Dave Basham South­ern star

In the long list of great South Aus­tralian rid­ers, few are as leg­endary as Dave Basham, a man who could, and did ride any­thing in a long and highly suc­cess­ful ca­reer. Some­one who could never be de­scribed as a shrink­ing vi­o­let, Dave speaks his mind, and on

Old Bike Australasia - - CONTENTS - Story Jim Scaysbrook Pho­tos Graeme Lon­g­ley, Basham ar­chives.

Born on 5th May 1942, Dave left school at 14 to take an ap­pren­tice­ship as a mo­tor­cy­cle me­chanic at J.N. Tay­lor, the South Aus­tralian BSA agents based in Ade­laide. He loved be­ing around mo­tor­cy­cles but it was rac­ing that re­ally had his at­ten­tion. “I was as keen as mus­tard so I joined the Atu­jara club and built up a rigid frame 500 B33 BSA,” says Dave. “I had ac­cess to stuff from Tay­lor’s and in those days you could pick up a whole bike for five quid. You’d see one lean­ing at the side of a house and knock on the door and of­fer a few quid and they’d say, ‘take it away’. I got a spe­cial li­cence at 15 that al­lowed me to ride in scram­bles and ob­served tri­als and had my first race be­fore my six­teenth birth­day. This was on the B33 at a scram­ble at Port Pirie, and I drove up there with Jim Sil­vey and Gra­ham Bur­ford, who both worked at Tay­lor’s and were both very good rid­ers. It was quite ed­u­ca­tional for me learn­ing from those two.” The 500 BSA was soon joined by a 350 B31 which did duty as road trans­port and was also used for scram­bles and also on the big ovals like the mile track at Port Pirie. That track was even­tu­ally short­ened to half a mile and Dave rode there for more than 20 years. As he gained ex­pe­ri­ence he be­gan to en­joy suc­cess in some of the ma­jor meet­ings such as the pres­ti­gious Lau­rie Boul­ter memo­rial Scram­ble, which he even­tu­ally claimed on seven sep­a­rate oc­ca­sions. The first of those wins came on the 350 BSA, now in a swing­ing arm frame, which oblig­ingly ran out of fuel vir­tu­ally as he crossed the fin­ish line. In 1960, he won the gru­elling South Aus­tralian Grand Na­tional on his 500 BSA, where only 6 of the orig­i­nal 60 starters fin­ished the 50-lap event which was run in non-stop rain. The fol­low­ing year he rode a Ban­tam BSA to win the South Aus­tralian Scram­bles Cham­pi­onship at En­counter Bay, near Vic­tor Har­bor, and took out the state 350cc Short Cir­cuit ti­tle in 1962 on his BSA. By 1963 he reck­oned it was time to chance his arm over­seas, and set off for a sea­son in Eng­land, where Aus­tralian scram­bles rid­ers like Char­lie West, Ray

Fisher, Jack Pringle and Roy East were do­ing well. At this time, the new wave of 250 two-strokes were tak­ing over from the tra­di­tional big bangers, and Dave tried a Greeves and a Cot­ton be­fore de­cid­ing to buy one of the Manch­ester-made DOTs. Although it was a sea­son with­out ma­jor suc­cess (apart from meet­ing his fu­ture wife Babs), it nev­er­the­less honed his skills con­sid­er­ably, and at the end of the UK sea­son he shipped the DOT home to Ade­laide. The DOT was only raced once lo­cally be­fore he gained the at­ten­tion of Frank Gallery, who man­aged All Make Mo­tors in Ade­laide – the agents for Greeves mo­tor­cy­cles. Frank sup­plied a 250cc Greeves MDS which Dave rode for two years. This was the be­gin­ning of a long and suc­cess­ful part­ner­ship, and Dave had high hopes for the Aus­tralian Scram­bles Cham­pi­onships at St Leonards, near Devon­port in Tas­ma­nia. “The week be­fore we were due to go, the gear­box blew at a meet­ing at Snake Gully and that was that be­cause we had no spares. It was prob­a­bly just as well be­cause the meet­ing in Tassie was a quag­mire, and was al­most washed out. I rode the MDS Greeves for about two years and then the new Greeves Chal­lenger came out, but I was stuck with the old one. We played around with ex­pan­sion cham­bers and dif­fer­ent port­ing but the Challenger­s were a leap ahead.” Dave gained an ex­tra start when he was of­fered one of the very few 350cc ESO scram­blers to come to Aus­tralia, owned by Dave Wil­liams who op­er­ated a wreck­ing busi­ness in Ade­laide. Soon he had a 500cc ESO as well, owned by Jack Parker. “I quite en­joyed rid­ing the ESOs, although they were pretty ba­sic. They didn’t even come with an air fil­ter, which I only dis­cov­ered when I took the side cov­ers off to clean it! One prob­lem was the clutch, which had cork in­serts and would start to grab if you held it in gear. I burnt the clutch out on the start­ing line the first time I rode the 500. Later on we got a Metisse frame kit built by Peter Hey­wood and put the 500 ESO en­gine in it, but I couldn’t get on with it. A lot of peo­ple had suc­cess on Metisses but it just didn’t suit me, I pre­ferred the orig­i­nal ESO, even if it was heavy.” Dave’s most suc­cess­ful out­ing yet came in Septem­ber 1965 at the SA Scram­ble Cham­pi­onships at Back­strom Sand­pits, where he won the 125, 500 and Un­lim­ited ti­tles. Aboard the 250cc Greeves, he took out the 1967 SA ti­tle in Septem­ber at Ble­witt Springs. But the four strokes were on the way out, and Jack Parker traded the 500 ESO on a new 360cc Greeves, giv­ing Dave a re­ally com­pet­i­tive ride in the 500cc class, and he used it to good ef­fect by again tak­ing out the Lau­rie Boul­ter Memo­rial at Port Noar­lunga. Later in the year at Snake Gully, he took the 250, 500 and Un­lim­ited SA Scram­bles Cham­pi­onships.

