The Way We Were

Dublin, 1961

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - This Week - RICHARD GUNN …joined CCW in 2000 and be­came its ed­i­tor be­fore de­cid­ing that some­one else would prob­a­bly do it bet­ter. He’s now a free­lance writer.

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


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.

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