Muddy Boots Welcome Here

Our Sheffield correspondent likes it dirty. 

Image: The Editor

The tyres on everyday road going cars must endure many hazards, from the self (but more likely garage-induced) under or over-inflated pressures to sharp detritus. Heavy acceleration and braking all take their toll. But there’s only one substance that can enhance the look of a tyre – that’ll be mud.

My local environs is covered in the stuff. Washed off fields from endless rain, copiously blended with horse manure, along with the fleets of tractors passing by, the tarmac is more likely to be brown than black. ‘Tractor Splat’ can most commonly be found right on your line of enthusiastic attack for the next corner, leading to a fast moving steering wheel and raised systolic readings for those wearing a fitbit or similar. The farmer may be long gone but his vehicle can leave muddy trails for days.

Ever stopped to watch the spray a moving vehicle causes when the rain’s pelting down? It’s not a common hobby, but depending on speed, it could be a miasma or maybe an aura of fine, muddy brown spray. Or it could be a deluge if the next thing passing is a truck. On bodywork, this is highly unattractive. I like a clean car, preferably both inside and out. This atomised muck contributes to mine resembling a ploughed field within just a few metres of travel. Multiply that build up by the weekly commute and the car takes on the persona of a vagrant; streaked in brown sludge, repugnant when up close and personal, leaving one to avoid any form of physical contact, lest some disease be transferred. Similarly with wheels: the grime that once shiny alloy has, now augurs well for the pebble dashing industry.


But the tyres are a different matter entirely. As previously stated, I like clean cars. Tyres can look superb when the ‘wet-look’ is applied. Shiny black sidewalls have a place in my heart. But a normally tarmac based tyre covered in mud, even on an otherwise clean car looks purposeful – to me. There’s a suggestion of trying hard. Perhaps you’ve happened across the fateful residue left from a Trelleborg on an unavoidable apex? Or maybe you’re leaving a country show (the only time you’ve been off-road) and that grass was wetter than anticipated? It could be that washing your car is anathema to you but now we’re getting off on tangents; what we’re dealing with here is the case of clean car, muddy tyres.

There’s a comforting feeling I derive from seeing those rusty brown rivulets running down a recently parked car’s tyres. The brown goo, beading and coursing around the brand name. There’s an inner glow when I see the definitive break line between tread and sidewall, from black to brown. With road cars then, I fully expect to see these phenomena as described. But when we move on to vehicles participating in motorsport, my levels of dirty tyre madness reaches new levels – or should that read, new depths?

The average track based racer is usually pristine excepting cosmetic damage. Add racing’s great leveller of talent, rain, to the equation and it’s surprising how dirty the racetrack can be. As the chequered flag falls, race cars take on a grey-like sheen with grubby streaks emphasising the aerodynamics. Should a driver get it wrong and either head into the Boonies or the sand/ gravel traps, that’s when the tyres come alive. Brown bands appear as if been set on a muddied lathe. The bodywork becomes splattered, swathed and sullied. Should the driver extricate themselves (with added points for spinning on the grass or ploughing the gravel trap) his or her car now resembles ours of the real world. Filthy. Possibly race ending. Arguably more appealing. Mud adds character – ask any six year old.

Rally cars are different again. I fully expect a rally car to be like a new pin at the start of a Special Stage. By its end however, whatever the distance, I demand a veneer of some sort on its flanks and rear. This must be quite annoying to sponsors but to me it is pure gold. Be it dust from the closing of the Sardinian Rally, or grape juice from the off road moment in the Mosel valley, I adore seeing the dirt.

Image: Classic Driver

The slime that the Welsh Rally GB produces is like no other. Heavy, gelatinous, making outward visibility difficult but also lending its tyres, should any tread remain, a hero’s status. They’ve cut through the mud, swiped it away, gained traction and splattered spectators and cameramen on sweeping bends. Magical. And should a driver overstep the boundaries, returning with shattered bodywork or maybe even just the centre of a wheel remaining, then you know for sure they tried, and tried hard. The muddy boot then is truly a sight for sore eyes.

I understand I may need help with this but the doctor says to keep writing for DTW and the symptoms ‘might just go away’. I’ve tried the tablets but they keep me awake, writing this. Thus, I plough on regardless. Sorry.

Author: Andrew Miles

Beyond hope there lie dreams; after those, custard creams?

