Great cars of . . . Ireland!
Since it's St. Patrick's Day, we have a perfect excuse to run a picture of the most Irish of all possible Irish cars, a lovely green DMC-12.
Ah, faith and begorrah (whatever the heck a "begorrah" is), sure as you're born 'tis more to the story of Irish car lust than green DeLoreans. Follow me to the end of the rainbow and we'll take a look. (I promise to lose the phony accent.)
American businessman William K Curtis founded the Shamrock Motor Car Company in the middle 1950s, with the objective of building a large fiberglass-bodied luxury convertible for the U.S. market. The resulting Shamrock was a pastiche of late-50s styling themes: a little bit Ford/Edsel/Mercury in its general squarishness, a dash of '55 Packard in the forward-canted headlights, some Rambler in the grille, a touch of '57 Chevy with the tail fins, the mandatory wraparound windshield--and, unfortunately, a whole lot of ugly. It's not so much 1950s styling as it is an unintentional parody of 1950s styling. The front quarters are particularly clunky, with their oddly-shaped wheel wells and misplaced character lines.
Styling wasn't the Shamrock's only problem. Though rather hefty of curb weight considering its fiberglass construction, the Shamrock was powered by a dinky 55 HP Austin four-cylinder--an engine that had trouble enough overcoming the inertia of the much-lighter Austin A55 it was originally designed for.
William Curtis had dreams of cranking out 10,000 Shamrocks a year from his factory in Castleblayney, County Monaghan, but only eight of the ungainly and underpowered beasts were assembled before the company went bust in 1959. Four Shamrocks survive, one in Seattle and the other three in Ireland, all kept carefully hidden lest they frighten the horses.
The Thompson Motor Company of Wexford did a much better job with its offering, the TMC Costin. Named after its designer, Frank Costin, it was an interesting little hand-built roadster with butterfly doors, intended to compete with the likes of the Lotus/Caterham Seven. 39 Costins were assembled between 1983 and 1987, and they enjoyed some success in racing. After TMC went bankrupt, the Costin chassis design was sold to Panoz Auto Development Company of Georgia, which built another 220 or so cars between 1992 and 1997 with V-8 engines and different bodywork.
Ireland also has a very rich and active car culture. If you're interested in old school wheels, the Irish Veteran & Vintage Car Club is the place to go. Their website has what looks to be a comprehensive calendar of car shows, meets, "runs," and rallies throughout the country--and there are quite a few of them, even now in the "off season." The IVVCC's biggest event is the International Gordon Bennett Rally Ireland, a three-day combination rally and recreational driving tour, every June.
Another website, Juicebox, chronicles the Irish tuner car community. Up until I started writing this post, I would have never imagined that there would be Hondas and Toyotas with dropped suspensions, color-keyed rims, cold-air intakes, body kits, and chipped ECMs rolling on the streets of Dublin and Cork, but, well, there are apparently quite a few of them. I'd encourage you to click through to Juicebox's feature articles and photo galleries. There's some lovely work on display there.
In my brief excursion through Irish car culture, I was most impressed by the musclecar enthusiasts, of which there are a surprising number. American Muscle Cars Ireland is an organized club for Irish owners of big old Yankee iron. They've gone to the trouble of acquiring real American cars with gofaster-equipped V-8s, and they get together for meets, track days, and occasional "runs" on the public streets.
I'll leave you with a video of some AMCI members getting together for a run on St. Patrick's Day 2008. It's a mix of vehicles that would be at home at any Wednesday night cruise-in in Ohio: Camaros, Mustangs, Chargers, Road Runners, Trans Ams with "flaming chicken" hood decals, a C3 'Vette. (I'm not sure how the triple-white Eldosaurus sneaked in, but no one seems to mind it tagging along.) The accents may be different, and they may be driving on the other side of the road from us, but these are definitely our kind of people.
We here at Car Lust wish our friends in Ireland's car community a happy St. Patrick's Day. On your next run, may the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be at your back, and may the Gardai leave their radar guns switched off. Éirinn go Brách!
--Cookie O'Dog's Owner
The green DeLorean at the top of the post comes from Photobucket user dmc12jz. The photo of the ill-fated Shamrock is from Wikipedia. The TMC Costin photo is from carpictures.com. The tastefully-modded Honda "hatchi" was spotted at the 2009 Kilkenny Tuner Show by Juicebox's roving reporter.