87 years ago today, J.G Parry-Thomas was killed attempting to take back the land speed record wrestled away from him just weeks earlier by the famous Malcolm Campbell. Pendine Sands was the location of this event and it was to play a big part in the story of the machine dubbed 'Babs' for many years to come, unbeknownst to its pilot.
Parry-Thomas first achieved a new world record for land speed in April of 1926, smashing the existing record by around 20mph as he set a new time of 171mph. When I think about it, the fastest I have ever been zooming along in a cosy, safe and well designed modern car is a mere 135mph. So imagine then travelling 171mph in a primitive car powered by a twelve cylinder aeroplane engine... on a damp beach. It must have required gargantuan levels of manliness to do such a thing.
That 'primitive car' was named 'Babs' by Parry-Thomas when he purchased the undeveloped car for the sum of £125 (around £3,800 in 2005's currency) in 1924. That beastly V12 had a capacity of 27l and was said to develop around 450bhp. To the average person in 1926, 450bhp must have been an absolutely astonishing figure. Parry-Thomas re-engineered some carburetors and pistons, and then went out to Pendine Sands and smashed the world land speed record with it in April '26.
When his rival and the more famous Malcolm Campbell beat Parry-Thomas's record in February of 1927 by a tiny 3mph, Parry-Thomas decided to go out once again to try and reclaim his record on March 3rd 1927. Unfortunately, it was to be his final act. Parry-Thomas suffered a mechanical failure of some sort and the car flipped and rolled down the beach at around 100mph, he was killed in the accident.
Parry-Thomas was buried in Surrey, England, and in a somewhat symbolical move, 'Babs' was buried on Pendine Sands and it was there she remained until remarkably being dug up and restored over two decades by local engineer and lecturer Owen Wyn Owen. Amazingly the car was successfully restored despite remaining under the sand for decades. Now in running order, 'Babs' is now displayed in the Pendine Museum of Speed, just a short distance from where Parry-Thomas and his girl made their final, fatal record attempt.
It's here where I end this little write up, I wanted to make a nice short piece to spike some curiosity amongst my fellow members of Oppo. If you plan on driving quickly at any point today, before you turn the key stop and think for a moment about J.G Parry-Thomas. A stupendously brave man who was killed on this day pioneering the performance automobile. If you happen to pass Pendine Sands anytime, go and pay old 'Babs' a visit, and imagine her taking you to 171mph on a damp beach in chilly Wales. Incredible. I'll leave you now with a link to a far better written piece about the man, this event, and the characters and places in it.
The Website to check out if your curiosity has been spiked by my ramblings:
http://www.parry-thomas.co.uk/ - Owned by his family to the day. This covers just about everything you'll ever need to know about the story of J.G Parry-Thomas. Incredible website.