BIKES YOU’VE NEVER SEEN BEFORE: 1973 PENTON MUDLARK 125 ENDURO
W.E Wassell Limited of Birmingham, England, a manufacturer and distributor of motorcycle components for British, then Japanese bikes, was founded by Ted Wassell in 1946 and soon found a world market. There wasn’t an off-road motorcycle made in the UK that didn’t have a Wassell part on it. Aluminum gas tanks were a specialty. In 1972 Wassel made trials and scrambles frame kits for the BSA Bantam and then its own 125cc Sachs-powered machines engineered by Dalesman employees Jim Lee and Peter Edmonson. As many as 3000 bikes were made over several versions.
Although Americans might think that they have never seen a Wassell, they are wrong. John Penton originally brought in the Wassell trials bike, and labeled it as the Penton Trials. But it didn’t sell. Penton decided that the Penton Trials could be reconfigured into a trail bike and changed the name to “Mudlark.” There was also a Mudlark dual-sport model—complete with lights and turn signals. How could you ride a trials bike in fast cross-country riding? It turns out that Wassell used motocross geometry on the trials model, so the question wasn’t how could you ride fast cross-country terrain on a trials bike, but how you could compete in trials with motocross geometry.
At the time Sachs had two different versions of its 125 engine. The Sach “A” engine was underpowered, and, if you can believe it shifted much worse than the newer “B” engine. According to sources, for Penton to get more of the six-speed “B” engines, he needed to order a large shipment of five-speed “A” engines from Sachs. Penton didn’t want the “A” engines, but it was the only way to get the better “B” engine—unfortunately, Penton was left with a stockpile of “A” engines.
A lightbulb went off when Penton realized that all the Wassell-built bikes from England came with “B’ Engines. So, Penton reportedly pulled the “B” engines out of the Mudlarks and stuck the over-stocked “A” engines in them and used the “B” engines in their more competitive race bikes. Riders who ended up with the “A” engines could beef them up with a 152cc over-bore kit (which the Sachs iron cylinder could easily handle). Wassell spec’ed Metal Profile fork and hubs and a 22mm Amal carb, but if you complained the dealer would replaced it with a 26mm Bing.
Overall, the Penton Trials and Penton Mudlark did not sell very well from 1972 to 1974, but the Mudlark did not die. Penton reconfigured the Mudlark into the 1977-1979 Penton Woodsman enduro bike.