1. ITV Report

Former land speed record car on display in driver's hometown

John Parry-Thomas and his car were part of a land speed record rivalry which captivated audiences in the 1920s Photo: Owen family

A car which was the once the very fastest in the world will be on display today in Wrexham, the home of the man who built and drove it. John Parry-Thomas piloted 'Babs' to a new land speed record at Pendine Sands in Carmarthenshire back in 1926. He died a year later, on the same beach, in the same car, attempting to reclaim the record.

Parry-Thomas was born in Wrexham in 1884, and became an engineer of luxury vehicles. He bought a car - 'the Higham Special' - and fitted it with a new 27,059cc engine and Benz gearbox, rechristening it 'Babs'. In April 1926, he set a new land speed record of 171.02mph - on the beach at Pendine.

John Parry-Thomas (l) is pictured with Ernest Eldridge (r), who set the land speed record in 1924 Credit: S&G and Barratts / EMPICS Sport

By the following year, his great rival Sir Malcolm Campbell had broken that record in his 'Blue Bird.' In March 1927, Parry-Thomas returned to Pendine for an attempt to reclaim it. He was on a timed run when the car skidded and overturned. Parry-Thomas was killed.

His car was buried in a hole on the beach, and remained there until 1969. Owen Wyn Owen, an engineer from Capel Curig in Conwy, dug 'Babs' out of the sand, and spent 16 years restoring it.

'Babs' was excavated from the beach at Pendine in March 1969 Credit: Owen family

Since then, the car has been displayed at Pendine's Museum of Speed, and at numerous vehicle rallies and shows. Today - for one day only - it will be there for visitors to see at Wrexham Museum.

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