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.
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.
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.
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.
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 !