The first weekend of December tends to have a rather festive feel to it these days. With the shopping chaos now starting earlier and earlier each year, come the start of the twelfth month the decorations emerge at a rampant rate. The children beam with excitement as the idea of the Toy Show finally hitting the screen after what feels like ages waiting, and the parents can tuck into a cheeky bottle of wine as a kickstart to one of the most self-rewarding months of the year. It’s a time of warmth and comfort in theory, but I’m watching the Late Late on an ancient looking screen, perched above the door of a rustic pub somewhere in the mountainous wilds of Co. Kerry. To rally folk, Christmas comes at the start of December, and it’s in the form of the Killarney Historic!
Now, it’s fair to say that Killarney is a significant hot bed of the sport, as is Kerry as a whole, with four Tarmac events each year, but Killarney, May Bank Holiday Weekend and the Lakes is the biggest deal. Crowds flock south each year for one of the country’s largest rally events, often marking the start of the Summer season. To the more hardcore followers though, and particularly those who long for a return to the days of old, the first weekend of December is cleared of all distractions and calendar clashes.
The Historics grew from a brave idea by KDMC to run an event with a strictly enforced age limit set on car’s available to enter. Setting the bar at Pre-1985, the entry is rather expectably chock full of Rear Wheel Drive, often sideways rallying hero’s, and is designed as a throwback to a time gone by now only experienced through grainy YouTube video’s and historic archives. While the spectacle may look similar, the reality of the modern world means that we aren’t treated to the week-long feasts of action that was somewhat the norm when these cars were in their prime, but Killarney has condensed all the elements needed to feel spot on.
I made my way into Killarney on a crisp Friday afternoon, typical of a December day, yet basked in rather un-seasonable sunshine. Scrutiny was an obvious port of call, an opportunity to get up close and personal with the machinery destined to tackle the iconic Killarney stages early the next morning. I was barely in the gate as an iconic BMW M3 grumbled off into the night, but right into his spot rolled the car everyone was hoping to catch for the weekend, Rob Duggan and the iconic 2.5 Millington Escort of Colin Byrne.
As the sun began to set, it was an opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the golden hour in the presence of some of my favourite rally cars of all time. It was a blissful mix of my photography and rallying perspectives, and a treat for the senses.
Home, thermal gear on and car packed, it was time to set off. Much of the Killarney Historic appeal is built on the iconic stages available right on the town’s doorstep, none more of a draw early on a crisp morning than Molls Gap. The twisty ribbon of tarmac rising out of the town boundaries towards the mountains is a glorious place to watch rally cars in full flow, but I felt I wanted something different this year. As the droves plotted their way for Ladies View and the like, I struck for the ‘Other Gap’, and possibly Irelands most stunning stretches of tarmac.
High in the mountains, quietness reigns. Darkness is experienced on a level almost unmatched, with few if any signs of life dotted on the landscape. A small, rural bar, surrounded on all sides but foreboding peaks, is a natural hub of a remote community. Glencar feels like it’s a million miles from anywhere, and is as ruggedly stunning because of its surrounding. In the dead of night, my drive feels eerie and lonely. 90 minutes I drive down lanes after lane, not crossing paths with another soul. A phone screen, and its warm glow, keeps me company. Guidance is necessary in these conditions, and my destination is Ballaghbeama Gap.
Situated right in the foothills of Carrantuohill, Ballaghbeama is an anomaly. As roads go, it seems to serve very little purpose. Barely more than a car wide for the most part, the smooth tarmac snakes its way through vast expanses of true wilderness. To both sides, the eye casts over desolate yet beautiful scenery. Its absolute pinnacle is in the tight and twisty section, barely more than 2 or 3km long, in the middle that weaves through sheer rock faces. It has all the feel of the iconic twisting roads of Rally Monte Carlo or Corsica, and the second I drove it myself, I knew I had to see, feel and experience the spectacle of a rally passing through. I could gush about Ballaghbeama for hours, and rightfully you should add it to the roads worthy of a drive when you get a chance!
Reversed into a gap between a rock face and a waterfall, barely a few metres from the racing line, I bedded down for the night, yet again checking into Hotel de Peugeot to bring you all some pictures of Rally Cars. The crackle of a Mk 2 Escort road car was my wake-up call, and it set the tone. I couldn’t tell you about who was quick, who was leading or who was having troubles, as I had been off the mobile grid for about 12 hours up in the mountains, but I could tell you how glorious a sound a BDA engine makes as it reverberates around its surroundings. It didn’t matter a jot though, as I had a venerable playground to work with, working as many angles as possible. I climbed hills, hung off rocks, fell into streams and ploughed through bogs, yet loved every minute. The scenery wasn’t half bad either.
