Swan Car
Published May/June 2013

Swan Make

These art cars are birds of a feather

In its day, this unique car ruffled a few feathers. Designed by wealthy Scottish engineer Robert Nicholl Matthewson, the 1910 Brooke Swan Car features a swan wood-carving of the waterfowl with amber eyes that light up and a mouth that opens to pour scalding hot water on objects in its way — not good news for crowds on Calcutta’s busy streets, where the car cruised shortly after the turn of the 20th century.
Other characteristics include Indian silk upholstery, gold leaf accents, a keyboard-operated multi-tone Gabriel horn, brushes to clean the tires as it moves, and a valve in the rear that releases faux bird droppings. The avian-inspired auto generated so much attention that the Maharaja of Nabha purchased it from Matthewson and built a miniature version of the vehicle called the Cygnet (a young swan).
Now, both the Swan and the Cygnet are on display at Everett Louwman’s museum in the Netherlands. The Swan has also been shown twice at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in California, once last year and the other in 1986.
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Brooke Swan Car and Cygnet
Brooke Swan Car and Cygnet
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