Obituary : Ray Bates 1930-2023

Ray Bates

Ray Bates, the former Triumph Engineer and driving force behind the development and launch of the Austin Metro, has died. He will be remembered as the man who told Harold Musgrove that there wasn’t the manpower to produce the Maestro and Metro concurrently.

Ray began his automotive career as a Triumph Engineer. He went to Longbridge in 1969 as Technical Manager for Harry Webster from Standard-Triumph when Lord Stokes sent Harry Webster there after the formation of BL.

Ray Bates recalled at the time: ‘Stokes said he moved Harry Webster to Longbridge to try to get some of the Triumph flair into Austin design… Mind you, most of the flair had come from Michelotti.’

Ray Bates

Ray loyally worked his way up the ladder throughout the 1970s, working on the Allegro amongst other projects, and ended up heading up Austin-Morris Engineering. His highest profile job for the firm was when he was given responsibility for delivering Metro to production – he is pictured above with the Duke of Edinburgh at a the Duke of Edinburgh’s Designer awards ceremony in May 1981.

The Duke presented the prize to Ray Bates, Mark Snowdon, director of business and product planning, and David Bache. The prize was worth £500.

A result of his intervention in the Maestro’s development, and it being paused in favour of the Metro’s, was the merger of Austin-Morris and Rover-Triumph Engineering and the appointment of Joe Farnham from Rover-Triumph to run the new Austin Rover operation in 1982.

Former engineering colleague Jim MacKay said: ‘Ray was a wonderful man to work for, a talented Engineer. He was hands on with us, out trying cars with us late at night and fighting our corner for resources from senior management. He knew how to inspire us to rise to the challenges.’

Engineering colleague John Turner added: ‘Both Ray and Charlie Griffin would always be around the workshops, would freely talk to Fitters and Engineers. They both would propose solutions which we could challenge. People orientated guys.’

He once told to the Metro development team that the one thing it couldn’t do was nail a jelly to the wall. John Turner arranged for a plaque to be made in the Carpenter’s Shop, procured a Rowntree’s Jelly and nailed it to the plaque with a 6in nail. This was annotated with the words ‘Small Car Development’ and hung on Ray’s office wall to greet him the next morning.

Ray passed away very peacefully in his sleep on Monday, 6 March 2023, aged very nearly 93.

Cold weather testing the ADO67 in Finland in January 1972. Looking on are senior engineers Ray Bates and Tom Penny.
Cold weather testing the Austin Allegro in Finland in January 1972. Looking on are Senior Engineers Ray Bates (centre) and Tom Penny
Keith Adams

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