In the history of automotive history, the Swan Car stands out as one of the most eccentric and peculiar vehicles ever to grace the streets. Commissioned in the early 1900s by Robert Nicholl ‘Scotty’ Matthewson, a wealthy British engineer residing in Calcutta, the Swan Car’s bizarre design and features make it a true anomaly on the road.
Robert Matthewson’s fascination with swans led him to commission a truly extraordinary vehicle from JW Brooks and Company in Lowestoft, Suffolk. Completed in 1910, the Swan Car, resembling a majestic swan in flight, arrived in Calcutta, instantly capturing the town’s attention. The wood body, meticulously carved to mimic feathers, sat atop a sturdy Brooke metal chassis, resulting in an astonishing weight of 6615 lbs.
The Swan Car’s whimsical features added to its allure. Brushes on each tire prevented elephant dung from sticking, showcasing Matthewson’s attention to detail. An unusual duct released whitewash onto the road, simulating swan droppings. The car boasted eight organ pipes and a keyboard for varied horn sounds. Notably, the swan’s beak could open at the press of a button, spraying hot water to clear pedestrian pathways.
However, the Swan Car’s fame proved its downfall in Calcutta. Deemed too distracting for the streets, it faced a ban, leaving Matthewson with a remarkable but undrivable vehicle. Eventually, the Maharaja of Nabha, Ripudaman Singh, with a penchant for rare items, acquired the Swan Car. Despite Singh’s unfortunate ousting by the British, both the Swan Car and its miniature companion, the Cygnet, found a home in the Louwman Museum in the Netherlands, where they remain a testament to automotive eccentricity.
As the Swan Car’s captivating story unfolds, it joins the ranks of unique vehicles, adding a feathered touch to the rich tapestry of automotive history.