from my sketchbook: j.g. parry-thomas

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I wasn't built for comfort, I was built for speed
J. G. Parry-Thomas was a race car driver who at one time held the Land Speed Record.

On April 27, 1926 at Pendine Sands Beach in Wales, Parry-Thomas took his car to over 170 miles per hour, despite poor conditions and soft, wet sand. The record would stand for almost a year until it was broken by rival driver Malcolm Campbell on the same beach.

Parry-Thomas was anxious to recapture the record and the glory that came with it. His modified car used exposed chains to connect the engine to the drive wheels and the way that the high engine was situated required him to drive with his head tilted to the right. On his attempt at regaining the Land Speed Record, the right-hand drive chain broke at a speed of 170 miles per hour. The chain whipped up and Parry-Thomas was decapitated.




  1. You say ‘The chain whipped up and Parry-Thomas was decapitated.’

    this is not correct.

    The facts are ;-

    Parry-Thomas arrived back in Pendine, unwell with ‘Flu’, in March 1927 and with the assistance of Shell and Dunlop staff began to prepare the car for a run on the beach. After the usual start and warm up procedures had been followed great uncle set off up the beach on a timed run. The car skidded, turned over and over and then slewed round to face the sea. The scene for those first to arrive was not pretty, Parry-Thomas was still in the car, he had a deep cuts to his neck, †partially decapitated and burned. The car was on fire and in order to retrieve the body from the blazing wreck two of Parry-Thomas’s crew had the unpleasant task of breaking the legs of the corpse before the fire prevented them reaching it. The coroner’s verdict was accidental death and Parry-Thomas was buried at Saint Mary’s, Byfleet, Surrey. The car was buried in a big hole on the beach and that could have been the end of the story.

    † A popular myth which is untrue is that he was fully decapitated in the crash.

  2. Thanks for the comment.

    Since the event occurred 34 years before I was born, I will accept your account of the story as much as I believe anything written in any history book I’ve ever read.

    Thanks again for reading my blog.


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