As well as his off-road ac­tiv­i­ties, Dave dab­bled in road rac­ing dur­ing the ‘fifties and ‘six­ties. “The first road race I did was in June 1958 on my 500 BSA at Port Wake­field. I had to wait un­til I turned 16, which was in May, be­cause you had to hold a road li­cence to be able to road race, which in those days meant just one track in South Aus­tralia.” He later rode a spe­cial short-stroke 250cc BSA owned and built by Les Jesser, who also pro­vided an A10 BSA that had been stroked back to 500cc and which Dave man­aged to de­stroy af­ter it broke a con­rod. The tar out­ings were in­fre­quent un­til John Parker, Jack’s son, pro­vided a TD1C Yamaha, a bike Dave says, “Fin­ished me with road rac­ing.” It be­gan well enough, with two wins at Mal­lala, but over­all Dave did not en­joy the ex­pe­ri­ence. “I’d only rid­den the TD1C at shorter tracks like Mount Gam­bier and Mal­lala, but when we took it to Phillip Is­land it was com­pletely dif­fer­ent. The ex­haust pipes would vi­brate off, it would det­o­nate and rat­tle, and then flat out through the Hayshed Cor­ner, it seized a big end. I didn’t crash but it fright­ened the life out of me. The front drum brake used to get so hot that ev­ery­thing cracked in­side it, so John bought a dou­ble disc set up from Lys­ter in Eng­land. It would work, then not work – the prob­lem was that it didn’t have a bleed screw in the mas­ter cylin­der so you never knew what it was go­ing to do. The last time I rode it at Mal­lala it jammed on and locked the front wheel so I just gave it back to John. He put David Heinz on it and it locked up and spat him off.”

A short-lived but sig­nif­i­cant point in Dave’s ca­reer came in 1968 with the re­lease of the Yamaha DT1, the so-called Trail Bike that also proved it­self to be a very com­pet­i­tive mo­tocrosser. “The DT1 was one of the first that Pit­mans (SA Yamaha agents) got, and they spon­sored me on it with one of the fac­tory GYT kits. I took it to Bro­ken Hill where they had a com­bined scram­ble and Half Mile Speed­way meet­ing – the scram­bles track was in­side the oval. I won the 250cc scram­ble then came straight to the line with­out even shut­ting off the en­gine for the Half Mile. A cou­ple of blokes had to wire the brakes up be­cause you weren’t al­lowed brakes on the oval, and as soon as the pre­sen­ta­tions were over we drove back to Ade­laide for the races (SA Grand Prix) at Mal­lala.” With only a change of tyres and gear­ing, Dave fronted on the DT1 against the es­tab­lished tar stars, win­ning the 350cc GP as well as the Un­lim­ited B Grade. It was quite a suc­cess­ful week­end, and one that opened many peo­ple’s eyes to the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the DT1. Af­ter a decade of dom­i­nance in his home state, Dave jour­neyed to West­ern Aus­tralia in Oc­to­ber 1968 to con­test the Aus­tralian Scram­bles Cham­pi­onships,

