Mud racing: Kukerin Creekbed run

Good clean fun? Hell no, this is Kukerin Creekbed racing!

Photographers: Brian White

With its V8 engine roaring, the jacked-up 4×4 ute rounds the top turn and fires over a few bumps and down into the waist-deep pond with as much momentum as it can gather, sending mud flying into the crowd. There’s no such thing as ‘just a spectator’ at Kukerin. If you stand at the fence, then figure on copping some mud before the day is through. They reckon mud racing is like sex, it’s better when it’s dirty.

First published in the January 2014 issue of Street Machine. The next event in in September 2024, keep an eye out for updates here.

If you don’t know where Kukerin is, well, you’re probably not alone. For starters it’s in Western Australia, and about 300km south-east of Perth. It’s not the middle of nowhere, but we reckon you can see it from there.

I reckon it’s more fun getting dirty. You’ve just got to learn to close your mouth

They used to run an ag show – or agricultural show – there for decades, but more recently it’s become some sort of mud mecca for those who want to leave the big city lights behind, and just kick back and relax for the weekend. They used to run tractor pulls as well, but not anymore. “The tractor pull guys wanted too much money to come,” says club president Nick Green. “It all started as a way to bring more people to the local ag show, but there’s no ag show now, it’s just the burnouts and the creek bed run.”

The burnouts and the creek bed events run concurrently, which means the spectators never get bored. “There’s always something to watch, even if it’s raining,” Nick says.

Which was the case this year; the burnouts only got through one round before the clouds opened up, and they reckon it’s the first time that’s happened. “We even had to pump water out of the mud track because it was over full,” Nick adds. “We like people to get through the whole course because it takes time to drag them out. But we try and slow them down too, because if they’re going fast, it gets a bit dangerous.”

The creek bed cars are cobbled together using whatever’s laying around, so most of them look like rejects from Mad Max and they wear names like King Brown Racing and Loose Goose. They fire around a 400m-long track with a series of mud bogs of varying depths. There are classes for 2wd and 4wd, but without exception they’ve all been jacked up and almost all of them are running petrol V8s. The rules are pretty laid back; all you need is a helmet and seat belt – and maybe a rollbar if you’ve got an open vehicle. “Most guys are adding rollbars themselves now,” Nick reckons. “But we try and keep it pretty simple, so it’s cheap.”

Nick’s own ride is one of the most popular to hit the track, and it only takes a glance to see why. Who wouldn’t love watching a Mazda Bongo van jacked up over mini-tractor tyres with a V8 powerplant screaming around in the mud?

This is Nick’s fourth Bongo van. The first became a tractor puller after he bought it from the wreckers for $50; just for the brand new tyres it was wearing. He’s still got that sitting in the shed, but it’s been retired and he’s pouring all his efforts into the mud runner.

“I built it in six weeks about four years ago,” Nick says. Over recent years it’s copped a few improvements, but basically it’s perched above a 4×4 F100 chassis to keep it up out of the weeds, and there’s a tunnel-rammed 350 Chev with a C6 auto to give it some grunt. Chunky tyres help it rip through the course and there’s an external cage to help keep it all together if it goes over – which it did this year.

“My mate’s wife Pauline was in there with me. Most people either go really quiet, or they’re screaming, but she was laughing the whole way,” Nick says. “But the Bongo is looking a bit crooked now.” Even with the roll over, the little Bongo finished runner-up, and it won last year, so it’s certainly a capable machine.

“Most guys run water squirters with the wipers going the whole time, but I don’t run a windscreen. I reckon it’s more fun getting dirty. You’ve just got to learn to close your mouth.”