Four-wheeled vehicles that came in a variety of designs to meet the needs of the owner. They were driven by the owner and by the end of the 18th century, high bodied phaetons were fashionable, but they were dangerous because they were top-heavy (and thus tipped easily) and were especially fast. Most were intended to seat two passengers with a foldable head that gave them coverage from the weather; though some featured rear seats for servants, that seat was not protected from the elements.

While in modern fiction, this carriage tends to be described as a gentleman’s behicle only, both Jane Austen and Anne Bronte had female characters who owned and drove their own phaetons. As far as I can find, it was one of the more common style for female drivers in the 1800s.

The name came from Greek mythology; Phaeton was the son of sun god, Helios, who drove his father’s chariot, which nearly destroyed the world.

Mail Phaeton

The name comes from the fact that the suspension springs were similar to a Royal Mail Coach -- and not because it was used to transport mail. It was used by country gentlemen for sports and was considered the premier phaeton because of its size and style. It had an additional seat at the back for the grooms or servants.

  • Seats: 2 passengers + 2 grooms

  • Horses: 2 or 4

Stanhope Phaeton

Also known as a Demi-Mail Phaeton

This carriage had similar design elements to a stanhope gig but was fashioned into a phaeton with four wheels. It had a seat in the back for servants.

  • Seats: 2 passengers + 2 servants

  • Horses: 2 or 4

Spider Phaeton

A light, elegant, and very fashionable carriage for young men to use in town from the mid to late 1800s. It was ideal for showing off a pair of spirited horses. The groom sat on a seat on the back where he could easily jump down and grab the horses when necessary.

  • Seats: 2 passengers + 1 groom

  • Horses: 2 or 4

Pony Phaeton

This was used by a lady to make social calls or drive around the estate or by children for fun. It had no head and was used for short journeys in good weather.

  • Seats: 2 children or 1 lady

  • Horses: 1 or 2 (in tandem)