Dedicated and diverse classic car scene in Ireland
An Hispano near Caveys Jaguar premises in Camden Street, Dublin, in the 1950s
The 1912 Hispano- Suiza Alphonso XIII
Joe's 1950 Chevy 3100 pick-up
Beware of the classic car bug. Once the venom of delight for older cars is in your bloodstream it’s almost impossible to entirely eradicate. You may well go about your daily life as the driver of a sensible, staid modern hatchback but with the love of classics in your system, your life will vibrate to the tune of some gorgeous 1960’s sexbomb. You will crave it, it may consume you and you will be happily consumed.
Anyone looking to be bitten as if by a swarm of mosquitos should get themselves along to the RDS Simmonscourt pavilion this weekend, for the inaugural Royal Irish Automobile Club National Classic Car Show.
It promises to be a showcase of the most exotic and exciting classic, vintage and veteran cars that Ireland can muster.
Which is a slightly odd thing. When most of us think of classic cars in an Irish context, we tend to think of the guy living down the road who has kept his dad’s 1974 Escort in good condition, or the eccentric from the next parish over who somehow maintains and runs some oddball 1930s machine.
It’s a common misconception that, because Ireland has (a) traditionally had a low level of car sales compared to the rest of Europe and (b) what sales we have tend to be of the cheap and cheerful variety, that there are few, if any interesting classic cars in Ireland.
Not so, says Bob Montgomery, one of the show’s organisers and, of course, a regular contributor to these pages. In fact, not only is there a dedicated and diverse classic car scene in Ireland, it’s actually managing to beat the blues of the recession and is thriving.
“Come along to the show – I think you’ll be surprised how many ‘exotic’ cars there are in this country. In fact it would not be hard to run this show a week later with a completely different cast of cars,” Montgomery told us. “In making this selection of cars for this show we have become aware of many, many more exotic cars that are available in Ireland.”
Among them will be some truly rare and exciting machinery. How about a Hispano-Suiza? Never heard of one? Not surprising, the Spanish firm stopped making cars in 1946, but until then, it made some of the finest luxury cars in Europe, earning favourable comparison to the likes of Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Cadillac.
The car at the show is a 1913 Alfonso XIII, named for the reigning Spanish king, and was bought by a Mr Alfred Gaynor of Middle Abbey St. Quite apart from being timed at 90mph on the Balrothery Road (!) the car is famous for having been shot at by a sniper during the 1916 Easter Rising. Mr Gaynor’s driver was wounded, but recovered. The Hispano still bears the scar of the ricocheting bullet on its steering wheel.
With the interest in classics growing, it must beg the question; do we see them as a form of comforting nostalgia in difficult times? Or is it all about safe-haven investments? “Perhaps there is a touch of nostalgia, what with the times we live in but the classic car movement is booming,” says Montgomery. “Classic cars as investments really concern only the top end of the market, say in the €100,000 plus range. The current record for a classic car at auction is for a Ferrari with a race history that fetched more than $14.8m (€10.9m) last year in the US. But the vast majority of classic car enthusiasts are happy with much more mundane, and affordable, classics.”