The incredible machine, known as Chitty Bang Bang IV, was the creation of racing driver Count Louis Zborowski and inspired Ian Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang story.
Babs joins an original screen Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the Humber 8hp driven by Truly Scrumptious, the original Child Catcher carriage, Coggins Garage recreated in the museum to house the inventive machines of Rowland Emett and a replica of Grandpa Potts’ hut in Beaulieu’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang 50 years which celebrates the film’s golden anniversary.
Babs started life in 1923 as the Higham Special and was even more extreme in its design than the Count’s previous three Chittys. When he died a year later, it was bought for £125 by talented racing driver John Godfrey Parry-Thomas who re-christened it Babs. After boosting power to 500 bhp by adding new pistons to its American Liberty V12 aeroplane engine, Parry-Thomas beat the Land Speed Record by more than 20mph by reaching 171mph.
When Sir Malcolm Campbell raised the record again the following year, Parry-Thomas made an attempt to regain the title which ended in disaster and he was killed. The wrecked car was buried at Pendine Sands, where it remained for more than 40 years.
In 1969 Babs was excavated by university lecturer and car restorer Owen Wyn Owen, who discovered that the car was not as badly decayed as expected and embarked on bringing it back to its former glory. Today, the fully-restored Babs is a fitting tribute to the aeroplane-engine racing cars and their fearless drivers whose exploits inspired Ian Fleming.
Other Chitty memorabilia on show at Beaulieu includes the leather bonnet strap from the Count’s original Mercedes Chitty, a solid silver Chitty model bought for producer Cubby Broccoli by his wife Dana and original film concept art by Sir Ken Adam, storyboard watercolour artwork by Robert Laing and technical drawings by Peter Lamont which have never been previously exhibited.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang 50 years can be seen as part of the general admission to Beaulieu. Babs will be on display until Easter, when it will return to its usual home at Pendine Museum of Speed in South Wales.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang 50 years remains on display at Beaulieu until November 2019.