And the worst car?
Well I’ve always loved cars, all cars.
What’s the most useful garage tool you have used?
Now-a-days, you’d struggle to do anything without an up-to-date diagnostics unit.
What’s the most useless garage tool you have ever used?
I can’t think of any, I think all tools have a use for something.
What is the highlight of your career?
My highlight is test driving brand-new Mercedes, putting your foot down and thinking I haven’t got to pay for this petrol. Then there’s the opening of my own garage, of course.
What profession would you be in if you weren’t a vehicle technician?
Something in engineering maybe? But I got into mechanics as an apprentice and loved being around cars.
What is the biggest challenge the industry faces at the moment?
It’s always been keeping the customer happy and making sure they come back.