25 March 2014

This Shamrock Was Not A Lucky Charm

Wild Dreams: Short-lived Irish automaker went under even more quickly than the ill-fated DeLorean

The luck of the Irish certainly did not work for the vehicle that immediately comes to mind when you think of automobiles made in Ireland. I’m referring, of course, to the DeLorean.

The ill-fated DeLorean car company was built in a factory on a plot of land where a faerie tree was said to have stood. It is bad luck to cut down a faerie tree or damage it in any way, and if you do, it is said you will never have a good night’s sleep.

The tree was cut down at night by outside contractors to make way for the factory and folklorists contend to this day this is the reason for DeLorean’s failure. I suspect the company owners alleged dodgy dealings might have had something to do with the automaker’s collapse too.

Ireland is not exactly a nation known for automobile manufacturing, so with St. Patrick’s Day celebrations levelling off, I thought I would introduce you to the Shamrock.

The plan was to build the Shamrock in Ireland in the early ’60s. Unfortunately, the fibreglass Shamrock experienced a shorter life than the DeLorean.

The company was officially known as Shamrock Motors Ltd., of Trale, Kerry, but the company offices were registered in Guildford, Surrey, England. To complicate things further, the man who masterminded and financed the operation was a William K. Curtis, a restaurant equipment manufacturer from California.

His vision was to build a four-seat, fibreglass convertible — which some think resembled a Studebaker Hawk from the rear and a T-Bird from the side — built on a 240-centimetre wheelbase and using an Austin A55 (Cambridge) running gear.

Looking at the engine, it looked like it had been plucked out of an MGA. The 1.5-litre power plant, sporting one SU carburetor, produced a meagre 53 horsepower.

I was fortunate enough to have examined one Shamrock in the flesh at an auction in California a number of years ago.

As I stood there gazing at the engine, one of my countrymen, judging by his cockney drawl, looked at me and said: “Pathetic, isn’t it. You know that engine doesn’t have enough power to pull a greasy sausage off a plate?”

Upon closer inspection, I had to agree with his description.

Curtis had wild dreams of building 3,000 cars in the first year; his dream turned out to be more of a disaster than John DeLorean’s.

It is believed that only eight production models were built. A couple of accounts have as many as 60 being built, but if you see them all, you might still be suffering from the effects of your St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

1 Reader Comment

  • 1
    Ned Lawler St. Marys, Ohio March 26, 2014 at 08:41
    I saw a Shamrock in a museum in Ireland the mid '80s and haven't heard of one since. 'Tis a pity that Ireland is devoid of a positive car production history.

Join the Discussion