In 2012 one of the world’s weirdest cars traveled to the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Beautiful cars always command attention but this car was unlike any other car on the most prestigious lawn, it was a rather beautiful swan. Really it was.
The Swan car, built in 1910, was the eccentric creation of Robert Nicholl ‘Scotty’ Matthewson, a Scottsman living in Calcutta. This was the beginning of automobiles used by Maharajas and other wealthy elite’s as the new way to showcase their wealth. Unlike the Rolls-Royces of the expressive upper-class with their shiny, colorful, blinged-out statements of style, Matthewson’s Swan car looked nothing like a car. It wasn’t subtle but it wasn’t typically flashy either.
Savage of Kings Lynn, was also not your typical coach builder, they were Britain’s most famous maker of steam-powered fairground rides. The incredibly heavy body was made of wood fixed atop a J.W. Brooke and Co. chassis. Carving the swan’s head and body to create the effect of feathers, which concealed the radiator and bonnet, were not the only visual peculiarities.
- The eyes light up giving off an eerie glow at night
- An eight-tone Gabriel horn is operated by means of a keyboard
- The beak moves to spray steam – efficient at clearing the roadway
- It poops, at the push of a button whitewash can dump out of the rear
The Swan car had intelligent, useful features too. It had early air conditioning, a telegraph to relay instructions to the driver, and a very smart brush system kept the tires free from elephant dung.
Apparently the Swan car is just a different version of the architectural folly, and just as exciting to look at. It caused such a stir on its first outing, the police were called in. Hard to imagine this lovely little swan actually scared the elephants.
The Maharaja of Nabba was so taken by the Swan that he bought it and being that he had a thing for swans, he had the smaller Cygnet, created so the big Swan wouldn’t be lonely. If this doesn’t define folly, I’m not sure what does.
The meticulously restored Swan car and the Cygnet can be seen today at the Louman Museum, in the Netherlands, don’t worry they won’t bite.