Basil Wales CEng – OB 1946-1952
Though brought up in Ford country, born in Shenfield and educated at Brentwood, Basil started his career as an apprentice with Morris Engines in Coventry and soon became involved with development of the MGA twin-cam engine which powered the MG EX-181 ‘Roaring Raindrop’ record breaking car driven by Stirling Moss. Though he missed out on the trip to Bonneville Salt Flats, his manager put him in the support crew on the 1957 Liege-Rome-Liege rally and this set the course for his career in the golden era of British motorsport.
RAF National Service intervened but Basil soon returned to what had become BMC, The British Motor Corporation, as their Sportscar Specialist. However, Basil will be most remembered by classic car enthusiasts for his role as Manager of the BMC Special Tuning Department between 1965 and 1974. The department was created to support private owners of BMC cars who wished to upgrade the performance of their cars for the fun of it or for serious competition. Alongside the BMC Works Competitions Department in Abingdon, Basil transformed Special Tuning into a highly profitable organisation that prepared countless vehicles for races and rallies across the world. A long and varied career followed in the multiple guises of British Leyland, Austin Rover and finally Rover in partnership with Honda.
In his retirement Basil was an active and enthusiastic car club member though his loyalties were divided between MGs and Mini Coopers. He was the proud owner of the 1966 Earls Court Motor Show MGB which was displayed on a rolling and rotating stand. When the car was retired it was left neglected at the Abingdon factory until Basil bought it for a song and rebuilt it to a roadworthy condition resplendent in the original motor show colour - a light metallic lilac created for the 1,000,000th Morris Minor - a colour that divides opinion to this day.
It was, however, Minis that won out and Basil threw himself into a huge number of activities related to the golden years of his career. Organising countless events for the fans of British classic cars, Basil demonstrated his unbridled enthusiasm and generosity in giving back to the people who continue to love the cars he loved.
The Goodwood Circuit Revival meetings could have been made just for Basil. He was in his element in the paddock in period white overalls. He took enormous pleasure in securing fast rides with drivers of his era such as Rauno Aaltonen and Paddy Hopkirk, drivers he was humbled to be able to count as friends.
Basil is survived by his wife Valerie, a daughter, a son and four grandchildren.