To Ire­land’s Kil­gar­van Mo­tor Mu­seum

Small but char­ac­ter­ful, this fam­ily-run mu­seum is quintessen­tially Ir­ish

Octane - - CONTENTS - The Kil­gar­van Mo­tor Mu­seum is at Sla­heny, five min­utes south of Kil­gar­van town cen­tre by car, in County Kerry, Ire­land. It’s open Tues­day to Satur­day, 9.30am-12.45pm and 1.45-5.30pm, and on Sun­day and Mon­day by ap­point­ment; from Novem­ber t o March it’s op

MU­SE­UMS DON’T HAVE to be big or fancy to hold your at­ten­tion, and the fam­ily-run Kil­gar­van Mo­tor Mu­seum, tucked away down a coun­try road in Kerry, Ire­land, is nei­ther. Like the Ir­ish peo­ple it­self, how­ever, it’s a warm and con­vivial place where there are no ropes or bar­ri­ers be­tween you and the ex­hibits, and it fea­tures some mar­ques that you wouldn’t ex­pect to dis­cover in this ru­ral back­wa­ter.

Did you know, for ex­am­ple, that Adler, Auto Union, Borg­ward and Isetta cars and mi­cro­cars were as­sem­bled from kits in Ire­land, to avoid pay­ing puni­tive im­port du­ties? One of Kil­gar­van’s ex­hibits is a DKW two-stroke sa­loon that was ral­lied ex­ten­sively in Ire­land dur­ing the 1950s and ’60s; like most of the cars on dis­play, it has been re­stored by mu­seum founder John Mitchell and his son Trevor. They run the place with John’s wife Joan as a fam­ily hobby-cum-busi­ness – John and Trevor work on cus­tomers’ cars as well as their own.

What the Mitchells have achieved with lim­ited bud­get and re­sources is lit­tle short of mirac­u­lous. An early-70s Rolls-Royce Cor­niche that had rot­ted in a field for a cou­ple of decades has been brought back to pas­tel- yel­low glory; it might not win an RREC con­cours but the work in­volved is stag­ger­ing. Ire­land has tra­di­tion­ally been hard on its cars – partly due to be­ing blessed with plenty of rain­fall and partly, it has to be said, be­cause own­ers were not in­clined to over-ser­vice them – so Kil­gar­van’s clas­sics were of­ten in a pretty bad state when they were ac­quired.

Pop­u­lar fam­ily clas­sics are well rep­re­sented here: Mor­ris Eight, Ford Y-type and many more, plus a few com­par­a­tive rar­i­ties such as a 1946 Arm­strong-Sid­de­ley Lan­caster, the car that started the col­lec­tion in the 1970s. There are even a few Amer­i­can in­ter­lop­ers from ‘across the pond’, in­clud­ing a barn­find 1955 Buick Spe­cial Coupe that sits out­side next to an equally derelict right-hand-drive Citroën Trac­tion Avant, pre­sent­ing a tan­ta­lis­ing tableau to vis­i­tors as they ap­proach the mu­seum build­ings. The Mitchells have just fin­ished the two-year restora­tion of a 1926 Ford Model T, which had been off the road for nearly 60 years.

Be­sides the cars, there’s lots of automobilia dec­o­rat­ing the white­washed mu­seum build­ings, most of it with an Ir­ish con­nec­tion. Dur­ing the 1920s, petrol gi­ant BP used gi­ant Union Flag back­grounds for its home-mar­ket enamel ad­ver­tis­ing signs – but, re­al­is­ing this might not play so well in Ire­land, it changed the de­sign here, uniquely, to a two-tone star­burst graphic. A cou­ple of these rar­i­ties are in the Kil­gar­van col­lec­tion, along with ra­di­a­tor grilles, hub­caps, road signs and all man­ner of other fas­ci­nat­ing clut­ter. The mu­seum in­cludes a café and shop selling automobilia and mag­a­zines.

Nearly all the ve­hi­cles in the mu­seum are in run­ning con­di­tion and fre­quently ex­er­cised on ral­lies and club events; Oc­tane was treated to a blast in the DKW rally car along the nearby Wild At­lantic Way coastal road – for our money, it’s a much bet­ter drive than Cal­i­for­nia’s High­way 1. Though without quite so much sun­shine, ad­mit­tedly.

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