Vintage mud-plugging at Exmoor Trial

VSCC regular Rebecca Smith starts her season at the Exmoor Trial, which proves a real adventure in the Ford Model A due to a few unexpected excursions and an emergency splash ’n’ dash

1930 Ford Model A in the mud

Moving through the mulch at the Exmoor Trial needed the assistance of ‘the bouncers’

Mike Griffin

After a long winter break, it’s great to get back out and blow the cobwebs away, and the Exmoor Trial is perhaps the best way to get back into the swing of things. Held in the middle of February, it’s a popular and busy event which this year attracted a lot of newcomers – possibly thanks to a recent Top Gear TV episode spreading the message of this form of motor sport, but either way, the more the merrier.

For people not familiar with trialling, all competitors meet at a central place for scrutineering, and then go out on a loop of challenging hills, each providing a different test to the machines and their crews, and the aim is to complete all sections maxing out the top 25 points, and then head back to HQ, which is normally quite handily a lovely pub (or at least is near one)!

Team and the 1930 Ford Model A

For this event we rolled out our trusty 1930 Ford Model A, Bess, which we run in the standard class, unlike some other modified Model As that tend to be much more competitive. We had some work to do to secure the trunk that sits at the back, which had been bent at the end of last year and was vulnerable to breaking again, plus a few slow punctures to address. However, we were soon trailering the car down ahead of the start.

One of the things I love most about trials is the social element of it. In my car I always have three passengers or ‘bouncers’, so there’s always a great team atmosphere and it becomes a real adventure, especially when you end up taking the odd wrong turn or two.

During what turned out to be a very wet and drizzly day for our tour of the hills we got the odd bit of map-reading wrong and ended up having some ‘scenic’ trips across the local moors. At one point we stopped to let a couple of riders on their way pass by who, after asking if we were a little lost, assured us we were able to get through on the track ahead.

“We were running dry and the local petrol station was closed”

Back on course, we had another drama with fuel. We were running dry and the local petrol station was closed, and with limited time to complete the hills, we had to hunt for anybody who had broken down and might have a spare jerry can available. We had some fuel starvation issues on one section, with the Model A running a gravity-fed system, so it didn’t like it when angled uphill and running low. This caused us to stop at marker nine instead of the 25 that most others in our class managed on hill one.

Luckily a broken Morris Cowley was able to help, with us leaving a £20 note with the empty jerry can we helped ourselves too.

I have a suspicion about a dirty carburettor too as we had some backfiring, so that’s next on the list – as is fixing the window that one of my passengers broke while enthusiastically bouncing on a demanding hill.

At the end of a hard day’s trialling, we were classified third, which we were thrilled with! Now it’s back to work, breaking out the spanners to prepare for the Herefordshire Trial, which promises to be its own adventure!

Next month: See how we do in the Herefordshire Trial