In Honour of St Patrick’s Day: A History of Irish Cars

While most St Paddy’s Day blog posts go on and on about Guinness, leprechauns and rolling emerald hills, here at Holts, we aren’t ones to adhere to stereotypes. So in homage to St Patrick’s Day ’16, we promise to ignore the Irish’s partiality to a good knees up, and instead focus on their most underappreciated export — the car.

It may not be their most prolific export (that would be, ahem, Guinness), but the motorcar has a long history on the Emerald Isle. In 1917, Henry Ford, whose father was an Irish immigrant, opened a factory in County Cork in which thousands of Fords were produced — including the Prefect, Escort, Cortina and Sierra. Sadly the factory closed in 1984, though Henry Ford & Sons still operates in the county as a sales enterprise for Ford Motor.


49beetleFord isn’t the only major manufacturer with links to Ireland. In 1950, Volkswagen commissioned thousands of Beetles to be manufactured on the island, marking the first time a VW was built outside Germany. The Beetles were assembled at the Ballsbridge plant in Dublin, where a VW dealership remains to this day.


And it doesn’t stop there. From the Heinkel Kabine to the Hillman Hunter, Renault 4 to the TMC Costin, loads of cars have been built on the Emerald Isle over the last century. But what about the country’s most famous motoring exports? The cars that sum up all that’s good about their home country, like the Italian Ferrari and the French Peugeot. Does Ireland have any cars to compete with the prancing pony?


In fact, Ireland has two cars that have come to epitomise Irish engineering: the magnificent DeLorean DMC-12 and the not-so brilliant (but incredibly named) Shamrock. Here’s a brief look at these two pillars of the Irish motoring industry.


DeLorean DMC-12


Famous for transporting Marty and Doc Back to the Future in 1985, the DeLorean DMC-12 is a magnificent feat of modern engineering. Though the Irish can’t claim to have designed the original DeLorean (that fell to Italian designer Giorgetto Guigiaro), they did build it — 9,000 of them to be exact. Assembly was carried out between 1981 and 1983 at the Dunmurry plant in Belfast, with most DeLoreans later transported across the Atlantic for the US market.


With its gull wings doors and stainless steel body, the DMC-12 was striking and futuristic, lending itself perfectly to the Back to the Future franchise. In total, six special edition DeLoreans were built for the cult film, a fact which helped the DMC-12 gain its iconic status.


The Shamrock


Unfortunately it’s hard to be as positive about Ireland’s other major car export, the Shamrock. Produced in County Monaghan for a brief time in the ‘50s, the Shamrock was the brainchild of American mogul, James F. Conway, who strove to build a big, luxury car to penetrate the flourishing US market.


Like American cars of the age the Shamrock was massive, with huge overhangs that made it look more like a parade float than a roadworthy car. From the moment it rolled off the production line, the Shamrock was riddled with problems. First, its 1.5 litre engine was nowhere near powerful enough, resulting in limited performance. As well as this, due to the massive body panels, the rear wheels couldn’t actually be removed in the event of a puncture without first dropping the axle.


While 10,000 Shamrocks were originally due for production, only ten were ever produced and sold. Today the car is considered something of a rarity, with only 7 or 8 still thought to exist.


Whether you’re the proud owner of one of the last remaining Shamrocks or just want to enjoy peace of mind behind the wheel, Holts products are designed to get you back on the road without the hassle. To find out more about our range of DIY car care products, visit our homepage.