Babs is back on show at the Museum of Speed, Pendine, along with the famous Bowden Motor Cycle

June 29, 2009

BABS the famous car driven in a world land speed record-breaking attempt 80 years ago is returning again to the site of her glory and her downfall.

The vehicle steered by John Parry Thomas during a fatal crash in 1927 will return to Pendine Beach for her annual summer visit.

The racing car is on show in the Museum of Speed, which overlooks Pendine’s magnificent beach.

Babs will be on display throughout the summer months. Many visitors will already be familiar with the car’s distinctive blue and white paintwork from its appearance in an edition of BBC’s programme “Coast”.

Babs is a Higham Special, which was adapted by the land-speed hopeful John Godfrey Thomas for his first attempt at the record in 1926.

Parry Thomas broke the land-speed record driving Babs in April of the same year on Pendine sands.

The record was broken again at Pendine, in February 1927 by Malcolm Campbell, who achieved 174.883 mph.

However, Parry Thomas’s subsequent attempt on March 3, 1927, ended in disaster. Towards the end of the measured mile, Babs skidded and rolled over. The crash killed Parry Thomas.

The tragedy marked the end of land speed racing at Pendine and Babs was buried in the dunes where she lay for 42 years until 1969, when Owen Wyn Owen, a Bangor engineer, decided to dig her up and restore her to her former glory.

His painstaking restoration work took 16 years to complete and Babs is now preserved as a landmark of motoring history for the benefit of Welsh and international visitors.

The car comes to Pendine each summer for display in the county council’s specially built museum.

Executive board member for heritage Cllr Gwynne Wooldridge said: “Babs and Pendine Beach are very well known and I hope people take the opportunity this summer to visit the Museum of Speed to see Babs and the many other attractions.”

Technical data on Babs

  • Built as the ‘Higham Special’ by Clive Gallop for Count Zborowski in 1923.
  • Babs was subsequently rebuilt by John Godfrey Parry Thomas from 1925 – 1926.
  • V12 Liberty aero-engine; 27,030 cc and about 550bhp.
  • Thomas clutch, Benz gearbox.
  • Rubery Owen chassis.
  • Ridge-Whitworth wire wheels & 33 x 5 Dunlop tyres.
  • Weight: 1 ton 14.5cwt (1,750kg).
  • Fuel: 60% Shell Aviation spirit and 40% Benzole.
  • Highest recorded speed: 171.02 mph (275.22 kph).

The museum is also proud to display the famous Bowden Motor Cycle for the first time this summer.

The Bowden motor cycle was made between 1903-1904 in Belgium by the Fabrique Nationale company to advertise how brake wires invented by Ernest Bowden could be used on motor cycles.

Ernest Bowden (1860 -1904) was an enthusiastic cyclist who competed in many events. He began riding wooden-wheeled Boneshakers, then Penny-farthings. Bowden later rode the safety bicycle and the motor cycle.

The Bowden Company went on to become a major manufacturer of cable for cars and Bowden cable was made in Llanelli from 1963 until the company relocated to the Czech Republic in 2006.