The PENTON MUD LARK
By Matt Cuddy
[fr. mud + lark]
1) archaic an urchin who grubs for a living along the tide flats of the English Thames
2) someone who scavenges in river mud for items of value (riverside equivalent of a beachcomber)
Penton, that manufacturer of race-winning enduro and MX machinery, in 1973 came out with perhaps the only bomb it ever produced, the Mudlark.
Originally designed to be a trials bike, and named the “Penton Trials” the motorcycle was the brunt of many jokes, and was labeled by Dirt Bike Magazine as “John Penton’s $1000.00 Blunder”.
And after not selling very many, Penton changed the name to “Mudlark” in some feeble attempt to resurrect the bike as a dual-sport. Penton also made a Mudlark café-racer, and the aforementioned Mudlark dual-sport, complete with lights and turn signals.
The KTM factory in 1973 told John Penton that he couldn’t get any more of the good Sachs/DKW “B” motors, without purchasing a boatload of the crummy “A” motors, since his quota was about used up. So John Penton swallowed his pride and purchased a ship load of the A motors, in an effort to get more B motors from Sachs, a dubious deal indeed. The “A” motor was underpowered, shifted even worse than the B motor, and used electrics that could hardly light off a .049 model airplane engine.
So now John Penton had a boat-load of crummy Sachs A motors that wouldn’t work in his fine racing enduro and MX machines, so JP decided to jump into the trials bike market feet first, in an effort to use up these crummy A motor 125 DKW lumps. And the Mudlark was born, err, hatched.
The Mudlark was manufactured by the Wassel folks in England, a specialty house that produced spiffy frames, gas tanks and one-off motorcycles for the British market. For some reason Wassel seemed fit to use the frame and steering geometry from the MX and enduro Pentons. Unfortunately, that didn’t work very well on a trials bike. Seems it didn’t go where you pointed it.
And to top off the lousy handling, the bike used Metal Profile forks and hubs, which by 1973 were plagued with inferior quality control, bottomed out at the least provocation, and squirted ten weight fork oil all over everything.
The brake hubs were the same ones used on the Rickman Montesa, and Rickman Metisse 650 Triumphs, a little over-engineered for trials use. Also, when you purchased the Mudlark, the dealer handed you a 26mm Bing to replace the 22mm Amal that came stock. What were they trying to tell you? That the Amal sucked? Probably…
Anyway, back to the motor, the “A” series DKW/Sachs 125cc unit: The motor had terrible low-end characteristics, and loaded up easily.
With the fabled Sachs gearbox, making that all important shift from first gear to second on a trials bike resulted in grabbing one of the many neutrals found in the Sachs gearbox, that ceased all forward motion, as the rider toppled over into the weeds, the mud or off a giant boulder, as the rider stomped away at the recalcitrant gearbox, searching in vain for second gear.
Also, the screwy exhaust system leaked mung and drool all over the fine chrome plated 3140 molly frame, and made the bike look like the entire Turkish army had been using it as a spittoon.
Typical English design features reared their ugly heads, like the steel Lucas clutch and brake levers, and the anything but accurate chain adjustment system that moved the whole swing arm, not just the rear axle. The cable operated rear brake lacked feel, and would lock up with the least warning. It did have a nice seat though, and the gas cap didn’t leak.
Such was the Mudlark, about the only turkey the illustrious house of Penton ever produced. It seems John Penton had a lapse of judgment in letting an English specialty house design and build his “trials” bike. Like most Brit bikes of the time, the bike was well made, but most of the peripheral pieces were trash, pure and simple.
Oh, and it's almost impossible to find a picture of the Mud Lark, as John Penton probably found every copy in existance and burned them in the basement furnace. But we did, somehow, just for you.
They are very rare, and command top dollars for a decent copy for some odd reason. Good luck in finding one.