A Parry Thomas Mystery

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The death of the most successful Brooklands driver of his time, J G Parry Thomas, at Pendine in March 1927, when “Babs” overturned during a LSR attempt, left racing followers skinned, and they debated how best to commemorate the great Welsh driver/ designer. The Autocar’s idea of a fund to maintain the “Babs” cot at Great Ormond Street Childrens’ Hospital, remembering Thomas’s great love for Children, was quickly approved and sufficient money was collected to make this possible, with another to be financed at another hospital.

(These cots were intended to remain for perpetuity but when not long ago I enquired if the “Babs” cot was intact, it had been forgotten. However, a Great Ormond Street Hospital official looked up the old records and found a reference to it and agreed to have put on the wall of a ward where it had probably once been, a small plaque as a reminder of it and Parry Thomas…)

In 1927 a staff writer had made the point in The Motor that the best memorial to Thomas might be the Thomas-Rapson aero-engine he had been working on, which “might bring the Schneider back to Britain”. (It was held at the time by flying the Macchi M29 with 800bhp Fiat AS2 at 246.5mph). This suggests that the engine must have been in the “Lion”/Rolls-Royce V12 category. In fact, The Motor described the engine as Thomas’s work yet, so it must have been an outstanding piece of machinery. But nothing more seems be known about it. Thomas used to drive Rapson’s Lanchester 40 at Brooklands and one whether this was all a publicity ploy by avid inventor, notably of his famous Rapson tyre — Rapson’s story was written in MOTOR SPORT many years ago.

Yet Rapson and Thomas may have been more associated than is generally realised. It been intended to take to the opening of the track in France in 1926 the Leyland entered by Rapson for the first time, and Lanchester racing cars, for record attempts up to 5000 miles, which seems rather odd as which Thomas knew well, was better than the only slightly banked Miramas but maybe there were financial induceIt is known that three racing Lanchester were built and it is interesting that both were in running order in 1926. The drivers were to have been Thomas, Rapson, Major Grattan and John Duff, but Rapson had to go into and no more was heard of this. So what this Rapson-Thomas aero-engine?

Thomas had designed an advanced war-time engine (see MOTOR SPORT, February but this was abandoned by 1918. It would in case appear to be too bulky and underpowered for the racing seaplanes of 1926/27. Any ideas? W B

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