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Record breaking Babs returns to Pendine Sands

Affectionately known as ‘Babs’, this 27-litre V12 record breaker returns to the scene of its 1926 triumph


Ninety years to the day since it set a Land Speed Record of 170mph, JG Parry Thomas’s 27-litre V12 Babs was driven on the Welsh beach that was the site of its original triumph.

Despite relatively low-key advance publicity on social media, an estimated 200-300 people turned out to watch its custodian (and experienced Vintage racer) Geraint Owen power up and down Pendine Sands, flames spitting from the exhaust. The date, 28 April, was exactly 90 years since Parry Thomas bested the previous record, set at 150.87mph by Malcolm Campbell in the 350hp Sunbeam, by almost 20mph.

Because much of the beach remains under the control of the Ministry of Defence, which commandeered it during World War Two and still conducts live firing exercises here, only a quarter-mile or so of sand was available – but this was enough to give spectators, who braved freezing and blustery weather, a vivid impression of the power available from Babs’ 27-litre Liberty aero engine.

BABS, 90 years on. A celebration of Parry Thomas's 1926 land speed record, Pendine Sands, Wales. from Octopws Media Ltd on Vimeo.

Geraint said afterwards of the demonstration: ‘Conditions were perfect and the sand was billiard-table smooth, neither too wet nor too dry. The good people at Pendine Council had kindly ploughed two long furrows to mark out the course, which made a huge difference in draining surface water away. Babs has a four-speed gearbox and I didn’t need more than second in the space available, but it was fun being able to power-slide the car around at both ends of the course.

‘We also had a collection for charity, which raised some £300 for Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital – which seemed appropriate since, after Parry Thomas set the record in 1926, he put Babs on display in Selfridges, London, to raise money for Great Ormond Street.’

Less than a year after the successful record attempt, Parry Thomas was killed while trying to regain his record – which had been beaten by rival Malcolm Campbell on the same beach – and the wrecked Babs was buried in nearby sand dunes. It remained there until rediscovered and exhumed by Geraint’s father, Owen Wyn Owen, who then restored it.

Read the full feature about Babs and her restoration in next month’s issue of Octane magazine

Words: Mark Dixon // Images: Charlie Magee

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