Take a dozen or so lightweight automobiles, outfit each with a driver and passenger, turn them loose on a series of steep, slippery hillsides, and you have the jolly old English sport of mudlarking. With rear axle spinning furiously and underinflated tires straining to grip the moist slope, the driver strives to keep his fishtailing mount moving forward. The passenger, or bouncer, bobs about vigorously to concentrate weight on the rear wheels at advantageous moments. Unknowing spectators get showered with mud from churning wheels and occasionally a bouncer breaks a wrist trying to fend off a tree, but mudlarking disciples find an exhilaration surpassing any discomfort. There is nothing quite like grinding out those last agonizing yards and feeling the tires dig in at the summit. And nothing makes a pint of half-and-half taste better afterward.
The scenes on the following pages are from the Stafford Clark Cup Trials of the Kentish Border Car Club, held on the Marquess of Abergavenny's Eridge Estate near Tunbridge Wells. It was a fine sunny day, with just enough moisture under the bracken to send up a lovely spray of mud from beneath the wheels. The cars had been made especially for their work, with tubular frames, light bodywork and "unbustable" English Ford 10 engines. Five hills were attacked in the morning, each divided into 10 sections and so marked with numbered boards. On each hill a driver earned the number of points corresponding to the highest section he reached.
Lunchtime meant a convoy to the nearby Mark Cross Inn for a snack and a snooze (see page 26). And then it was back to the hills for another bash. When the mud had settled, Dave Cannon and Percy Barden were tied for the honors. They did equally well in a runoff, and since nobody had bothered to bring a stop watch for a timed run, they called it a day—a fine, back-bruising, exhilarating day.
Plunging down after conquering Steep Rise, Clive Quitmann and John Saunders get set for the next test
September 15, 1957
Churning in the goo of the Kentish hillside, these mudlarking disciples use body English (left) to increase weight on the rear wheels and maintain traction. Yet occasionally a tree jumps in the way (upper right), and sometimes slope and slop are just too much to fight (right)
Break after a morning's mudlarking finds cars and crews at a country inn. Behind No. 12 lies its builder and driver, Engineer Robin Rushbrook