Please note that the cars or exhibit items shown in this database are part of our collection but may not be on display when you visit.
In the early 1920’s, Gaston Daix, a highly-skilled piano maker with a factory in Pessac, near Bordeaux in the south of France, made this unusual ark-like pedal car with a craftsmanship that embodies the timelessness of an elegant musical instrument.
The Daix Manufacturer of Pianos began in 1926 and operated until 1963. Handcrafting a piano takes hundreds of hours. Pianos themselves are beautiful, monolithic creations, seemingly as robust and sturdy as they are fragile and intricate. Just by looking at the Daix Piano Car it is evident that the craft was central to his process. The streamlined, upside-down boat-like shell utilizes a difficult “Lapstrake” construction method. This process involves a slight overlapping of long, thin wooden planks in which the bottom of each plank fixes to the top of the plank beneath it. Overlapping planks are then fastened to the frame. This age-old method, sometimes referred to as “clinker planking”, has been in use for hundreds of years in boatbuilding. Much of the longitudinal strength of a boat hull is provided by the double thickness where the planking overlaps. Lapstrake construction also produces some of the lightest vessels, and are known to be long-lasting, with little need for required maintenance. The light construction of the Daix Piano Car, combined with its strength, makes for superb coachwork and a stylish, confident ride. Its stable frame and maneuverability must have made for great cruising and general knocking about on the bumpy rural roads of the time.
One of the most surprising details about the Daix is the unique method of entering and exiting. The Piano Car opens up in the center, articulating at the very front and back ends. When opened, the recumbent seat and mechanical structure of a bicycle—forks, pedals, and crank, are all revealed. When seated inside, the halves are brought down and latch together, tight across the handle bars. The wooden turret on top allows sight-lines of the road while keeping the weather out, but is also completely removable for warm sunny days.
One imagines the workmanship displayed on a vehicles this unique and rare must have come from the combination of woodcraft and musicianship, because the Daix Piano Car is something of an enigma. In piano making, knowledge is handed down from one person to the next over many years. The feeling is that something is absorbed over time. That’s the beauty in handcrafting something. The Daix Piano Car is truly a beautiful object, holding almost a century of joy, music, stories, and memories we can only imagine.
Manufacturer: Daix Manufacturer of Pianos
Country of Origin: France
Drivetrain Configuration: Pedal crank, chain-drive
Engine: Human-Powered by crankset to rear wheel
Transmission: Fixed gear
Years of Production: Circa 1930