I got to wondering this St. Patrick’s Day, surely some Irishman sometime got into the car business. A quick Google of “Irish car” turns up nothing but the recipe for an unfortunately named combination of Irish stout, Irish whiskey and Irish cream. Just a little more digging turned up this bit of gold, the 1960 Shamrock. Motor Trend called it an Irish T-Bird at half the price.
An Irish-Californian named William Curtis (only 27) was visiting the old country when he got the urge to go into the car business there, “…to help the country and its people.” He built a ladder frame with 98″ wheelbase, installed an Austin A55 drive train and suspension, and had Alvin “Spike” Rhiando, a Canadian Formula 3 racer, design the fiberglass body. Its 1.5 liter B-series engine was used in many BMC cars, including the original MGA and the Nash Metropolitan, but the Shamrock version only developed 53 hp. Motor Trend predicted performance “should be adequate, but not outstanding.”
Curtis set up a “40,000 sq. ft.” factory in Castleblaney, County Monaghan to produce it. He told Motor Trend he hoped to be employing 2400 workers and shipping 3000 cars to the US in 1960. Shamrock’s price was set at $2495.
Its brochure says “the Shamrock is not just another car off a booming production line.” That’s for sure. In its six months of existence, only about ten Shamrocks were ever built. They dumped the unused parts into the local lake, Lough Muckno. Seven Shamrocks survive today, four in Ireland and three in America. But it was the first original production car made in Ireland. “As one Irishman at Castleblaney puts it: ‘Every Shamrock has the pride of old Ireland behind it.’”
Update from the morning after: Digging deeper into that thread at Boards.ie yields lots more nice photos. There were at least three different grille designs used on Shamrocks, this one’s rather nice.