held on the site of a dis­used coal mine at Col­lie. While Bob Voumard won the 250 ti­tle on the ex-Basham Yamaha DT1, Dave took his 360 Greeves to the 500cc win, de­feat­ing Ray Fisher an his all­con­quer­ing Match­less Metisse. It was the first of four na­tional ti­tles he would even­tu­ally claim. It could eas­ily have been a dou­ble ti­tle, be­cause while well in the lead in the Un­lim­ited race, the rear chain fell off. An­other dou­ble 500/Un­lim­ited SA Scram­bles ti­tle haul came for Dave and his 360 Greeves in 1969, and the form con­tin­ued with the ar­rival of the new 380 Greeves Grif­fon, on which he again won the Boul­ter Memo­rial in 1970. Mike Groom and his 400 Husq­varna were now be­com­ing a se­ri­ous ri­val for Basham’s dom­i­nance, but at the state ti­tles held in Septem­ber 1970, it was Basham who once again claimed the 500 win. One year ear­lier, Dave and Don South­cott, who had worked to­gether back in the J.N. Tay­lor days, de­cided to go into busi­ness to­gether, open­ing a mo­tor­cy­cle deal­er­ship in the city which they soon out­grew. A move out of the CBD to new premises on South Road with a Yamaha deal­er­ship saw the busi­ness grow rapidly, with Don han­dling sales and Dave in charge of the work­shop. For the 1971 sea­son, he switched mar­ques to CZ, sup­plied by lo­cal dis­trib­u­tors Frasers. It was a happy mar­riage, net­ting both 250 and 500 SA ti­tles in Septem­ber at Port Pirie. Two months later he took the 380 CZ to the South Aus­tralian Short Cir­cuit Cham­pi­onships at St Kilda, where he sen­sa­tion­ally downed NSW star Bill McDon­ald’s Hagon JAP to win the Un­lim­ited. For 1971, the Aus­tralian Scram­bles Cham­pi­onships were al­lo­cated to South Aus­tralia and held at Claren­don. As well as the top lo­cals, the meet­ing at­tracted the tour­ing ‘in­ter­na­tion­als’ – the English Owen broth­ers Randy and Row­ley, Scots­man Jim Aird, and Kiwi Ivan Miller, but Dave first claimed the 125 ti­tle on his small­est CZ, then stepped straight onto his 250 CZ to win that class as well. Around this time, Dave lent his name to a ven­ture to es­tab­lish a mo­tocross venue at the Sil­ver Lake recre­ational area at My­lor in the Ade­laide hills. The fa­cil­ity was called Basham Park and hosted sev­eral suc­cess­ful meet­ings un­til pres­sure from res­i­dents forced its clo­sure. “A group of en­trepreneur­s who owned busi­nesses such as the Chicken Chef chain were all keen mo­tocross rid­ers and they built a track at Sil­ver Lake. But the lo­cal ‘week­end farm­ers’ didn’t like the noise and started a cam­paign to get rid of it. Don South­cott had got in­volved with a pro­moter called Lin­den Prowse to run an In­ter­na­tional Moto Cross Se­ries in 1972 and they had a round al­lo­cated to Basham Park. It nearly didn’t hap­pen but they fi­nally got dis­pen­sa­tion from the lo­cal coun­cil to al­low the meet­ing to go ahead in De­cem­ber 1972, and ba­si­cally shut the place af­ter that.” Seem­ingly im­prov­ing with age, he won all four classes from 125 to Un­lim­ited in the 1972 SA Scram­bles ti­tles, and fin­ished third in the 250cc Aus­tralian Cham­pi­onship at Wal­lan, Vic­to­ria. The 1973 Na­tional Cham­pi­onships were held in NSW, at Fos­ter Park, a new venue at Mul­bring near New­cas­tle, which drew a mas­sive crowd. In the Un­lim­ited Cham­pi­onship, held over 20 laps of the rugged 2 kilo­me­tre cir­cuit, Basham and his CZ with­stood all chal­lenges to win af­ter 50 min­utes of rac­ing. But the CZs were now out­gunned by the lat­est Ja­panese ma­chines, as well as the Husq­var­nas and Maicos, and Dave reck­oned it was time to change mar­ques again for 1974. He signed with Pit­mans to ride Yama­has, re­ward­ing them with a triple 250, 500, Un­lim­ited haul at the SA ti­tles at Cole­man Park in Septem­ber. It wasn’t all smooth sail­ing how­ever.

