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The Swan Car: Unquestionably the Most Extravagant Vehicle Ever Constructed

swan car

The Swan Car is regarded as one of the craziest, most eccentric vehicles ever to hit the streets and one look at it is enough to explain why.

The Swan Car was commissioned in the early 1900s by Robert Nicholl ‘Scotty’ Matthewson, a wealthy British engineer living in Calcutta. It’s never been clear why he was so obsessed with swans – maybe because he lived in Swan Park, next to Calcutta Zoo, which was home to many beautiful swans – but he loved the birds enough to travel to England in 1909 and placed a very special with JW Brooks and Company of Lowestoft, Suffolk – a swan-shaped car. The following year, the unique vehicle arrived in Calcutta and immediately became the talk of the town. It was unlike anything anyone had ever seen, or would ever see again for that matter, and came with some intriguing features.

Matthewson’s one-of-a-kind car had a wood body fitted on top of the Brooke metal chassis, and because the wood was so thick, the entire vehicle weighed a whopping 6615 lbs (3000 kg). It was hand-carved to mimic an actual bird’s feathers and painted in a pearl-white color, and it also featured brushes on each tire to ensure that no elephant poop stuck to them.

Some of the most outrageous features of the Swan Car included a special duct that released whitewash on the road from time to time, to create the illusion that the swan had pooped, as well as eight organ pipes and a keyboard for different horn sounds. At the touch of a button, the swan’s beak opened and sprayed hot water fed by the pressurized engine cooling system in an arc to clear the way of pedestrians.


And there were quite a lot of pedestrians wherever the Swan Car went in Calcutta. In fact, it got so much attention that it was eventually labeled as too distracting and banned from the city streets. After spending a small fortune (£10,000 – £15,000) on a vehicle he could no longer drive, Matthewson decided to part with the Swan Car. Luckily, finding someone wealthy enough to take it off his hands wasn’t too difficult.

The Maharaja of Nabha, Ripudaman Singh, had a thing for rare and unusual objects, and the Swan Car was right up his alley. During the time he owned the unique vehicle, he commissioned a miniature Cygnet as a companion. Unfortunately for him, he was deposed by the British for incompetence, and both vehicles wound up in the possession of the Louwman Museum in the Netherlands where they can still be admired today.

For more unique vehicles, check out Russia’s hilarious-looking first electric car, the world’s largest truck, or the world’s heaviest rideable bicycle.

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