Parry Thomas was widely considered at the time as “The
Welsh Wizard of Brooklands”, he taking the
world speed record twice in 1926 in his Higham Special,
which he called "Babs". Tragically Thomas
would be killed during another attempt at Pendine
Sands in his native Wales in March 1927.
He had on
this car reverted to chain drive to the rear wheels,
long discontinued on other machines, and one of the
chains snapped at more than 2,000 rpm., tore through
the steel guard and Thomas was killed instantly.
The wreckage of his car was buried deep in the sands
of the beach and left there.
Thomas was chief engineer
at Leyland, the commercial vehicle builders, and
one of the great Brooklands figures. He was trying
to recapture the record from Sir Henry Segrave when
he was killed, after both Segrave and Sir Malcolm
Campbell had beaten Thomas' old figure.
made many changes to Babs in an effort to find a
few extra miles an hour. He was a man who drove himself
hard, and was suffering from 'flu when the Welsh
weather relented enough for him to make his last
Thomas' car was really a throwback to
the old idea of "the bigger the better" as
far as the power unit was concerned. Thomas purchased
the car from Count Louis Zborowski the giant Higham
Special, which had a V12 Liberty aero-engine of no
less than 26,907 cc., with a bore and stroke of 127
x 177 mm.
This outlandish machine had the aero engine
installed in a sorely-tried chassis, transmitting the
power through a gearbox from a 200 horse-power Benz
and chains to the rear wheels, an anachronism in 1926.
car had been driven at Brooklands by the Count, who
sold it to Thomas as a track racing car. Thomas made
certain changes which included a longer tail and a
different frontal aspect, and drove it at Brooklands,
lapping at 126 mph.
He was supposed to get somewhere
in the region of 500 horse-power from the Liberty
engine, and even sceptics began to believe this when
he put the record up to 169.30 mph at Pendine Sands,
which was 17 miles an hour faster than Segrave's
existing speed. It was even said that Thomas's engine
was miss-firing slightly! On his second attempt he
achieved 171.02 mph.