A look into the Irish Car Scene

When people think of Ireland, they usually default to the stereotypes of Lucky Charms, Guinness, or rain. Rarely does anyone consider the fact that Ireland is home to some of the biggest car-enthusiasts in the world. From modified cars to car meets, rallies and cruises throughout the country, the Irish car scene is one of the most exciting cultures to be a part of.

The Irish car scene stretches across the entire country but is mostly prominent in the countryside. Most rural areas in Ireland lack amenities for entertainment and activities, so the people living here have had to improvise in finding things to do with their spare time. Also, the lack of infrastructure in rural Ireland has made it necessary for people to drive and own cars from a very young age.

There are some people that learn how to drive before they even hit the age of ten, taking the cars out on the farm or on narrow country backroads. These country roads see some motorheads racing each other and speeding through the bends for the very thrill it brings. The necessity of owning a car has pushed some to test the boundaries of what they can do with it.

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Photograph courtesy of Owen O’Boyle

Ireland’s proximity to England means there is a large number of MGs and other quintessential motors in the country. There is also a sizable network of American and Japanese cars, which reflects the diversity that exists here. There are plenty of imports from the east, with Supras, Celicas, and Silvias being common sights at car shows and events.

While most cars come with amazing features, beautiful paint jobs and gorgeous interiors, real car enthusiasts want their personal car to be as unique as the driver. They want their vehicle to stand out and make a statement within the Irish car scene community, and also to add a  personal touch that makes the car their very own.


There are in fact no Irish-made cars in the world and many would therefore assume that there isn’t much of an automotive culture to be found in Ireland. While that may be true, the range of cars showcased in car meets and car shows proves otherwise. 

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Some left-hand drive cars are imported from the UK or Japan but these vehicles are quite uncommon outside of the enthusiast crowd, due in large part to a thing we call VRT. It’s a tax that everyone even thinking of importing is afraid of— a huge amount of money in charges for trying to own something interesting.  Naturally, because of this tax, cars here are a bit more expensive than in the UK even, so there’s really no other market for used cars aside from the internal one in Ireland. 

On top of this you have a pesky road tax. What’s a “road tax”? This one is a question that almost no one can answer, and that’s because it has so many smaller taxes embedded in it that people can’t even remember what the last addition was. All we know is, this tax is high. The bigger the engine capacity, the higher the tax gets, so it’s only natural that smaller-capacity cars are preferred in Ireland. 


Modifying cars to change their appearance, the sound of the exhaust or the size of the engine is a huge aspect of the Irish car scene. While there are certain rules on the topic, the current law is not strictly defined and various modifications may range in terms of legality .

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Photograph courtesy of Owen O’Boyle

Visual modifications to the paintjob and anything that changes the particulars mentioned in registration documents need to be certified.  Dual tone colours are now mostly accepted thanks to manufacturers like Mercedes releasing vehicles with a dark roof. 

There are so many types of car modifications (mods) you can add to your car.  Most people love the performance mods and the mods that completely reform the vehicle’s body style and aerodynamics and look, such as suspension, turbo, exhaust, body kits, performance wheels… but these types of mods can be extremely costly.  

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They are the ones that break the bank – but they are the ones that take your car’s performance and abilities as well as style and look to the next level.  They allow you to modify the color, lighting, and many interior and exterior accessories and parts to really pull your car’s style together in a cool way.  

Choosing the right modifications is important as it can make your car appear cheap or tacky if you overdo it. It is meant to be a reflection or better yet an extension of your personality so it requires some wise decisions, planning and research.  

Some of these modifications include headlight covers that are used to protect headlights from damage.  They are very easy to install and can change the shape, color and look of the headlights.  

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Photograph courtesy of Owen O’Boyle

Fog lights are usually an easy upgrade for some cars.  If they don’t have them usually there’s a place for them in the front bumper.  If the car already has fog lights, the light bulbs are sometimes changed to a different type of light or colour. 

Headlight upgrades – HID4 (High Intensity Discharge) and LED (Light Emitting Diode) are the new trend for cars these days.  Most cars come with halogen headlights but conversion kits, which can be bought at most auto stores, are used to upgrade and give a new look to old headlights. 

 An Interior LED lighting kit is used to brighten up the interior of cars and add really cool splashes of color and accents around the inside of the vehicle. Some people find unique ways to upgrade or modify their car’s tail and turn signal lights by either using covers, colored bulbs and even vinyl wrap.  

Some people paint or modify the color of their spoiler, which is one way to go.  Other people change the shape and style. Tinted windows are a go-to in the Irish car scene and despite the bad country roads many of the cars are lowered.


There’s almost no Sunday where a Cars & Coffee isn’t taking place somewhere in Ireland, but many prefer the act of driving to the act of standing and making smalltalk. A group of car enthusiasts sometimes meet for a ‘cruise’ across different parts of the country. 

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The views are incredible, and it’s not like there are only a few really supreme spots either; you can get lost looking for one street in particular and find yourself on a much better version by accident. It’s all the winding, elevation changing, banked, empty roads you could ask for, and if you’re brave enough the near-constant wetness offers plenty of chances to play with traction.

A big part of the Irish car scene are car meets where people from around the country come together to showcase their cars, take pictures or videos, and simply hang out.It is the best place for any car-enthusiast to learn more about their own vehicle as well as other cars. Being able to compare your car to others and discuss the possible modifications is a great source for gaining a deeper understanding and becoming more knowledgeable on what best suits your car as well as what looks best.

In terms of rallying, there are so many small races going on around the island that it’s a true task to keep track of all of them, though there are a few major ones that attract large crowds. Anyone with a passing interest in motorsport attends these, from boy-racers to mature enthusiasts, to grandparents and grandkids building new traditions. 

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One of the biggest car shows is Dubshed, and even though it is hosted in Northern Ireland it attracts many from the Irish car scene. The day is spent walking through exhibitions of spectacular cars, browsing through various stalls that include modifications and products for taking care of the cars. There are also races and competitions with awards to be won.

There are great rallying events happening elsewhere on the globe surely, but there are few places that have the allure of Ireland in my opinion: there aren’t many other locations where you’re apt to find a Mk1 Ford Escort at full-tilt on a road that’s basically too narrow for a single car, with crevasses and stone walls and bigger stone homes on either side. It’s a nerve-wracking experience just to witness something like that, so close to peril and yet being driven flat-out.


The Irish car scene is one of the most versatile and inclusive in the world. If you are a car-enthusiast looking to move to Ireland you will soon find it to be the perfect place for this passion with many like-minded peers. Their vehicles may be flashy, exotic and loud, but deep down car modders are just a bunch of guys who absolutely love their machines and are keen on sharing this love with others.

Ugne Aksiutovaite
Ugne Aksiutovaite

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