The Way We Were Summer 1978, Ballybrophy, Ireland
Of all the places you probably wouldn’t expect to find a stretched Mercedes…
We’re in Ireland for this week’s The Way We Were, and a surprisingly eclectic mix of vehicles can be found clustered outside Ballybrophy’s rural station. This small village – a recent census revealed just 145 people living there – nevertheless plays host to quite a significant station, as a junction on the Dublin to Cork railway line with a connection to Limerick. It opened in September 1847, but the line to Limerick is currently under threat because it is so lightly used.
There’s a Córas Iompair Éireann (Irish Transport System) train at the platform, but with so little of it visible, let’s turn instead to the road vehicles feeding it with passengers. With one rather notable exception, they’re fairly typical of an everyday 1970s street scene. Although Ireland was always a big market for British manufacturers, the country also embraced foreign cars quite readily, not having any major homegrown marques of its own. Ford, Fiat and Volkswagen all sited assembly plants in Ireland, and there are examples from all those car makers on display here. The first Beetle built anywhere other than Germany was put together from a CKD (complete knocked down) kit in Ballsbridge, Dublin, in 1950. Of course, when this shot was taken, the ill-fated DeLorean project was just getting underway over the border in Belfast.
But there are no such exotic sports cars here. What is pretty unusual though – especially for such a small, sleepy place – is the massive Mercedes-Benz on the right of the picture. Just an ordinary W114/115 model would be a rare beast at this time and in this sort of location, but this Benz is the stretched version of the three-pointed star’s 19681976 range of executive saloons and coupés, in pre-1973 facelift form. Out of 1,919,056 examples built, just 9895 were long-wheelbase variants. Was this the local taxi for the village? If so, even if it’s the diesel limousine, business must have been very good.
Looking even tinier than usual by contrast is the Fiat 127 further along. This is a Series 1 model, with chrome bumpers. It was in this form that the 127 won European Car of the Year for 1972. Keeping it company is a fourdoor Volkswagen Golf MkI. Sadly, it’s not possible to make out the badging but it’s quite a basic offering. The British cars begin with a BMC 1100/1300 beyond, in Austin or Morris MkII form with cropped fins. That rear end is looking a bit high though, compared to the front. Does the car need a hydrolastic pump up, or has somebody already been a bit over-zealous in already doing that?
The trimmed tail-lamps of the 1100/1300 will have been matched by the cut-back lights of the 196169 Austin A60 Cambridge in front of it, reduced in height from its otherwise almost identical 1959-61 A55 predecessor, as the fad for fins faded. Austin offerings continue with the A40 Farina parked over in the far corner, and it looks like there’s another A60 Cambridge or Morris Oxford VI just trying to muscle in on things from the left.
Our final vehicle is a Ford Escort MkI, just randomly parked in the middle of the road. However, the many oil drops around it seem to suggest this was just the done thing in Ballybrophy. Look how many there are surrounding the Mercedes. Given usual Teutonic standards of quality and workmanship, we’ll assume they’re probably not from the German limo. Ah, but those guiltylooking Austins just down the road…
The escort Mki was actually the second Blue Oval bearer of the name; it was previously used on a 100e estate from 1955-61. Vw’s Dublin factory built cars from 1950 until the mid-1980s. Beetle production stopped in 1977 in favour of Golf Mkis like this. although italian production of the Fiat 127 ceased in 1983, it continued to be built until 2008 as a Zastava koral, betterknown as a yugo. NAME AGAIN HOME-BUILT FAR FIAT
Joined Classic Car Weekly in 2000. Now freelance, but has always maintained a connection with the newspaper that started his career. RICHARD GUNN