Looking for a different sort of driving challenge involving vintage vehicles? Consider the Historic Sporting Trials Association events in the UK, especially now that there’s an “Arrive and Drive” program available.
But first, what is the Historic Sporting Trials Association? It’s part of Britain’s Historic Sports Car Club and competes in rudimentary vehicles in a sort of autocross that takes place not on a smooth paved parking lot but on hillsides, where driver and passenger work to maneuver not through cones but around trees and between poles.
The goal is to keep the vehicle moving, to progress as far as possible without stopping, at least until the end of the course.
As you can see in the video, the passenger is very much involved in the vehicle’s progress, sort of like the sidecar occupant in sidecar motorcycle racing, albeit at a much slower pace.
The National Trials Formula was established in 1953. Cars use Ford side-valve, BMC A Series and Austin 7 and Reliant engines with 18-inch rear wheels with bias-ply tires no wider than 5 inches. A Post Historic class for cars produced in the 1970s allows for larger engines, more advanced suspension, drum brakes and 15-inch rear wheels with radial tires.
“Back in the 1950s, trialling was an incredibly popular branch of the sport, with BBC TV coverage and huge crowds as purpose-built specials tackled hills set out on rough terrain,” MotorSportmagazine.com reported in 2018.
“Those days faded and the older cars sat under dust covers as more modern machinery took center-stage until a group of enthusiasts, led by Martyn Halliday and Ian Wright, decided to try and get some old cars running.
“The Historic Sporting Trials Association was duly formed and five years ago the inaugural trial attracted 25 entries.”
Five years later, as many as 55 cars showed up for an event.
Fast forward and Wright has put together an “arrive and drive” package — starting at £500 — so those who want to try their hand at the sport simply show up and a professional instructor serves as passenger and coach.
Wright provides a 1,172cc Ford-engined Cannon vehicle from his workshop, which not only restores trials cars but builds new continuation models.
The season began in February. Upcoming events include March 23 at the Hampshire; May 11-12 in Somerset; and events this fall at Glos, Kent and Hampshire.