An Irish Specialty

On my visits to the Republic of Ireland I notice what seems to be a local peculiarity, the neglected high-end car.


Here we have a Mercedes SLK accumulating algae and moss, seen in late December. Nearby I saw a six year old Audi A4 cabriolet where the paint was visibly worn along the bodysides and the ragtop scuffed. I can’t fathom what it would take to make paint wear down to the primer. image

The interior resembled a bin: a beaker from Mickey D’s in the cupholder, cigarette packets on the console and rubbish on the rear seats and in the footwells. It looked like a waste sack had been emptied into the interior. The car had a valid insurance card. Evidently it was in use. Last summer I spotted a trashed Cadillac BLS: not three years old. Its paint still had the new look to it but every panel was dented or scratched and the wheels scuffed. It had been bought and never cleaned or treated carefully, just thrown around.


Characterising these cars’ treatment is a complete indifference to material value on one level and, on another, the need to display status by having a prestige car. The only place I have ever seen a trashed Lexus LS is Dublin. Ditto a trashed SL 500. It’s peculiar to want a smart car (which implies one cares about status) and then leave it filthy (which implies one doesn’t care about how one is seen).

Gavin Green wrote an editorial in Car about how cool it was to have a high-end vehicle and to leave it unwashed. I think he imagined a freshly waxed Bentley with a fresh coat of mud. Or did he mean a neglected, dented Bentley, treated like a pick-up truck? The semantics of this, the meaning of this is clear: the owner is too rich to care.

I don’t find that so very pleasant an ethic. It’s a way of showing off, like the Swedes who buy two bottles of champagne and pour one down the sink. These trashed prestige cars seem to be indicative of a similar mentality or perhaps that the owners are like barbarians in a mansion. They understand that the vehicle represents a higher status but they haven’t internalised the other values of a civilised way of life such as orderliness, a respect for others and a respect for the scarcity of resources.


Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

12 thoughts on “An Irish Specialty”

  1. This brings out a whole series of conflicting opinions. On the one hand, we overvalue cars – we pay far too much for them (not in terms of the basic raw resources, more for badges and fripperies that mean so little) and we put too much store in what they say about us. So there is something refreshing about someone treating a car with disdain. On the other hand, there are many people work hard so they can afford nice things which never seem to get within reach, then some crude bastard pisses on their dreams by buying the same item and not valuing it.

    I know that my ‘classic’ car is an object of envy to some. The fact that I park it on the street and treat it like any other car I’ve ever owned does irritate some people – a neighbour once hinted that his nephew thought of me as a dilettante prat. It’s none of his fucking business, of course, but I see his point at the same time. But even if I could afford a London garage, I don’t own the car to take out on sunny days. In the end it’s just a car, I’ve travelled tens of thousands of miles in it and I want it to still be available as such.

    I quite like cars when they are clean and shiny but I also like dirty cars that show a lot of road use – mud sprayed back over the wings, etc. Mould however is a sign of disuse and, to me, it’s another side of the concours queen coin. Use the car or give it to someone who will.

  2. The fact your car is used and maintained matters. I doubt it´s a trash can. The Irish insouciance about their high end cars is, for me, distasteful. The Mercedes shown here is probably not running but I have seen green-slimed cars that evidently are. There was a truly murky Golf that I saw coming and going that had been parked under a tree for 16 hours a day somewhere else that came and went. I´d guess it was not washed once in the three years since purchase. I haven´t really seen this in other countries. Even the dented, low-value cars of obviously poorer people seem to be better looked after than the rather deeply grimed, scuffed and trash-filled vehicles I am thinking of here.

  3. The golden years of the Celtic tiger are well and truly over.

    Meanwhile I’ll have to remember to remove the moss off my window sills with an old toothbrush this weekend, lest my reputation suffers…

  4. This kind of deterioration I find tasteless, but in other cases, a casual sense of cleanliness can be endearing – but that depends entirely upon context. Certain high end cars benefit from a bit of a laissez-faire attitude: a Ferrari (maybe even a classic one) that hasn’t been polished into a driveable mirror is, quite simply, much cooler than an example that’s being treated like an artefact.
    More formal cars, however, need to be treated as such, I believe. In the case of my XJ, I actually feel I must keep it in as resplendent a condition as possible, in order to avoid it gaining a whiff of a pub owner’s car.

    1. So that XJ I saw parked outside Kris’s Keller in Hamburg with 6 cases of Astra poking out of the boot wasn’t yours then?

    2. How come you’ve heard of Astra? Colour me astonished.

      No, that wasn’t mine. I use my derelict Lynx Eventer as delivery vehicle for my place, which is called “Zur letzten Rille”. Come visit us every Thursday for our lavish All The Schnitzels You Can Eat Night.

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