Tag Archives: BABS

Blue Bird & Pandora – Pendine Sands

Anyone passing through Pendine in Camarthenshire might miss the relevance to the checkered flags on the head board of Sunbeam Dinner.

Sunbeam Diner, Pendine Sands

However if they were to turn left before the Dinner and go through to the small beach car park like the couple in the 1909 Alldays below …

Alldays, Pendine Sands

… they might notice the Museum of Speed, entry just £2.00 when BABS below is resident and free when she is not.

BABS, Museum of Speed, Pendine, Carmarthenshire

Regular readers may remember JG Parry-Thomas became the first man of land to travel at over 170mph when he set a new land speed record aboard BABS on the 7 mile beach at Pendine in April 1926.

Darracq 1.9 Twin, Pendine Sands

On July 21st this 1904 Darracq, builders of the first car to travel two miles in less than a minute, 1.9 Twin and all the other vehicles featured in today’s post gathered to celebrate the 90th Anniversary of the previous land speed record of 150.87 mph by Malcolm Campbell.

Sunbeam 3 litre, Pendine Sands

Like the 350hp Blue Bird Campbell drove in 1925 the 1930 3 litre heavy sports car above was made by Sunbeam.

Chrysler Prowler, Pendine Sands

Sunbeam merged with Automobiles Darracq S.A. in 1920 to become Sunbeam Talbot Darracq shortly after Automobiles Darracq S.A. had themselves bought Clément-Talbot to sell Talbot Darracqs. In 1935 the triumvirate went into receivership only to be rescued by the Rootes Group owners of Hillman and Humber who created the new Sunbeam Talbot brand in 1938. Rootes sold a 30% stake to Chrysler who were attempting to establish a presence in Europe in 1964 which gives us a tenuous link to the 2002 Chrylser Prowler seen above.

Gilbern Invader Mk II, Pendine Sands

Adding another touch of local flavor in the car park was the 1971 Gilbern Invader built in nearby Pontypridd.

Blue Bird Sunbeam 350hp, Don Wales, Pendine Sands

Above Sir Malcom Campbells Grandson Don Wales, a World Land Speed Record holder for steam powered vehicles, drives his Grandfathers Blue Bird which was built in 1920 when the car was known as the Sunbeam V12. After several unsuccessful attempts at claiming the Land Speed Record Malcolm Campbell bought the car, which now belongs to the National Motor Museum, in 1924 and turned it into a record breaker.

Napier Railton, Alan Winn, Pendine Sands

Also being demonstrated at Pendine was John Cobb’s Napier Railton seen above driven by the Brooklands Museum’s Director & CEO, Allan Winn. In 1950 the Napier Railton was given a new nose and windscreen and called Pandora for an appearance in the film Pandora and the Flying Dutchman staring Eva Gardener as Pandora, James Mason as the Flying Dutchman and Nigel Patrick as a would be land speed record breaker Stephen Cameron. It’s a lovely period flash back movie the trailer for which can be seen on this link, after Stephen pushed the Napier Railton off a cliff to prove his love to Pandora he rescues the car from the sea and restores it and sets an improbably high 200 mph plus record before the car catches fire and has to be driven into the sea to quench the flames. The scenes of the fictional record breaking were filmed at Pendine apparently with Dylan Thomas among the extra’s.

 Jaguar XF Portfolio Sportbrake D, Pendine Sands

Finally this Jaguar XF Portfolio Sportbrake D in the car park was a reminder that Bristol’s own SSC Bloodhound team are making preparations on their own Supersonic World Land Speed Record attempt in South Africa in the not too distant future.

Thanks for joining me on this “Blue Bird & Pandora” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow when I’ll be making the first of three visits to Hillsborough Concours d’Elegance. Don’t forget to come back now !


Atgyfodwr Babs – BABS.

Count Louis Vorow Zborowski, the son of pioneer amateur racing driver Count de Montsaulvain who was killed on the La Turbie hill climb in 1903, became one of the richest teenagers in the world upon the death of his mother in 1911.

By 1921 he started building the first of a series of four gargantuan aero engined vehicles for competition at Brooklands.

Today’s featured car started life as the Count’s final project ‘Chitty 4’ perhaps slightly better known as the Higham Special which appeared at Brooklands in 1923.

BABS, Goodwood Festival of Speed,

With it’s with it’s 450hp 27 litre / 1647 cui V12 motor the Higham Special was and still is one of the largest piston powered vehicles ever to have been driven on a closed circuit.

The chassis proved to be too puny for the motor and could not be developed into a competitive proposition by the time Count Zborowski was killed, aged just 29, after hitting a tree in his Mercedes during the 1924 Italian Grand Prix.

The Higham Special was acquired by former Chief Leyland engineer John Godfrey Parry-Thomas, who gave up his career at Leyland to found his own engineering company and to pursue speed, for £125 from the Zbrowski estate in 1925.

BABS, Goodwood Festival of Speed,

Welshman JG Parry-Thomas modified the Liberty motor, fitting 4 carburetors and piston’s of his own design but neither he nor future World Land Speed Record holder John Cobb had any success at Brooklands.

However when JG focused his attention on setting World Land Speed Records on the Pendine Sands in North Wales, where Malcolm Campbell had become the first person to exceed 150 mph in 1924, the Higham Special which he renamed BABS started to find it’s legs.

On 28 April 1926, JG drove BABS to a new flying 1 mile World Land Speed Record with an average over two runs in opposite directions of 171.02 mph / 273.6 km/h.

BABS, Goodwood Festival of Speed,

In February 1927 Malcom Campbell returned to Pendine with the first Bluebird powered by a W12 Napier Lion motor and raised the Land Speed Record to over 174 mph.

Nearly a month later on March 3rd 1927 while attempting to regain the World Land Speed Record on the Pendine Sands BABS rolled, it is now believed due to a collapsed wheel, and JG became the first man to die while making a World Land Speed Record attempt.

Following the inquest into JG Parry Thomas’s death, believed incorrectly at the time to have been the result of a snapped drive chain, BABS was buried in the Pendine Sands which later became a military firing range.

BABS, Goodwood Festival of Speed,

42 years later in 1969 Owen Wyn Owen an engineering lecturer at Caernarfonshire Technical College in Bangor managed to negotiate permission from the military and the descendants of the Parry Thomas family to excavate BABS, during the recovery the drive chain that was presumed to have snapped and caused the accident was found to be intact.

Owen Wyn Owen then spent the next 15 years restoring BABS, which can usually now be found at the Pendine Museum of Speed, back to running order, initially the only way to get the motor running was to tow BABS up to 60 mph behind a Land Rover and then bump start the motor !

In 1999 Owen Wyn Owen was awarded the Tom Pryce Trophy which was engraved with the legend in Welsh “Atgyfodwr Babs”, resurrector of Babs in English.

Thanks for joining me on this “Atgyfodwr Babs” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow for Maserati Monday. Don’t forget to come back now !