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The Shamrock Car might just be the rarest Irish-made car of all time

Let’s just say didn’t have the luck of the Irish.

AMERICANS SEEM TO love anything Irish: our whiskey, our accents, our Bono. But the one commodity that we haven’t managed to sell Stateside is cars.

Well, one car to be exact: the 1959 Shamrock Car.

The Shamrock was the brainchild of William Curtis, a Californian restaurant equipment manufacturer. The story goes that while visiting his wife’s family in Ireland, he was struck by the terrible poverty and decided that he would build a luxury automobile in Ireland and export it and sell it in America.

Curtis believed this would be a great way to help the Irish people and economy.

He was 25 years old when he started dreaming up the Shamrock, and was 27 when the first prototype was rolled out in 1959. It looked like this:

Source: By HMoyn - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

The left-hand drive, two-door, four-passenger second-generation fibreglass sports car was designed by Alvin ‘Spike’ Rhiando, a Canadian ex 500-cc Formula 3 racer. As you can tell from the photos, he clearly had no clue about designing cars. It was nicknamed the Irish T-Bird as it looked like the 1957 Thunderbird, crossed with a Studebaker Hawk from the rear.

The one-piece moulded fibreglass body was built on a ladder frame with a 98-inch wheelbase but had such long overhangs that it was described as looking more “like a parade float than a car”, especially considering its 51-inch front and 49-inch rear track. The 17-foot convertible had fin-tail styling and a wrap around windscreen that came from Vauxhall.

Source: Alden Jewell

The Shamrock used an Austin A55 (Cambridge) running gear. The 1.5-litre power plant, sporting one SU carburettor, produced a meagre 53hp, had a top speed of 145km/h and could go from 0-60mph in 19.7 seconds. The independent front suspension used coil springs, as did the live rear axle.

Source: By HMoyn - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

The Shamrock was to be built in Tralee in County Kerry but that didn’t work out. So Curtis opened a 40,000 square foot factory in Castleblayney in County Monaghan to manufacture the car.

original (1) Source: Alden Jewell

In 1959, Curtis told Motor Trend that the car would cost $2,495 and 3,000 of them would be produced a year and shipped to the US. However, this didn’t happen. Production came to a halt as nobody wanted to buy the Shamrock. It was too big for the British and it was too small and underpowered for the Americans.

Source: By HMoyn - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Rumour has it that after the factory closed, the fibreglass bodies and other parts were dumped into Lough Muckno.

original Source: Alden Jewell

It is believed that just eight to ten cars were produced making the Shamrock a very rare car. Five are still in existence in Ireland and three are in America and you can usually see one of these in the St Patrick’s Day parade – the perfect place for a car that looks like a float.

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