The Way We Were
Dublin is bustling with a variety of classics – both under the bridge and on it – on the north side of the Liffey
Our 1961 photographer is standing in a Dublin spot popular with snappers. But most will have been pointing their cameras in completely the opposite direction. About turn 180 degrees, and the city’s majestic 18th century neoclassical Custom House would have been in the viewfinder. Happily, our more transport-orientated snapper has chosen instead to capture Gardiner Street Lower where it passes under part of the Loopline railway bridge. Presumably the low rumble from the Crossley V8 engine of Córas Iompair Éireann C Class diesel locomotive C234 was sufficiently alluring to divert his attention away from Georgian Palladian architecture on a grand scale. Which is, let’s face it, completely understandable…
The 34 C Class locomotives were constructed from 19561957 by Metropolitan-Vickers in Manchester. But unreliability and lack of power from their 550bhp Crossley V8s resulted in their being re-engined from 1969 with General Motors’ EMD V8s, packing a rather more generous 1100bhp. Thus proving the old adage that many car modifiers have long-believed – if you stick a Chevy V8 in anything, it solves most problems.
But the General Motors era was still eight years away for these locos, so let’s turn our attention instead to the colourful GM product underneath. In fact, it’s hard not to. For amid the morass of automotive blacks and greys largely of British Motor Corporation and StandardTriumph origins, the bright scarlet (deep breath) Opel Olympia Rekord P1 Caravan estate just seems to leap out of the photo. With much less of a homegrown car industry than in the UK, Ireland was more open to foreign imports and several firms had assembly plants in the country – including Opel, which had a factory in Cork. However, this flamboyant model would have been ‘German-made, American style’ (as Opel trumpeted about the 1957-60 model). This one was built after the summer break of 1958. How do we know? Because the interior mirror is roof- instead of dash-mounted. Sometimes, it’s the smallest things.
Behind it is another German, this time a Volkswagen Beetle. This may well have been put together in Ireland, for ‘completely knocked down’ (CKD) manufacture began in Dublin in 1950. Indeed, the very first
CROSSLEY vs GENERAL MOTORS
Volkswagen built anywhere other than Germany was an Irish effort. There are three other Beetles in shot; a white post-1959 car on the left under the bridge, a red one just visible one car past it, and another red one beyond the Triumph Herald in the centre of the shot. With an average of 3000-4000 Beetles per year being built in Ireland until 1980, it’s likely that all of these were born in the Emerald Isle.
The rest of the identifiable vehicles here are all British; although again, some would have been made locally because Vauxhalls, Austins and Morrises also arrived in CKD crates. There’s a red Austin A40 Farina under the bridge, accompanied by a 1954-1957 Hillman Husky estate and a Morris Minor. The Husky was a Minx estate with nine inches of wheelbase and most of its creature comforts extracted. Still, it was cheap. Our crimson German and its less vibrant Teutonic companion are sandwiched by a Standard Ten and a Bedford CA, as built from 1958 with a curved one-piece windscreen instead of the earlier, less expensive split window. Another Minor is barrelling towards the two elegant ladies, who are looking to cross Gardiner Street Lower without ending up in a white CA sporting a bell and ‘Ambulance’ signage, or having to hop a passing Córas Iompair Éireann locomotive. Finally, there’s an Austin Mini De Luxe parked in front of a Wolseley 1500 MkI or MkII.
This scene is much the same today. But the cars and trains – now electric – are much less interesting. You’d be better off photographing the Custom House. It’s really rather splendid.
‘If you stick a Chevy V8 in anything, it solves most problems’
UP TO THE STANDARD By 1961, the Standard Ten had been superseded by the Triumph Herald. The Standard marque would go in 1963.