Memories serve vital purposes: they keep us from repeating mistakes, and better yet they push us to repeat things that matter. Hill climb races exist more in memory than in reality. It’s time to make new memories.
The Hill was not a leisurely drive on nicely paved roads through a scenic countryside. No, the Paddyfork Trials Hill Climb course was a cow pasture in the rolling hills of rural Ohio. The route consisted of short straightaways followed by switchbacks over a precipitous, uneven, flag-marked path, strewn with weeds, grass, rocks and loose dirt. In the true English tradition of hill climbing or mud plugging trials, our MGs did not meander but dashed competitively, throwing dust and exhaust to determine who could post the best time as they crossed the finish line.
Memories of an event from 17 years back flood my mind and it becomes a vivid, pleasant reliving of that day. There we were in our 1953 MG TD, my wife Maxine in the co-pilot’s seat; me, nervous with anticipation, behind the wheel. Only a couple of MGs ahead and many TCs, TDs and TFs behind forming a line along the farmer’s narrow lane leading to the barn and outbuildings. Ahead on our right is an MG going through the gate leading to the starting line. Then my gaze travels upward. Wow! That hill is really steep. The yellow flags outlining the course are fluttering in the breeze.
The starter’s flag drops and the roar of an MG breaks the silence of this idyllic setting as it screams up the grassy path. The line of MGs slowly moves ahead. My turn draws near and I am thinking, “What am I doing? This car has served me well over many miles and 25 years. Am I going to tear up all the work I’ve done on it?”
Sweaty palms on the steering wheel, should I dig out those string-back driving gloves? Nah! I don’t want to look like a pro. I am not into this competition thing as some of the other club members are who rally or vintage race their cars. Closer we creep to that field gate and I declare to myself—I am not going to pull out of line. I am going to run this grassy, dirty, rocky, bumpy trail. After all, in their mother country the hill climb is an MG legacy. Wake up Jack you are next!
Poised under the Starting Line banner. Intently watching the starter’s white flag. His arm waves and we’re off and climbing. Probably best to keep it in low gear—it is said you can plow a field with a T-Series in low gear. I’m yelling, “Hang on Maxine!” We round the first left-hand switchback throwing a cloud of dust. Maxine’s duty is to watch for big holes, ruts, large rocks and …whoa! COW PADDIES, and she is doing a great job shouting out directions. The hill gets steeper as we traverse it at an angle, and the car precariously leans over. The next turn is a right-hander and we are approaching it rapidly. Hey this is fun! We bounce along trying to keep the revs up as we round that sharp turn. Angling up again along the hillside ahead is a left turn; we make it, still maintaining our speed. Then we can see the crest of the hill, the finish line, and that checkered flag—victory!—no, not really…but we made it! As we look at each other wide smiles cover our faces, “YES!” simultaneously bursts out or our mouths not to be heard over the shouts of our fellow MG friends.
As the day progressed all the drivers and co-drivers alike flashed broad smiles and gave hoots of delight that were only drowned out by the cheers of bystanders. The pure joy of completing this task in an old MG was an experience that touched deeply the souls of the true enthusiasts who, on this day drove these vehicles as they were intended.
Note: The Ohio Chapter of the New England MG-T register repeated this event in the fall of 2000. Now and again there is talk of once again assaulting “THE HILL” of the Paddyfork Trials.
By Jack Smittle
November 1, 2013 @ 7:06 pm Dino
Wonderful article and pictures! Thanks
November 20, 2013 @ 8:14 am Phil
As one of the organizing Troika (Jim Pesta, Tom Baumgardner and myself), both Paddyfork events were a great deal of fun, for us (we had to test the hill and gymkhana courses repeatedly to be sure they were just right) and evidently for the participants. Several persons warned us about the possible incursion of trial attorneys, and we had some concern that this would dampen the response….but NO! Everybody went out and thoroughly tested their thoroughbreds on the courses, with smiles all around. The Paddyfork Farm was a real find (thanks to Dave Jackman of the Ohio Chapter), the perfect venue.
November 20, 2013 @ 8:16 am Phil
Also, take note that it wasn’t just post-war cars…..there’s Bill Eberhardt’s D-type at the start of the hillclimb!