The Official site of The Yellow Car Game

Professor J Bulmanovich of the University of South-West Sussex has researched the game and has given the following as a probable history.

The history of the yellow car game can be traced back to the early 1600's and to the carters who used to transport the harvested rape seed from the Cotwolds across country to the barges that would carry the rape across to Dublin. It used to take the carters anywhere from 3-5 days to get to Bristol and as the country roads of that time were barely tracks it was not unheard of for carts to overturn and even be raided by bandits and highwaymen. At this period in history fledgling industries in Dublin very much depended on the rape seed to see them through the winter and when the barges would arrive in Dublin full of the yellow crop, the dock workers would punch each other on the arm in appreciation for a successful crossing of the Irish Sea. This seemingly inncocent punch on the arm passed on back to Bristol and dockers there would punch each other when the full carts arrived full of crop from the Cotswold fields.

Constables' - The Haywain
(Constables' The Haywain 1821 - Constable was a avid player)

Although the initial punch to the arm had no real meaning, superstition took over. People would start to punch each others arm when they saw the empty carts leave Bristol as a way of wishing the carters a safe journey home. People in villages along the route would punch each other when the empty carts passed through, although this time not to wish them a safe journey but symbolising thanks that the farmers had been able to sell their crop and would have enough money to buy food for their families over the colder months The carters, a superstitious bunch of men, began to get wind of these yellow cart punches. By the 1700s it was commonplace for wives to punch their carter husbands before they set off on the journey to the docks, the punch would usually accompany the phrase "keep 'em safe". Upon returning to the farm with an empty cart and full purse the carter would (gently) punch his wife and say "I kept 'em safe" before handing over his full purse and accepting a jug of foaming nut brown ale.

The yellow cart punch slowly became the yellow cart game through the children who after seeing the superstitious punches, but having no idea of what they symbolised, would start punching each other every time they saw one of these yellow-stained rape seed carts. And so it expanded, from carts, to carriages and at one point even yellow painted narrowboats were a part of the whole phenomenon.

By the 1800s, the yellow cart game had almost died off, although it was still being played with vigour in the Cotswolds, almost everywhere else it had stopped mainly due to the shipping of rape seed had been almost eradicated due the introduction of the mass produced and cheaper sunflower and vegetable oils.

However, the yellow cart game was soon to make a huge return to the public eye when in 1829 George Stephenson built (and painted yellow) his famous stream train Rocket. From 6-14 October of that year, Stephenson entered the Rocket in the Rainhill Trials, a competition to select a new locomotive to run the line between Liverpool and Manchester.

Stephensons' Rocket
(Stephensons' Rocket)

Half an hour before the rocket was due to take to the tracks, his wife Elizabeth, interupted an interview Stephenson was giving with a newspaper jounralist and punched him on the arm. He looked round aghast, saw it was his wife that had struck him and cocked his head in question. His wife just smiled and replied "Yellow cart luck". Sure enough all the other competitors in the trials broke down and Stephensons Rocket was the runaway winner. All the papers wrote of his sucess but the more shrewd reporters wrote feature pieces with headlines like "One punch secures Rocket victory" and "A Lucky Yellow Triumph".

Elizabeth Stephenson had heard of the yellow cart game as a child when she visited the Cotswolds and the seed had lain dormant until she set eyes on her husbands yellow rocket for the very first time. From then on, every yellow vehicle was in the game. Boats, carts, trains, buses, planes, tractors - even handcarts and childrens ride-on toys were the reason millions of people sported arm bruises. Surprisingly, even the famous Mallard express train, built in 1938 was initially painted yellow for luck, but the railway company ordered it repainted before it went into general service after a child who was standing on a platform as the Mallard thundered past on a test run was punched and fell on to the rails.

By the late 1960s many modes of transport had been filtered out of the game until now only cars remain as the official targets of the, now renamed, Yellow Car Game. And it is only going from strength to strength. There are many myspace and facebook pages dedicated to the game, you can find videos on youtube and there is even an unnofficial fanclub. The mens magazine FHM reported in 2005 that two yellow car enthusiasts were arrested by police and charged with violent conduct as they played the game... on Fifth Avenue, in New York. Think about that, nasty!

(New York Taxis)