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Thursday 23 November 2017

Dev's car restored to former glory by councillor

Luke Byrne

Luke Byrne

FOR Eamon de Valera it signalled a modern era in Irish history -- the second vehicle in a now infamous line of state cars.

Now the 1947 Dodge Plymouth which transported two of Ireland's presidents in the early years of the State has been lovingly restored.

Bought as a state car for Sean T O Ceallaigh in 1947, it was sold to Mr De Valera in 1959 for an undisclosed sum when Mr O Ceallaigh stepped down from the Aras.

Since 1988 the car has been kept at the De Valera Library in Ennis, Co Clare -- after it was passed on to the local council by his descendants.

However, following flooding in 2009 and last year it sustained heavy damage.

But the classic American vehicle is now ready to be displayed again thanks to the work of independent Clare councillor and mechanic PJ Ryan.

"It was in a little bit of a dilapidated state, but the mayor of Clare Patricia McCarthy approached me and asked me if I was interested in doing some work on the car," he said.

"I did it for free. All in all we've been working on the car for about four months.

"The first thing I had to do was get new tyres and tubes in from the United States for it, a new battery, some parts for the steering, the exhaust and the body work was the big thing."

Built in Motor City, Detroit, by Chrysler in 1947, the car is capable of a top speed of almost 100kmh and can carry eight passengers and a driver.

Mr O Ceallaigh, who served as president between 1945 and 1959, bought the car following a disagreement with De Valera, who was Taoiseach at the time.

Mr O Ceallaigh preferred a horse drawn carriage, flanked by a ceremonial army unit, until an accident at the Royal Dublin Society's annual Horse Show in 1946.

Mr De Valera, who disliked the mimicry of British royal pageantry, got his way.

Mr O Ceallaigh's first car was a Packard, driven for two years from 1945 until he bought the Dodge in 1947.

When he stepped down, Mr O Ceallaigh offered it to Mr De Valera pointing out that he was born in Detroit where the car was made.

Although he bought the car for private use, Mr De Valera often drove it to official duties ahead of the state Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith of the time.

Irish Independent

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