"A lick of crud to cover a lack of cred!"

This Saturday, campaigners representing the Alliance Against Urban 4x4s[1] will gather outside Birmingham's Mailbox to offer a free 'mudwash' valet service to image-conscious drivers of urban four-wheel drive (4×4) vehicles.

With a menu of muddy looks to choose from, including 'Surrey Slurry' and 'Gloucestershire Gunk', 'townie-tank' drivers will be able to pass themselves off as one of the tiny proportion of 4×4 owners who actually use their vehicle for its intended purpose – going off road. Since suburbanite 4×4 drivers are known to be paying as much as £7.95 a go for bottles of spray-on mud to make their vehicles look more authentic,[2] the Alliance are confident that a free 'mudwash' will go down a treat with Birmingham's would-be wilderness adventurers.

Alliance campaigner Kate Nancarrow said,

"We're offering urban 4×4 drivers a lick of crud to cover their lack of cred. Most urban 4x4s will rarely go further than the school run or local supermarket so drivers wanting to project a rugged, off-road image will find our service invaluable."

Ms Nancarrow continued:

"Seriously though, these vehicles were originally engineered for rough terrain so their chunky design, excessive weight and oversized engines make large 4x4s unsuitable for town or city driving. Besides intimidating other road users, big 4x4s pollute far more than equivalent saloon cars and estates, emitting higher quantities of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, human emissions of which are believed to be behind global climate change. Around two-thirds of 4x4s sold in the UK are diesel models which emit more of the pollution that reduces urban air quality."

Campaigners on Saturday will be asking members of the public to sign a petition to the Government calling for sensible measures to deter people from buying urban 4x4s, such as higher rates for residential parking permits for highly polluting cars, and reform of Graduated Vehicle Excise Duty to charge big gas-guzzlers more.[3] Currently, a Vauxhall Astra Estate pays the same VED as a 4.0 litre Land Rover Discovery, even though the Discovery churns out over twice as much carbon dioxide.

The Alliance have teamed up with Birmingham Friends of the Earth to bring this unique service to the city. Campaigners in five other UK cities will also be providing mudwashes on Saturday as part of a national campaign co-ordinated by the Alliance.[4]

Editor's Notes

[1] The Alliance Against Urban 4x4s was formed in summer 2004 by environmental campaigners in North London realised they had to do something about the rapid growth of big 4x4s in their neighbourhood. The Alliance has since grown to include active groups in major towns and cities across the UK. They have been successful in getting urban 4×4 ownership questioned in hundreds of press reports and TV and radio programmes, and more than 50,000 of their mock 'Poor Vehicle Choice' parking tickets have been distributed by supporters. For more information see www.stopurban4x4s.org.uk.

[2] A 75cl bottle of 'Sprayonmud' can be purchased on-line for £7.95, inc. postage and packaging, at www.sprayonmud.com. The product was developed by Colin Dowse, a businessman and web designer from Shropshire. "Spray-On Mud is an urban camouflage designed to give the impression that you are a serious off-roader," Dowse told Cox News Service (17th June 2005). The spray-on mud is real dirt, strained to remove stones and other debris, mixed with water and a secret ingredient that helps it stick to the vehicle's bodywork. Dowse said he can barely keep up with Internet sales of the product.

[3] Other groups calling for this measure now include Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Transport 2000, the Energy Saving Trust, and the Sustainable Development Commission, as well as politicians from the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats. Norman Baker MP (Lib Dem Shadow Environment Secretary and an Alliance supporter) recently put forward an Early Day Motion in Parliament on the subject of increasing road tax for highly polluting cars (EDM 146).

[4] 'Mudwashes' will also be held in London Chelsea, London Richmond, Manchester, Reading, Basingstoke and Coventry.