Come the end of the day, as the sun set, it would be the Duggan’s, Rob and Tara, who would taste the victory, leading from the off in a dominant display. More impressive was the utter domination of Denis Moynihan and Ger Conway in their MK1 Escort, taking an impressive win in the ‘more historic’ section of the rally. See I forgot to mention that didn’t I, that the single best part of Killarney Historics is that it plays host to a specific rally within, for cars which not only elicit the sight of rallying of old, but adhere to strict rules making them as close as possible in spec and performance of the glory days. While the Modifieds are something we are more accustom to with screaming Millington’s and the raucous bang of Sequential gearboxes, the historic section is the preserve of proper RS1800 Escort, straight cut Gears and all that is truly right in the world!
As a car fan, I find my tastes in what I believe to be cool or interesting to be a constantly changing experience. I constantly have eureka moments, when something I may have derided or ignored all my life just hits me. Over the past few months, German produced cars have really become a lot more appealing in a way I never believed to be possible. Growing up in a JDM obsessed country, well engineered Deutsch vehicles seemed en-mass to be dull and boring, but, and perhaps its my transition into sensibility, more and more I look to our European comrade and see cars that just tick boxes, and tick them well!
Case most certainly in point I feel is my growing admiration for all things BMW. For year, they just did nothing for me. As my friends played around with E36’s, I didn’t get it. Granted, while halo cars synonymous with Motorsport dominance could turn my head, run of the mill Bavarian’s just seemed dull and sadly boring. God how wrong was I.
I first laid eyes on Conor’s pristine E34 BMW 5 Series in the halls of Dubshed, and the timeless 90’s look sucked me in. For a car edging towards 25 years old, the E34 shape has proven to be somewhat timeless. Clean, sharp lines were all the rage at the time, and even now its a design ethos that simply works. While doing some other work in Mondello recently, hearing the grumble of the 6 Cylinder saloon cruising into sight got me very excited, but with a lot else on it meant I really needed to get a very quick feature done.
The M-Sport divising of BMW are well known for creating a variety of high speed monsters, but I have become increasingly aware of how well their back catalogue of styling kits have transformed the look of countless BMW models. Here, a factory style needs no adjustment to look spot on, while a subtle bolt on boot spoiler, very akin to the E30 M3 Evo, and lip splitter just set the car apart from the run-of-the-mill 5 Series fare.
Sitting under each corner are an immaculate set of AC Schnitzer split wheels, with the grey centers contrasting with the polished lip. Obviously, as much as the aggressive stance is spot on, its a little too hardcore for driving, and so a full Air Lift Performance setup is on hand to provide the perfect balance of show and go!
Inside, and everything is all very retro-business-chic. Black leather is match with some very cool white piping, and as a pure geek I was transfixed with the center console mounted telephone. Never has such a pointless device seemed soo damn cool!! While all may seem refined, slap bang in the middle sits a rather potent looking CAE shifter, an obvious motorsport touch for a car certainly more of a driver than a show queen!
Hi, I’m Marty and I’m the founder and owner of Freshfix. It’s not unknown between my friends and family that I change my cars more than my boxers! Writing this post makes me realize that they may be right about that. Let’s go back to 2007 when I had just turned 17 and passed my driving test and it was time to buy my first car. I had spent years dreaming of my first car being a Jap import or something fast. I was lucky enough to have friends who were older than me and would own these very cars – I just wanted my own. Well, lets just say that didn’t really go to plan. To cut a long story short I was roped into buying a 2003 Ford Fiesta 1.4 TDCI….even typing this has sent shivers down my spine.
That car lasted 3 days, yes 3 days! I absolutely hated it and went straight to the bank and took out a €4,000 loan to go get a car I really wanted, or thought I wanted! A close friend was selling his Glanza non-turbo, but for me it was still €2,500 for insurance. You can see the only picture I have above, I loved the car, it was clean, loud and I felt like one of the LADZ, that was until one morning before school I used the remote start to warm it up before getting out of bed. A massive bang followed by the alarm going off which revealed the car was left in gear the night before and had crashed into the front of the house! I had to replace the bonnet and front bumper and got a massive bollocking off my folks!
