Polish nobleman Count Louis Zborowski created four high-performance vehicles dubbed 'Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang.' Of the four created, only one exists in modern times. The first example was built using a Maybach aviation engine that displaced 23-liters. The second car was given a very large, 18.8-liter unit that dwarfs most other engines ever created. The engine was traditionally used in aircraft but was deemed a suitable candidate to power this ultra-performance machine. The 230 horsepower engine was able to carry the car to speeds reaching 113 mph. The fourth car was called the Higham Special, and later as the Babs. It was the car that Parry Thomas died while attempting a land speed record at the Pendine Sands in 1927.
These four cars were created with the help of Captain Clive Gallop of 'Bentley Boy' fame, a reputation he would earn in the years-to-come.
Chitty #1 made its racing debut in 1921 at Brooklands Easter meeting where it won two races and captured a second in a sprint race behind another Zborowski car. It was originally fitted with a four-seater body but later given a two-seater torpedo configuration.
Chity #2 was constructed a short time after Chity #1 was completed. It was given a shorter wheelbase and an 18.8-liter Benz BZ IV series aero engine. It was raced at the Brooklands Meeting in autumn of 1921 but did not achieve the desired success. At Brooklands in 1922, it achieved its fastest lap time of 113.4 mph.
At the Brooklands Meet in September, Zborowski was involved in an accident with Chitty #1. It blew a tire and went off course, smashing into the timing box. A track official was in the box who attempted to flee before the inevitable crash, making it out but lost three fingers as the car clipped him. Chitty #1 was later rebuilt, used in racing, then left for the elements to reclaim. At some point in its life, someone sawed the chassis in half to get at the gearbox for use in another car.
Chitty #3 had a modified Mercedes chassis and a Mercedes single overhead camshaft six-cylinder aero engine tuned to produce 160 horsepower. It was driven at Brooklands to a speed of 112.68 mph.
The final Chitty, commonly known as the 'Higham Special', had a 27-liter V12 Liberty aero engine capable of producing an astonishing 450 horsepower. It was driven to a land speed record in April 1926 with a speed of 171.02 mph.
In 1924, Zborowski was driving a Mercedes in the Italian Grand Prize when he crashed and was killed. Sadly, his father had died in a similar manner while racing a Mercedes in the 1903 LaTurbine Hillclimb. After the Counts death, Chitty #2 was sold to a private party. It remained in their care until being purchased by the English motor trader 'Bunty' Scott-Moncrief who found another buyer for the vehicle. Years later the car was sold to the Ellenville Motor Museum in Ellenville, NY, which has since closed. The vehicles next owner was the Crawford Auto Collection of Cleveland, Ohio. It is now in the collection of a private individual.By Daniel Vaughan | Oct 2007