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The Magazine

More about the mysterious Swaab Special

More about the mysterious Swaab Special
It’s been years since we published this little piece about an Ermini-based Special built by John Swaab in the late 1950s. But that didn’t deter one reader to send in a lovely reaction just recently. Why? Well, her dad bought this particular car in 1963 or 1964 and road-registered it. And you bet we wanted to know more about that, and so we went over to Raymond van Bree, the father in question.

Raymond told us: “In 1963 or 1964 my brother said that he knew of a Ferrari under a set of tires. We went to have a look and there was indeed an aluminium body that looked like that of a Testa Rossa (picture 1 below). The man who owned the thing was willing to exchange it for a big BM, a boat. We found one for 200 guilders and that's how I got the car. There was a bare engine block and a rough cast head with double overhead cams, I have no idea what kind of engine it was and a friend has thrown them with the crankshaft in a ditch. I guess they will still be there, as the ditch was muted little later.”

“I did not have much money, but wanted to make a road version of the car. And so I cut out headlights and made a rim with aluminium and with Perspex covers in front of them. My father had a new car and he told me in the garage that I was looking for a new engine. They happened to have a Skoda Octavia from an Englishman who could not pay the bill and I could take that for 100 guilders. I put the Skoda engine in and reversed the gear change. I got hold of an Abarth-exhaust with double end pipes. I also used the Skoda’s gauges and made a radiator grille out of stainless steel. My mother did the interior. When it was finished I proudly put Ferrari badges on it - you do crazy things when you're young!”

“Then someone came to me who recognized the car as Swaab. I found out John Swaab was the man to speak to and phoned him up in Amsterdam but he did not want anything to do with it and I never spoke to him again. But I still wanted to road register it. With a temporary license plate (picture 2 below) I went off to the inspection where it was disapproved on the brakes. I changed all of it, went to them again and once more it was rejected. The third time at the inspection they fell over parts in the swinging arms at the rear, made of wood. I did not have to come back, the inspector told me. But I persevered and the fourth time I was lucky, because then there were two young boys to perform the inspection. They’d just left school and loved it. That’s how I got my license plates.” (picture 3 below).

“I then drove it for some eight months before being fed up with everyone asking me everything about it. And so I sold it. About five years later a neighbour came to me to tell me that he’d seen it in Gouda. We went there and found it with no registration. The man who had it there claimed it had never had one, but I knew better. After that I never heard anything again. I understand it ended up in Switzerland.” (more here)

That’s a marvellous story Raymond with some marvellous photographs to illustrate it! Keep them coming! There's still a massive gap in the car's history after Van Bree's ownership though. Who knows we'll found out more about that period, too. One day.

(Words Jeroen Booij, pictures Raymond van Bree)


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#1 Joop Terpstra 2018-03-29 09:09
Car reminds me of the racers dutch Henk van Zalinge was designing and building back in the 50's. He called them Hirondelle and those cars had tweaked DKW, Fiat and Porsche engines.

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