So when we realized today was St. Patrick’s day, it brought an interesting question to mind. What cars have come from the island of Ireland? When most of us think of Ireland the image of Shamrocks and leprechauns come to mind, but this island has a lot more to offer than the stereotypical imagery. Most of us have little to no knowledge of the Irish automotive industry and its history. There weren’t many car companies founded in Ireland, but there have been a number of cars manufactured in Ireland, including the iconic DeLorean DMC12. We thought St. Patrick’s Day would be the perfect day to look at some of the cars to come from both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Of the cars built in Ireland, the DeLorean has to be the most recognizable. The American company, founded by John DeLorean, had been looking for a place to setup manufacturing. Initially, the company planned on setting up production in Puerto Rico, but Northern Ireland offered the company £100 million to setup there instead. DMC needed the money and Ireland needed the jobs, so DMC took the deal and picked a location in Dunmurry, Northern Ireland to build their factory. In 1981 the first DMC rolled out of the factory, but by ’83 the company went bankrupt and the factory was closed. The DeLorean is likely the best known car to be manufactured in Ireland, but it wasn’t the first or the only.
While there have been a number of major manufactures, like Ford, building cars in Ireland, some of the local manufactures are far more interesting. With a name like Shamrock, how can this car not be interesting? It was built by a young William Curtis, who had a dream of building a luxury sports car in his ancestral homeland. Curtis had high hopes for his four seat sports car, but it never took off the way he had hoped. Only ten or so were built and no one knows for sure how many of those survived, but most speculate around 8 are left. The fiberglass body wasn’t the best looking design, but was handsome for its day and could be compared to the Ford Thunderbird. Had Curtis gone with a bigger and more powerful motor than the 1.5 liter Austin A55, it might have been more successful, but performance was dismal and most Americans would have considered it inadequate for this size of car. There were a number of other design flaws that also impacted desirability, like having to drop the rear end to get the back wheels off. Had the company fixed some of these issues, perhaps they would have gone on to attain their dreams, but instead had to close their doors.
Much further down the road, another notable fiberglass bodied car was developed and built in Ireland. The TMC Costin wasn’t anything like the Shamrock that came before it. The Costin was to be a Lotus Seven inspired kit car. The founder Frank Costin, also founded Marcos, felt Ireland needed to build a Caterham and Westfield rival. While the Costin proved to be a racing machine, less than 40 were built before TMC went bankrupt. Costin’s chassis design was eventually sold to Panoz and was used to build the Panoz Roadster. The few TMC Costins left are highly desirable, but like the Shamrock, are extremely hard to come by. Perhaps it is some kind of curse or simply the result of economics, but many of the Irish car companies suffered the same demise, bankruptcy. From what we have been able to find, most were well built cars, although they had their engineering flaws. Given that we don’t live in Ireland, we are sure there are at least a couple brands we didn’t find in our research that deserve recognition, so if you know of any other Irish built cars that should be here, feel free to share below in the comments section!