Speed-record car Babs, Pendine

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Speed-record car Babs, Museum of Speed, Pendine

The centrepiece of the Museum of Speed is Babs, a unique car which was driven at high speeds on Pendine Sands in the 1920s.

Engineer and professionaPhoto of speed record holder racing car called Babsl racing driver John Godfrey Parry-Thomas, born in Wrexham, named the car Babs after he bought it from the estate of Count Louis Zborowski. Count Louis’ father was a Polish count who died in a motor racing accident, his mother an American heiress. Count Louis died when his car crashed while taking part in the Italian Grand Prix in 1924.

Babs had a large engine, designed for aircraft, with a 27,059 cc capacity. The final drive from gearbox to wheels was by chain. Mr Parry-Thomas made numerous modifications before his first attempt at the record at Pendine in 1925. In April 1926 he captured the record when Babs reached 272.5kph (169.3mph). His attempt to break the world land-speed record in March 1927 ended in tragedy when the car overturned, killing him instantly. The car’s twisted and burned wreckage was buried at the beach.

In 1969 Babs was exhumed at the instigation of Owen Wyn-Owen, a lecturer in engineering in Bangor. He restored the car to its original appearance and working order.

The Museum of Speed tells the story of world-record attempts and races at Pendine Sands. Other exhibits include powerful motorbikes from the early to mid 20th century. Among them is a streamlined OEC-Temple bike used by Bob Berry, who maintained his record-attempt bikes at the garage which is now the Tin Shed museum in Laugharne.

The Museum of Speed, opened in 1996, was funded by the European Union, Carmarthen District Council and Pendine Community Council. It is now operated by Carmarthenshire County Council.

Where is this HiPoint?

Postcode: SA33 4NY

Website of Museum of Speed

Website about JG Parry-Thomas

FOOTNOTES: JG Parry-Thomas chronology

  • 1884 - John Godfrey Parry-Thomas was born in Wrexham in April. His father was vicar of Rhosddu
  • 1889 - family moved to Oswestry, Shropshire
  • 1902 - John studied electrical engineering at City & Guilds Engineering College, London
  • 1910 - filed his first patent, for a new kind of electrical transmission (link between engine and wheels). Manufacturer Leyland installed the transmission in road and rail vehicles
  • 1913 - while living at Holywell vicarage, Flintshire, patented a winding mechanism for cranes and other devices which would store excess power when idle using batteries or a flywheel
  • 1914 - patented a self-propelled rail car with floors sloping down either side of an underfloor engine, with a central driver’s cab using windows above the roof
  • 1914-18 - advised the government on wartime engineering matters and became chief engineer, Leyland Motors
  • 1917 - began to design the Leyland Eight car, intended to compete with Rolls-Royce
  • 1922 - began motor racing, using a Leyland Eight, then left his job to become a full-time racing driver, living at the Brooklands circuit
  • 1924-5 - acquired and modified a large racing car from the estate of the late Count Louis Zborowski
  • 1925 - used the car, which he called Babs, in an attempt on the land speed record at Pendine Sands in October, but was thwarted by poor weather
  • 1926 - broke the world land speed record at Pendine with Babs in April, then broke the record another 11 times in the same year
  • 1927 - died on 3 March when Babs crashed at Pendine. Buried at St Mary’s churchyard, Byfleet, Surrey
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