Monstrous Aero-Engined Specials Set For London Classic Car Show
Images courtesy of the London Classic Car Show
There’s a veritable freak show of automotive madness promised by the organisers of the London Classic Car Show, who are promising a line-up of aero-engined monsters for the February 14-17 event at ExCel, London, UK. Of the planned display, we know that three cars are already confirmed–and just those three already account for 62 litres of firepower. The star of the show will be the 27-litre V12 Thomas Special best known as “Babs”, though also as “Chitty 4” and the “Higham Special”. It was built in 1923 by Count Zborowski and bought in 1925 by engineer and racing driver John Parry-Thomas, who broke the World Land Speed record in Babs in 1926 at 171.09mph. The record was soon taken by Malcolm Campbell, so Parry-Thomas returned to Pendine Sands in South Wales for another attempt at the record in 1927.
It’s thought that a wheel breaking up caused Babs to roll at high speed, and Parry-Thomas was killed instantly–the first driver to be killed in pursuit of the land speed record. Babs was buried under the sand dunes on the beach, and lay there until 1967, when it was excavated and eventually restored back to running condition. It still features many original parts, including the 1917 27-litre Liberty aero-engine made by Packard. It has a Rubery-Owens-built chassis based on a 200hp Blitzen Benz, with a four-speed exposed chain drive gearbox. Alongside Babs will be “Sid”, a 27-litre Hispano Suiza V12 so-named for its characterful hissing after a fast run. It’s a recreation of a 1920s land speed record car, built in the 1980s and based on a Hispano Suiza 27-litre Mb12 aero engine, with a Delage 40/50hp chassis and three-speed Delage straight-cut gearbox. It weighs 3600lb (1650kg) and produces 600bhp at 2500rpm. Which makes it kinda scary…
The third of the known line-up will be a 1921 V8 GN Curtiss, which started out as a GN Vitesse but was later fitted with a 1916 Curtiss 8-litre V8 aeroplane engine. It “only” makes 110bhp–but it weighs just 1300lb (600kg)! You won’t miss it because it wears a checkered color scheme copied from a GN that raced at Brooklands in 1922. The entire line-up is being curated by Edd China, former Wheeler Dealers TV presenter. “Aero engine cars are fantastic, exciting machines and it’s where the magic of engineering all started for me,” says Edd. “The power and speed they offer is incredible. You needed to be extremely imaginative, inventive and a little eccentric to shoehorn one of these enormous engines into a car, and that’s what makes them so exciting. It’s exactly what engineering of the time was all about.”