The Way We Were Sum­mer 1978, Ballybrophy, Ire­land

Of all the places you prob­a­bly wouldn’t ex­pect to find a stretched Mer­cedes…

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - THIS WEEK -

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

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.