Tag Archives: Pendine Sands

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 !


150.87 mph / 242.80 kph – Sunbeam V12

These day’s if one had just £500 to spare it would probably not be too difficult to scan a few classified car ads and find a car that was still capable of reaching 150 mph.

Sunbeam V12, National Motor Museum, Beaulieu

When Sunbeam’s chief engineer and racing team manager Louis Coatalen conceived today’s featured Sunbeam V12 in 1920 the World Land Speed Record stood at 124.09mph / 199.70kph set by Lydston Hornsted driving a 200hp Benz at Brooklands in June 1914.

Sunbeam V12, National Motor Museum, Beaulieu

Louis’s idea was to fit a 350 hp 18.3 litre / 1116 cui V12 Sunbeam Manitou V12 aero engine in to a chassis and clad the vehicle in the most aerodynamically slippery shape that could be devised.

Sunbeam V12, National Motor Museum, Beaulieu

Harry Hawker was given the task of driving the Sunbeam V12 at two Brooklands race meetings in 1920, but the car suffered from damage after a tyre blew on the Whitsun Weekend and then could not start after the engine stalled in August, but René Thomas drove the car to a new 108 mph course record on the Gaillon Hill Climb in France.

Sunbeam V12, Doug Hill, Goodwood Festival of Speed

In 1921 Kenelm Lee Guinness drove the car at Brooklands recording a top speed of 140 mph and an average lap speed of 116 mph at the Autumn meeting, the following year Kenelm set a one way flying kilometer record of 133 mph, but this was never recognised as a World Land Speed record for which the speed is determined by the average of two runs in opposite directions.

Sunbeam V12, National Motor Museum, Beaulieu

Malcolm Campbell borrowed the Sunbeam V12 to compete in the 1923 Saltburn Speed Trials and recorded a one way run of 138 mph which was enough to convince him that he should purchase the car for further Land Speed Record attempts in 1924.

Sunbeam V12, National Motor Museum, Beaulieu

After Ernest Eldridge raised the official Land Speed Record to just over 145 mph aboard the FIAT Mephistopheles, a vehicle I shall be looking at next week, in June 1924 at in Arpajon in France, Malcolm took his now blue and silver, previously green and silver, Sunbeam to the Pendine Sands in September 1924 and recorded a two way average speed of just over 146 mph for his and the Sunbeams first World Land Speed Record.

In July 1925 the combination returned to Pendine Sands and raised the World Land Speed Record to 150.87 mph / 242.80 kph a record that stood for just under a year when a car that I shall be looking at in two weeks took the record up to 170 mph.

Thanks for joining me on this “150.87 mph / 242.80 kph” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again for Maserati Monday tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !