Winston Cup Museum honors local legend Zach Reynolds with its newest exhibit.
- By Tom Gillispie
- Feb 27, 2017
When Will Spencer decided to go looking for motorcycles that once belonged to the late Zach Reynolds, he told his wife he was going on a “grownup Easter egg hunt.”
Now, it appears as if Spencer’s egg hunt has been successful. He’s found a handful of Reynolds’ old motorcycles and automobiles, and he’s currently displaying them at Winston Cup Museum in downtown.
So just who was Zach Reynolds, and why is Winston Cup Museum devoting an entire exhibit to him?
As Spencer tells it, Zachary Taylor “Zach” Reynolds was the grandson of R.J Reynolds and the son of Dick and Elizabeth “Blitz” Reynolds. As heir to the RJR Tobacco fortune, Zach mostly enjoyed a life of luxury and prestige—yet he also had a need for speed and danger. His possessions included airplanes and guns as well as motorcycles and sports cars. He would also regularly pilot planes in the local air show at Smith Reynolds Airport (which is named after his uncle, the late Z. Smith Reynolds).
As an avid drag racer and stunt pilot, Zach developed a reputation as a daredevil around Winston-Salem. Spencer recalls one story that places the 18-year-old Reynolds at Merry Acres (a Reynolds family estate). He was racing his bike up the driveway at full speed when he realized the brakes didn’t work. Unable to stop, he aimed his bike for the porch steps, crashed through the glass entry door, and landed in the home’s foyer. Amazingly, he walked away unscathed.
‘A Kid at Heart’
Spencer was around 4 years old when he first met Zach Reynolds (fittingly enough, at an annual Easter egg hunt he held at his home). Over the years, Spencer would grow to admire and befriend Reynolds, who became a Peter Pan figure of sorts to kids in the Buena Vista neighborhood.
Reynolds eventually hired Spencer to help detail his vehicles, paying him $2 to wash a car and $1 to wash a motorcycle. “He had about 18 cars and 50 motorcycles…and about 18 or 19 of the motorcycles had been ‘Zachified’ (customized). He built a lot of the motorcycles he raced by hand.”
Tragically, an airplane crash would end Reynolds’ life in 1979 at age 41, leaving Spencer and his close circle of friends in a complete state of shock.
“He was always a kid at heart,” Spencer says. “I always say that when I was 10, Zach was 14. And when I was 19, Zach was still 14 [in spirit].”
“We all had great respect for him, though” he adds. “He was a good guy all way around; you’d never know he had a dollar.”
That is, except for all his motorcycles, cars, airplanes, and other toys.
Many of those toys are now on display at Winston Cup Museum, including a ’65 Plymouth Belvedere that Spencer found on eBay and an H1 Kawasaki that he bought at auction for $1,200. There’s also a ’73 Honda that Zach raced at the prestigious International Isle of Man TT (Tourist Trophy) Race in Europe. Spencer found the majority of items by scouring different motorcycle blogs on the internet, a process that took nearly 10 years to complete. There are currently nine of Reynolds’ motorcycles on display at Winston Cup Museum, which Spencer has owned since 2006. Some of the bikes are in their original state, and some were restored at Spencer’s JKS Motorsports shop in Welcome.
So why did Spencer spend so much time and energy collecting Reynolds’ toys to display? Probably the same reason he searched out the Winston Cup cars and other memorabilia displayed in the museum: It meant something to him, and he wanted others to see and learn about them.
“Zach was a good friend,” he says. “He was down to earth, and he’d do anything in the world for you. This exhibit is my way of keeping his spirit alive.”
WANT TO GO?
- What: Zach Reynolds exhibition
- Where: Winston Cup Museum, 1355 N. MLK Jr. Drive
- When: The exhibit is on display until June 10 during normal museum hours (Thu–Sat: 10 a.m.–5 p.m.)
- More info: Museum admission is $8. For details, call 336-724-4557 or go to winstoncupmuseum.com.
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