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March 10th 2012
Irish T-Bird? Nope, it's a Shamrock!

Cars Magazine May 1960

Motor Trend September 1959

In 1957 William Curtis, a restaurant equipment manufacturer from California, visited his wife's family in Ireland. He started thinking about what he could do to help the country and its people. What he came up with was the Shamrock.

The car in the above pictures is the first Prototype car. It was brought to California do the car magazine circuit. It is pretty much Austin A55 mechanicals clad in a one-piece molded fiberglass body designed by Canadian Alvin "Spike" Rhiando, a former 500-cc Formula 3 racer. The windscreen is from a Vauxhall.

Cars Magazine May 1960

The car, powered by a single carburated 1.5l BMC B series motor, had a wheelbase of 98 inches and an overall length of 186 3/4 inches. Now you know how the huge trunk is possible. I don't want to think about leaning over the front to get to the motor.

The writer for Cars Magazine, Duncan Maxwell, found the front seating suitable, the rear seating a bit cramped. Handling and roadability was in the class of many sports cars. Acceleration was not road burning, 30 mph in 6.1s, and 60mph in 19.7s. This may have been a bit better than in the A55, the Shamrock weighed 1,920 lbs. compared to the A55 at 2,352 lbs.

There were some problems, though. Having no glove box was one, low ground clearance at 4 1/2 inches was to be raised to 7 for the production cars, the most glaring problem was the car could never be jacked up enough to get the wheels off the back (see the top picture). The trials of a prototype.

Press Release Photo

In May of 1961 the Shamrock came back in a production form. It had a glove box, and I can only guess more ground clearance. The rear wheel wells were cut out a bit more, allowing the rear tires to be changed.

A few other items were updated or changed. The instrument cluster was changed, a radio was added, and the seats look a bit more substantial.

Cars Magazine May 1960/Boards.IE

Big problem was, nobody wanted to buy it. I don't know how far along the Shamrock Motors Ltd. plant in Castleblaney, Ireland had gotten. It was supposed to be 40,000 sq.ft. employing about 2400 people, building 3000 cars a year. It had to be an abrupt halt to plans. One comment I found was that it was too small for America, and to American for Britain. In most of the accounts I have read there were 8 production cars made, four of which were in the US, and four remaining in Ireland. A couple of accounts have as many as 60 cars built. If this is so, you have a chance.

American Cars




Photo Source: Boards.IE

The above car is owned by Dan Holms of Seattle Washington. He came across two others in a private collection, but could not come to terms. He then advertised on Hemmings, which brought this one to light being auctioned in Kansas.

Photo Source: Boards.IE

The Shamrock, above is owned by Dick Midkiff. It was originally white, but was painted green at the insistence of his wife. He has another ready for restoration and knows of one other destroyed in an accident in New York.

Irish Cars


Photo Source: Boards.IE

Back in Ireland this is the Shamrock of Paddy Byrne from Drogheda. This car was featured in the Irish version of Top Gear. Again, he has one more and knows of another in Killarney. I don't know if it is one of the others in the pictures below.






Photo Source: Boards.IE

That is what I could come up with. If there were only 8 production cars made, with at least 2 prototypes, you have seen pictures of 6 of them. There were attributions made to 4 more. If there were more than 8 cars built there would be more found today. The Shamrock would be more than a spec on the tapestry of the automobile age. If you want one you are going to have to hustle!

I could trust the magazine articles, written at the time. There could always be errors in the information found on the forums and later news articles.

Have Fun!

Check out:
Autoweek
Message Boards Ireland
Forgotten Fiberglass
Los Angeles Times June 14 2002
MSN India World's Greatest Cars
Wikipedia
Dublin Spring Show (1961)
Cars Magazine May 1960
--------------------------------------------
David E. Wood
bsccocwebguy@hotmail.com
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