The Brooke ‘Swan Car’ is truly extraordinary. It was the creation of the eccentric and wealthy Scotsman Robert Nicholl ‘Scotty’ Matthewson, who lived in early 20th century Calcutta, the capital of what was then British India. Matthewson wanted to shock the local elite with his car, and he certainly succeeded in doing so.
The car’s first outing in the streets of Calcutta lead to newspaper headlines: “Women screaming” and “animals in the streets scattered in all directions”. At the time traffic in Calcutta was already very busy and chaotic. The authorities’ response was to be expected: they banned the car from public roads.
The body represented a swan, probably inspired by Swan Park in Calcutta where Matthewson lived. The accessories are just as quirky as the body of this work of art on wheels. In particular the system that allowed hot water to be sprayed from the swan’s beak and the brushes used to keep the tyres clean.
Matthewson decided to sell the car. A buyer was found in the person of the Maharaja of Nabha. After a conflict with the neighbouring principality, the Maharaja was forced to abdicate. His son, at the time 9 years old, succeeded him. The Baby Swan was built specially for him and beautifully complements the Swan Car.
The cars didn’t see much use and in the 1980s part of the Maharaja of Nabha’s car collection was sold, including the famous Swan Cars. Both cars were acquired by the Louwman Museum and subjected to a thorough restoration.
Don’t wait: come and see these masterpieces with your own eyes. Plan your visit to the Louwman Museum!