In 2011, Clare County Councillor and skilled motor mechanic P.J. Ryan donated his time and expertise to restoring the iconic 1947 Plymouth Dodge belonging to former Irish President Eamon de Valera.
The vehicle, which is a tourist attraction in County Clare, stands in its former glory at 18 feet and 10 inches long, 6 feet and 3 inches wide, and 5 feet and 6 inches high. Weighing approximately 2 tons, the car can seat 8 people plus the driver.
For Ryan, the restoration was a labor of love - free of charge. With the help of Clare native Danny Moloney, who now lives in New York, Ryan sourced an original set of Whitewall tires and a six-volt battery from America.
He made original repairs to the brakes, exhaust, steering and bodywork. David Browne of John Browne’s Auto Bodyshop in Cratloe generously assisted with restoring the bodywork as well.
“I felt it was a great honour to be asked to do this work, which wasn’t done for political reasons," Ryan told the Irish Examiner. “De Valera was recognized as a great statesman and was known worldwide. It was only right to bring his car back to its original state."
Ryan wanted the famed Dodge to be displayed in a more prominent area than the de Valera library.
“Cars used by other world leaders have been restored and kept in immaculate condition. I would like to see it in a better display area if possible. The de Valera library is a fine building but it is not in a very prominent place for secondary school students.
“I would like to see it placed in a heated glass area in the county council officers, which would be very accessible for a few local Ennis schools.”
The car, which de Valera had painted black from its original maroon, sports the presidential flag as well as the tricolor.
Although de Valera used the official presidential Rolls Royce on formal state occasions, he enjoyed the Dodge greatly, often driving it to political functions around the country and around County Clare. It is considered to be a significant part of Clare's social and political history.
*Originally published May 2011.