“I just couldn’t stay on the YZ360A. Af­ter so long on CZs it needed a to­tally dif­fer­ent ap­proach.

I changed the rear shocks for Gir­lings and that helped a bit, then along came the new can­tilever 360 Yamaha and I got one of those. The first time out the sin­gle rear shock blew and it took a while to fix that be­cause there were no parts and no one knew how to fix it. I couldn’t get on with the 360 mo­tor ei­ther. Then came the MX400B Yamaha, which had a huge fly­wheel and I couldn’t slow it down. It was like rid­ing a bike with the throt­tle stuck open. The next model, the yel­low 400 with the air forks, was no bet­ter; the frames cracked, as did the swing­ing arm, and the sus­pen­sion was pretty crook.” De­cid­ing to make his own way, Dave quit Yamaha and be­gan rid­ing and pre­par­ing his own Yamaha. “Be­fore Kawasaki came out with their Uni Track rear sus­pen­sion, I con­verted one to a sin­gle shock rear end, but I had the lever ra­tio the wrong way, so the sus­pen­sion got softer in­stead of harder as it com­pressed. Even­tu­ally I made my own frame.” Break­ing with mo­tocross, Dave dis­cov­ered the world of His­toric Road Rac­ing, and true to form, de­cided he could build com­pet­i­tive ma­chin­ery him­self. Also true to form, he chose to go an un­con­ven­tional route, us­ing a highly mod­i­fied V-twin JAP

en­gine in a Nor­ton Wide­line Featherbed frame. This en­gine was sold and re­placed with an even more rad­i­cal unit, still JAP-based but with Dave’s own heads and cams, among other things, in­clud­ing his own 1 1/2” GP car­bu­ret­tors. By the early ‘nineties, Dave and Bab’s son Antony (known as Snoop) was in the sad­dle, par­tic­u­larly af­ter Dave suf­fered a heart at­tack while test­ing the 500cc sin­gle cylin­der JAP/Nor­ton at Ade­laide In­ter­na­tional Race­way. As well as South Aus­tralian races, fa­ther and son jour­neyed in­ter­state for each year’s Aus­tralian His­toric Road Rac­ing Cham­pi­onships and to the an­nual Phillip Is­land Clas­sic. In 1996 ‘Snoop’ con­vinc­ingly won the 500cc P3 Cham­pi­onship at Mal­lala on the JAP. A stroke in 2015 re­ally put the brakes on Dave’s en­ergy, but de­spite par­tial face paral­y­sis, he has re­cov­ered suf­fi­ciently to re­sume tin­ker­ing in his home work­shop. There are now sev­eral projects in var­i­ous stages of com­ple­tion, among them an­other 500cc JAP, a G45 Match­less, both with replica Mac­in­tyre frames, plus a V-twin JAP speed­way out­fit. You can’t keep a good man down.

LEFT Head­ing for his first Aus­tralian ti­tle; the 1968 500cc at Col­lie, WA. RIGHT Early days with a BSA. A sea­son’s haul with the MDS Greeves. The DOT, freshly un­packed from the UK trip. Prior to leav­ing for UK, Dave with his 500 BSA.

On Jack Parker’s 500 ESO. Trail­ing a foot at Port Wake­field on a Greeves Sil­ver­stone.

Dave (sec­ond left in front row) af­ter the 1965 In­ter­state Chal­lenge at Snake Gully.

Head­ing for the SA 350 GP win at Mal­lala on the DT1 Yamaha. Win­ning the 1968 SA 350 TT at McNa­mara Park, Mt. Gam­bier. On the 360 Greeves in 1969. ABOVE With Jim Dowsett and Bob Voumard af­ter the 1968 SA Cham­pi­onships. BE­LOW Slip-slidin’ away on the 250 Greeves.

En­joy­ing a spin on a BSA Rocket 3 at Mal­lala 1969. Short Cir­cuit ac­tion at St Kilda on a slider-frame CZ. Test­ing the YZ360A. “Not my favourite”. Dave and the 400CZ were a for­mi­da­ble com­bi­na­tion. The last Greeves; 380cc Grif­fon.

Lead­ing the pack on the 400CZ.

Dave with the Mac­in­tyre-framed JAP clas­sic racer he built.

Basham Mo­tor­cy­cles on South Road.

Work­shop projects from left: V-twin JAP Speed­way out­fit, G45 Match­less and 500 JAP.

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