John Godfrey Parry-Thomas

John Godfrey Parry-Thomas

6/4/1884 - 3/3/1927

John Godfrey Parry-Thomas was the son of a vicar and born in Wrexham in April 1884. John was fascinated with engineering and studied the subject at college in London. After numerous jobs he became the chief Engineer at Leyland Motors.

Leyland Motors investigated the possibility of building a massive luxury car. The imposing motorcar, the Leyland Eight, was dubbed the 'Lion of Olympia' when shown at the 1920 Motor show in London. The cars were expensive and only eight were built. John Parry-Thomas tested each Leyland Eight to 100 mph before delivery and persuaded Leylands to enter into a racing programme.

When this was discontinued he decided to go it alone, took up permanent residence at Brooklands and hired Ken Taylor, later of Thomson and Taylor to assist him in producing a number of Leyland-Thomas racing specials. In 1924 and 1925 he broke the lap record in one of these cars, raising it on 1st June 1925 to 129.36 m.p.h. Previously the record had stood at 123.39 m.p.h. which Kennelm Lee Guinness had set in a Sunbeam in 1922.

He went on to build smaller four cylinder cars winning the 1925 News of the World handicap in one of these which in turn were followed by the straight eight supercharged flat iron specials, so called because of their very low front ends.

After Louis Zborowski died he bought the 400 h.p. Liberty engined Higham Special for about £125.00, modified the engine by fitting pistons of his own design and extra carburettors and re-worked the body, lightening and streamlining it.He re-christening the car Babs, it is said, after one of his young nieces , set about racing the car at Brooklands, breaking the outer circuit lap record in the process and also took the Land Speed Record at Pendine Sands in South Wales.

In 1926 he again took the car down to Pendine and twice broke the Land Speed Record, raising it to 172.331 m.p.h.

Parry-Thomas was killed on 3rd March 1927 at Pendine while trying to break the world land speed record. Parry-Thomas' car used an exposed chain to connect the engine to the right hand drive wheel while the high engine cover required him to drive with his head tilted to one side - also the right. On his final run the drive chain broke at high speed decapitating him.

Babs was buried at Pendine, later disinterred and has since been rebuilt and raced in VSCC events.

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