1926: Higham driven by J. G. Parry Thomas

Send This Page To A Friend


United Kingdom
V12 Liberty Aero
26,907 cc
Bore x Stroke:
127 x 177 mm
500 bhp (approx)
Top Speed:

169.30/171.02 mph


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.

Thomas had 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 tragic attempt.

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.

The 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.

Also See:

Land Speed Record Drivers
Herbert Austin LSR Attempt
History Of The Land Speed Record
Unique Cars and Parts USA - The Ultimate Classic Car Resource