This Shamrock was not a Lucky Charm

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1959 Shamrock briochure cover
Shamrock Motors Ltd.

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. That, of course, would be the DeLorean DMC-12.

The ill-fated car company founded by John Z. DeLorean was built on a plot of land where a faerie tree was said to have stood. Legend has it that 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. Regadless, 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 let’s introduce you to another: the Shamrock. The plan was to build the car in Ireland in the late-1950s or early ’60s. Unfortunately, the fiberglass Shamrock experienced smiliar bad luck as DeLorean and had an even shorter life.

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 William K. Curtis, a restaurant equipment manufacturer from California.

Curtis’ vision was to build a five-passenger, fibreglass convertible—which some think resembled a Studebaker Hawk from the rear and a Ford Thunderbird from the side—built on a 240-centimeter wheelbase and using Austin A55 (Cambridge) running gear.

The engine, a 1.5-liter power plant sporting one SU carburetor, produced a meager 53 horsepower and looked like it had been plucked out of an MGA.

I was fortunate enough to have examined one Shamrock in the flesh at an auction in California a number of years ago. And 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 3000 cars in the first year of production, but his aspirations crashed faster than DeLorean’s did. It is believed that only eight production models were built, although some sources claim as many as 60 rolled out of Shamrock’s Irish factory. So where did they all go? Hard to say, because they’re as rare as a four-leaf clover.

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