At a time when the scene was massive and if it wasn’t a SIR or Type R, well people just didn’t think it was cool or good enough. I always liked the Honda Ek Civic but sadly couldn’t afford a SIR or TYPE R and never mind the insurance. The closest I could get was the 1.5 engined EK3 – a fresh import too! This was the first car I spent a crazy about of money on changing it around and trying to get it up to the EK9 standard without actually changing the engine. I had it for about a year and a half and sold it on to a guy who eventually stuck the Type R heart into it. I came across it recently on the Honda Page on facebook before a track day only to be told it was written off on the way to the track day.
Que the sticker bomb era and yes I did go with it. I picked up my first car with VVTI. This was a fun car with the two stages but trying to feed this car the petrol it required was tough so it didn’t hang around too long.
One of my favorite cars to date was my Mk4 TDi which was remapped and produced roughly 300Ft-lbs of torque, it did everything I needed at the time and had the heated leather Recaro’s from the Anniversary model. I used to contact the guy I sold it to from time to time, asking to buy it back but he never would sell it! When I sold my Mk5 golf in 2016 the buyer actually owned this car and he still wouldn’t sell it!!
This is one of my spur of the moment ‘lets buy this’ cars. It was a 1.6D with a k24 turbo strapped onto it. It ran like a pig but was funny and just turned heads. Again I didn’t keep it for too long. Check out this video of it on the dyno! SMOKE AHOY!
My first ever RWD car and the car which caused me to capture that dam track day virus! I bought this while in college for €5750 I think from Darren Mc Namara (Dmac) in Cork. it had no interior whatsoever and a roll cage and was in good need of some TLC in the engine bay and interior. The good thing about the Ae85 at the time was I could get it under classic insurance. We agreed to do the deal based on the fact it would go through the NCT. Months passed and I had finally got the text to say the car was ready for collection. I didn’t spend much on making it look pretty more just drove it and even learned how to do a few skids with the help of the Dealtwidth crew.
I used this car while in college along with the Ae86. This was the sensible car for roughly two years and brought me around Ireland meeting people while doing work for FreshFix. Nothing fancy at all with this car, a set of JOM coilovers and fake BBS wheels. This ended up getting stolen from the new owner only weeks after getting it from me.
At the point, I started working in the motor trade and had some spare cash built up. I would never have dreamed of owning a French car but this grabbed my attention and was extremely fun to drive. It has really short ratios and stuck to the road like glue. It was so much fun I went left out the gate to Mondello one morning instead of work and just called in sick. It was strange showing up to the track day in a suit and tie.
I loved these so much I bought two! Well, one came up in the trade for very cheap so I couldn’t say no. I later sold both of them to recoup some cash as the Motorsport bug had bitten.
Talk about drinking fuel! My Evo 7 was the first proper performance car. It was remapped to 350bhp and was mighty fun to slide around in the wet. I still see this around coming home from work.
I saw this online for sale and called the insurance to see what the story was. I was able to get insured and bought it that day. The guy actually selling it worked in the same motor group as me funnily enough. This was a mega car and my first real bite at the V-Tec cherry, it ended up going to Spain in the end.
I caught the Motorsport bug and found myself competing in the Mondello Park Fiesta championship in 2015, I bought this car ready to race and spent little or nothing on it all year. I would go on to learn the in’s and out’s of Motorsport pretty quickly but also take home the rookie championship. It was also the start of a serious Motorsport addiction!
Still working in the motor trade at this point I needed something with power but also not drawing too much attention from the po-po. It was a nice car but too many things rattled and bugged me with it. Still, wouldn’t stop me owning one again. The guy who bought this off me owned my Mk4 still.
It was like going back in time with the Ek3. This time I built it from the ground up myself to compete in the Future Classic Racing Series. I had a good start to the season in 2016 but ended up with only doing 5 out of the 10 rounds. I sold this to the guys at Trackdays.ie and bought ……
Yup, another civic but this time with a bit more bhp. This came up after my good friend David Cassidy was borrowing it to finish off his ITCC season. A lot went on with the car so to save me typing it all out you can visit the VLOG to see what went on. I still own this car.
I traveled to Cork twice for this car, I also had IDC driver Mike Fitz check the car out for me before I made the trip down – goes to show how much people will go out of the way to help you – Thanks, Mike! I first went down and agreed on a price, I was left standing at the petrol station with no response or anything from the seller after he had to go “home” for the logbook. Long story short a friend had to buy the car for me. I got a towbar fitted and this brings me and my race car everywhere, it’s also good to sleep two people, the perfect all-rounder in my eyes. I still own this car and decided that when it breaks down majorly I will change it….its just clocked 178k miles and still no signs of that going to happen.
Believe it or not, I left out a good few cars that were more of a run about than something I truly enjoyed….
See you next week doc for the next session?