Vintage vehicles, Automotive history and stories from motoring's past. 

1959 Shamrock - Irish for Thunderbird


While most know about that great lost hope for an Irish sports car called the DeLorean, very few are aware of an earlier attempt to put a shamrock stamp on a sports/luxury car.

Produced from 1959 to 1960, the sporty looking, two-door, four-seat Shamrock coupe was introduced to the U.S. via a two-page spread in Motor Trend's September 1959 issue, titled “An Irish T-Bird.”

The Shamrock was the dream of William Curtis, a twenty-five year old American restaurant equipment manufacturer who saw a need for job creation while visiting his wife’s family in Ireland. Deciding a car factory would be just the ticket to put the population to work, Curtis hired a retired race car driver to design his dream, with its unfortunately awkward lines hinting at an amateur effort. A removable hardtop echoed the Shamrock’s Thunderbird influences.


Although aimed squarely at the developing sports/luxury car market, the Shamrock's puny Austin I.5 liter four banger’s 53 horsepower proved inadequate to haul the hefty little drop-top about with anything approaching gusto. Even fiberglass bodywork couldn't keep the car's weight low enough for its tiny sewing machine motor to provide much thrust, with a zero to sixty time of 19.7 seconds giving the lie to its bodywork’s sporting pretensions.

Though a production goal of 3,000 cars per year was announced, only ten Shamrocks rolled out before a cold splash of reality killed Curtis’ dream. Four Shamrock coupes are known to exist today, with just one found stateside. In the end, the ill-starred Shamrock proved too large for British tastes and too underpowered for Americans.

An Irish Thunderbird? Who knows? With a stronger engine and better design, it just might have worked.

By Jim Cherry