Pendine Sands Hot Rod Races – Seven Miles of Speed
Racing on the beach is nothing new and people have been racing at Pendine Sands since the early 1900s. Pendine Sands is a seven-mile beach in southwest Wales, 230 miles west of London, England. Back in the 1920s and 30s, Pendine Sands was used by Sir Malcolm Campbell to set the land speed record in his famous Bluebird.
Sadly, the end came for Pendine on March 3, 1927, when J.G. Parry Thomas wrecked his 27-liter car “Babs” trying to break Campbell’s 174.88-mph record. Instead, he became the first person to die trying to set the land speed record. Incidentally, the restored Babs is displayed in the Museum of Speed at the entrance to the beach. The sandy strip lay dormant for years following Thomas’ death but eventually resumed.
Despite Parry Thomas’ unfortunate death, Pendine Sands continues to be a motorsport venue for car and motorcycle events. Five years ago, the Vintage Hot Rod Association, under the direction of Neil Fretwell, staged its first Hot Rod Races for pre-1949 vehicles on the hallowed sand. Eighty rodders turned out for that first successful event that has grown steadily; in 2018 almost 200 hot rods filled out the field.
The weather this year was perfect and as the tide receded, the throng of racers and spectators swarmed onto the beach for a few hours of flat-out fun. Speeds have been creeping up every year—it’s what racers do.
While 80 mph seemed fast in 2013, now most are chasing 100mph, and many exceed what the Brits call “a ton.” Cars run one at a time and are timed over a flying 110 yards after a half-mile run up. This year’s fastest speed was set by Matt Farrant in his post-’54 V8-engined ’29 Ford roadster pickup with a speed of 118.2 mph.
While most racers are roadsters there’s a great variety of rides from 4-banger-powered Lakes-Modified-style cars to late-30s sedans that add an element of elegance to the field. There’s also a fair number of the fairer sex trying to beat the boys and many of them dress the part in pre-World War II costumes which makes for jolly good fun.
Rain or shine (and it did a very little of the former) and a lot of the latter this year, the Pendine Sands Hot Rod Races are a bucket-list must.
For more information about the Pendine Sands Hot Rod Races and other events organized by the Vintage Hot Rod Association, click here to find them online.