J G Parry Thomas (1884 – 1927)

John Godfrey Parry-Thomas (1884-1927); racing driver and holder of the Land Speed Record.

J.G. Parry-Thomas is remembered for his tragic death whilst making his third attempt on the Land Speed Record. However, he was also a great engineer. He studied engineering at City and Guilds College in London and joined Leyland Motors where he became Chief Engineer.

After World War One Parry-Thomas designed a supercar for Leyland; the resulting Leyland 8, hailed as The Lion of Olympia at the 1921 Motor Show, was the most powerful, luxurious and expensive British car at the time. Thomas persuaded Leyland to let him race one in 1922, this started his passion for racing and record breaking. Shortly afterwards he left Leyland and set up the Thomas Inventions Development Company in Brooklands Flying Village and lived in a bungalow there called The Hermitage. The Village was originally groups of simple wooden sheds which had housed many of the greatest pioneers of British aviation from 1910 to the outbreak of World War One. These were immortalised in the 1960s film Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines which was based around The Daily Mail Circuit of Britain Air Race held at Brooklands in 1911.

Over five years Parry-Thomas had 38 firsts, 25 seconds and 14 thirds in races at Brooklands, in addition he broke over 100 class records. He then became interested in the Land Speed Record and bought the unfinished Higham Special from Count Zborowskis estate. The Higham Special was the fourth and largest of a series of cars built and raced by the Count in the 1920s; the cars were informally and collectively known as Chitty Bang Bang and inspired the book, film and stage musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Parry-Thomas re-built the Higham Special with the sole purpose of making an attempt on the Land Speed Record. He took the car, re-named Babs, to Pendine Sands in Wales and, on April 27th 1926, reached a record breaking speed of 169.3 mph. The following day he beat his own record with a speed of 171 mph.

The record was broken by Malcom Campbell in February 1927 and Parry-Thomas returned to Pendine Sands in March 1927 to make another attempt. The car crashed and Parry-Thomas was killed instantly. He was buried at St Marys Parish Church, Byfleet, close to Brooklands Racetrack. His crew buried the car at Pendine Sands but it has since been recovered and restored and is now on display at the Pendine Museum of Speed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *