This Phaeton carriage at the Coach House Museum may not be one of the biggest on display, but what it lacks in size, certainly makes up for it in its elegance, style and technical construction.
Phaetons, and their variants - barouches and Victorias – are said to represent the highest level of coachbuilding skill for style and technical construction.
They were light, fast, elegant vehicles that needed good road surfaces – something that was missing in the late 18th, early 19th centuries.
The phaeton comes from Greek mythology: Phaeton was the son of Helios, the sun god who, when driving the chariot of the sun allowed it to get too close to earth and almost set it on fire.
The phaeton has a light elliptical springing system, while the shafts are hinged and designed to fold back onto the carriage when not in use. The curved running boards or mudguards are an attractive and practical feature of this very smart navy blue vehicle.
Phaetons were designed to sit close to the ground and were easy to enter, therefore they were often driven by women. They were either designed for two or four people. This vehicle could carry four people, with two rear-facing seats. The driver sat in the back with the reins passing between the passengers seated in front.
This vehicle was given to the society by the Hawera Borough Council, however no other details are available on its history.
We would love to hear from anyone who may know some of its history or any other interesting tidbids.
It is thought to be a ‘pony phaeton’ a vehicle rarely found in New Zealand. It was restored in 2003.