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John Godfrey Parry Thomas

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1924. Leyland-Thomas in which Parry-Thomas achieved 129.73 mph.
1926. 'Babs' in which Parry-Thomas achieved 170.624 mph.

John Godfrey Parry-Thomas (6 April 1884 – 3 March 1927) was a Welsh engineer and motor-racing driver who at one time held the Land Speed Record in his car, 'Babs'. He was the first driver to be killed in pursuit of the land speed record. [1]

1911 Boarding at 21 Ennismore Avenue, Chiswick: John Godfrey Parry Thomas (age 26 born Rexham, Merioneth), Electrical Engineer - Director Thomas Transmission Ltd.[2]

1915 Patents to THE THOMAS TRANSMISSION Limited and JOHN GODFREY PARRY THOMAS, for (1) the invention of "Improvements in and connected with the Ignition of Internal Combustion Engines," and (2) the invention of "Improvements in the Timing of Electric Ignition in Internal Combustion Engines."[3]

Babs can sometimes be seen exhibited at the Museum of Speed, Pendine.

1926/27 Obituary [4]

John Godfrey Parry Thomas, the famous racing motorist, was born in 1884. His technical education was obtained at the City and Guilds Engineering College, South Kensington, and his apprenticeship was served with Siemens Brothers Dynamo Works and subsequently with Clayton and Shuttleworth, Lincoln.

He then spent two years in experimenting on road and rail vehicles with the "Thomas" Transmission, of which he was the inventor, and from 1908 to 1911 was Joint Managing Director of Thomas Transmission.

In 1913 he was appointed Chief Designer of Leyland Motors, and was responsible for the design of the "Leyland Eight" and of the commercial vehicles produced by that firm.

He first took up racing in 1921, and his subsequent achievements in that field are motoring history.

He was accidentally killed at Pendine Sands on 3rd March, 1927, whilst attempting a world's record for the flying mile in a car purchased from Count Louis Zborowski renamed 'Babs'.

He was elected a Member of the Institution of Automobile Engineers in 1912.

1927 Obituary[5]


It is with great regret that we record the accidental death of Mr. John Godfrey Parry Thomas on Thursday, the 3rd instant, while engaged on an attempt to establish a world’s record for the flying mile. It has been widely stated that the accident was primarily due to the fracture of a driving chain on the car which Mr. Thomas was using. Hasty conclusions as to the cause of the accident are, however, to be deprecated, as any small compensation for Mr. Thomas’s tragic death must be looked for in applying the lesson of his accident to give increased security to others. We feel sure that Mr. Thomas himself would have concurred in this view, as he was an automobile designer as well as a racing motorist. It was suggested that the most fitting end to the wrecked car would be to abandon it to the mercy of the waves, but it is sincerely to be hoped that before it is disposed of in any way it will be subjected to a searching examination.

Mr. Thomas was born in 1885, and commenced his engineering career in 1902 by taking the electrical engineering course at the City and Guilds Engineering College. After completing this course, he spent a few months in research work on induction motors under the late Professor Ayrton. From 1905 to 1907, he was gaining practical experience in the shops, first of Messrs. Siemens Brothers and Company, Limited, and later of Messrs. Clayton and Shuttleworth, Limited. Towards the end of 1907, he left the latter firm to engage in private experimental work on an electrical transmission for motor vehicles, which resulted in the well-known Thomas transmission. Between 1908 and 1911, Mr. Thomas was joint managing director of Thomas Transmission, Limited, and of Thomas Foreign Patents, Limited. Shortly before the war he joined Messrs. Leyland Motors, Limited, as chief designer, and was in that capacity responsible for the design of the “ Leyland Eight ” and of commercial vehicles. It may be mentioned that he was in no way responsible for the Trojan car, as has been erroneously stated. Mr. Thomas took up racing in 1921, and soon established a position as one of the most capable drivers in the world, as evidenced by the long series of records which stand in his name. Mr. Thomas was elected a member of the Institution of Automobile Engineers in 1912. The car on which he met his death was practically of his own design, and consisted of a modified racing chassis previously owned by Count Zborowski, to which Mr. Thomas fitted a 12-cylinder, 400-brake horse-power Liberty aero engine."

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