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1914 Swift - Three's a crowd
The Swift light car was a compact runabout before traffic jams were invented
By : Srinivas Krishnan | Published : December 21, 2003
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To be honest, I had never heard about Swift cars before. I would have read something somewhere that said Swift – it could even be Suzuki Swift, for all you know – but I knew zilch about the marque. I am not to be blamed however, as even the greatest repository of knowledge on this planet, google.com is familiar with only the Suzuki Swift. And what I did manage to dig up from vintage car books wasn’t terribly impressive either. So why is the 1914 Swift here?

Because it has a ‘mother-in-law seat’, that’s why. What a fascinating concept! You know what a mother-in-law seat is, don’t you? Also known as a dog seat or a dickey seat, this foldable chair is buried in the boot, and secured by leather straps. When you have to take along a third passenger – be it the hired help, a friend or better still, your mother-in-law – you just unbuckle the straps, unfold the seat and voila! a fancy new accommodation for your favourite person, who’s lovingly exposed to the elements. If not for current safety norms, I am sure the MIL seat would still be around, and it would be the most popular option while buying a car, after plastic wheel covers, of course.



Anyway, back to the Swift and its third seat. I always wanted to ride in one, so Anil Ovalekar, who takes care of the impressive Vijay Mallya collection, took over the wheel and off we went, on a jolly ride. It was, to say the least, the ride of my life, and I understood exactly why it was called the MIL seat. For support, I held on to the two leather belts on either side – I guess that’s where the word ‘seat-belts’ came from. 

While the dickey seat was definitely an incentive to feature this machine, the other reason is that the Swift is quite a neat-looking compact car. With its glossy red-and-black paintwork and gleaming brasswork, it’s very attractive, to say the least. The windshield and canvas top can be folded, transforming into an open-topped tourer. There’s only one door, and that’s not on the driver’s side, thanks to the presence of the handbrake and battery box on the right. The seat is essentially a small couch borrowed from the nearest furniture maker, and along with it, the bare wooden dash seems to have come free.
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