Babs (Land speed record car)

Babs was the land speed record car built and driven by John Parry-Thomas. It was powered by a 27-litre Liberty aero-engine

Babs began as 'Chitty 4', one of Count Louis Zborowski's series of aero-engined cars named 'Chitty Bang Bang'. As it was built at Zborowski's estate of Higham Park near Canterbury, it was also known as the Higham Special. Using a V12 Liberty aero engine of 27 litres capacity, with a gearbox and chain-drive from a pre-war Blitzen Benz, it was the largest capacity racing car ever to run at Brooklands. Still not fully developed by the time of Zborowski's death in 1924, it was purchased from his estate by J.G. Parry-Thomas for the sum of £125.

Parry-Thomas rechristened the car Babs and rebuilt it with four Zenith carburettors and his own design of pistons. In April 1926, Parry-Thomas used the car to win the land speed record at 171.02 mph (273.6 km/h).

Babs, used exposed chains to connect the engine to the drive wheels while the high engine cover required him to drive with his head tilted to one side – the right. During a later record attempt at Pendine Sands, Wales on 3 March, 1927, the right-hand drive chain broke at a speed of 170 mph, partially decapitating him. Babs was buried where it landed, on the beach at Pendine.

There is still controversy as to whether Parry-Thomas was literally decapitated, and whether the drive chain was responsible for it.

After 40 years, the car was excavated and restored to running order over several years by Owen Wyn Owen. Today it is on display at the Pendine Museum of Speed.


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