14 thoughts on “Muddy Boots Welcome Here”

  1. Good morning Andrew. Keeping a car clean in a rural environment can indeed be pretty challenging. To your list of hazards, I would add flying ‘tractor splat’. Getting stuck behind a tractor that has just emerged from a muddy field is a dispiriting experience as your formerly pristine pride and joy becomes the target for everything that flies off those huge rear tyres.

    Dirty tyres on a clean car? Hmm, not sure about that particular combination. Incidentally, when I was child, long before the invention of those silicone tyre-shine products. Second-hand car dealers would simply apply a coat of bituminous paint to the sidewalls. Effective, but smelly! Wiping over the faded and flat paperwork with paraffin-soaked rag would give it a nice lustre, for a few hours at least.

  2. The doors of the Citroën DS/CX and the Saab 99/900 cover the sills which helps keep accumulated mud and grime from soiling the occupants’ pants/skirts/legs when they enter and exit. I don’t know why the feature never caught on.

  3. For me, either way works in terms of filth: I love a squeaky clean, sparkling vehicle- but one that is very dirty from honest use can look really attractive as well. I vividly remember a dark coloured Audi Coupé that passed us on the autobahn with skibox on top, clearly haveing been driven for hours on end in sleet and hail. It just looked very purposeful.
    Then again, one can take things too far in not cleaning your car 🙂

  4. Good morning Andrew
    I sense you have been imbibing glasses of ale of some description. Either that or you have been inhaling the spray from cans of wheel shine.
    Have a lay down in a darkened room and come out when you feel better…😊

  5. Good morning, Andrew. Like Bruno I am on both extremes of the spectrum. I like a clean car and a car that has accumulated dirt while driven. I dislike other kinds of dirt like bird drops, that resin-like stuff from some trees, etc.

    As far as the interior is concerned: I keep my car clean. No candy wrappers and the like. When parked I hide the phone charging cable out of sight. I don’t eat in the car and don’t allow passengers to do so either. I allow drinking as long as it’s water. My only weakness is chewing gum, which I keep in a little tin in the center armrest cubby. Needless to say the used chewing gum never ends up in the car.

    Back in the day ‘tractor splat’ on the road caused my granddad’s ’52 turquoise Pontiac to slide of the road into a utility pole. He loved that car.

  6. My thing with tyres seen on cars in the wild is getting irked with worn threads or badly inflated tyres. The front tyre on that Mazda NC deeply unsettles me.

    1. Hi Ricardo. I agree about tyre pressures. People are a bit casual about checking them these days, relying either on built-in tyre pressure monitors, which usually only throw a warning if the pressure is much lower than recommended, or garage forecourt air lines that are often inaccurate. I have a foot-pump and separate tyre pressure gauge and make a point of checking tyre pressures regularly.

    2. Frankly, I can scarcely imagine even getting into a car with such a tyre. Much less driving it: that cannot be a rewarding experience. Like a few others here, I can appreciate dirt that looks “purposeful”, like a mud-slung Subaru with the high-viz jacket and construction helmet visible on the rear shelf.

    3. Tyre pressures matter. My E92 is dealer maintained, but the change from summer to winter tyres was handled by a local garage. After the winter tyres had been put on I noticed the car handled badly in corners at speed. Turned out the tyre pressure was too high. The people at the garage said we put the pressure to 2.4 bars. Then they said they did that on every tyre on every car. We are no longer on speaking terms.

    4. The same happened to me. My TT quattro skipped on its rear wheels when rounding a corner, something that has never occurred before. I thought it was my bad driving technique, but on checking the tyre pressures, I found that they had been inflated to a shockingly high 46 psi by the garage that had just serviced the car.

  7. Where I live, driving a dirty car would inevitably be rewarded with a hand scrawled “Please wash me.” And earn the opprobrium of fellow motorists who would question the personal hygiene of the offending driver. The only drivers who would escape censure would be those who drive a 4WD (or SUV, for those inclined to Americanisms). A liberal splattering of mud would indicate the 4WD is used as God intended, and not to ferry school aged children to extra curricular activities.

  8. I live in a dairy-farming area, so ‘tractor splat’ tends to contain urea, which I assume to be corrosive to vehicle undersides, so I do my best to avoid it. Before I retired I would try to ensure my commuting time didn’t coincide with the cattle crossing the road for milking at the farm I passed on my way.

  9. Very interesting post Andrew. In my younger days I lived near the county side with narrow lanes. I would purposely look for muddy verges and pretend I was on the Lombard rally. Luckily, I never ended up in the ditch, but my mate often did 🤣. Now much older, I try to avoid puddles and mud, horse and cow dollop especially, as much as possible.

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