Pedal cars for children first appeared in the late 1880s, when Karl Benz introduced his three-wheel Patent Motorwagen for adults. By the early 1900s, pedal cars were widespread, especially in the United States, England, France, and Australia.

One of the first companies to make three-wheel velocipedes for children was Whitney Reed, whose wooden horse pulling a sulky is a classic of the early form—the horse’s jointed legs moved when the operator pushed the pedals. Because automobiles are the main type of pedal toy sought by collectors, pedal toys like the early Whitney Reeds can be surprisingly easy to acquire.

Around the same time, Butler Brothers was making “Juvenile Steel Automobiles,” which is how the company described the pedal cars in its catalog. These cars had sheet-steel bodies, open steering systems and bottoms, and double-spoke wheels. Models included the Scorcher, the Wizard, and the Speedwell. The pedal version of the best-selling Ford Model T was especially popular among kids, and is highly prized today.

Before the war, the Bon Marché in Paris had been selling pedal cars designed after Grand Prix Peugeots. After the war, French toy maker Eureka continued this trend, making pedal cars fashioned after Peugeots, as well as Renaults and the Citroen Rosalie.

The U.K.’s Lines Bros offered its customers 30 pedal cars in its 1937/38 catalog, from the basic Prince, which was designed for 2-to-4-year olds, to the Electric Rolls, which had a wooden body and a 12-volt electric motor driving the rear axle. Naturally the car had working brakes and headlights, real Dunlop tires (including a spare), and chrome-plated rims. As for its performance, it could travel 12 to 15 miles on a single charge and had a top speed of 5 mph.

The heyday for pedal cars in the United States occurred between the World Wars. For example, pedal cars were fixtures in Sears catalogs. Unfortunately, they could only be sent to customers who lived near railroad tracks because mailing a steel car, even a small one, was simply not possible. Other companies that made pedal cars in the ’20s and ’30s included American National Automobiles of Toledo and Steelcraft of Murray, both based in Ohio.

Among other products, Steelcraft made GMC pedal trucks, as well as Mack dumptrucks, Model T Roadsters, Dodge Runabouts, and a Chrysler Roadster, which had bullet-shaped headlight...

Today these prices sound cheap, but the toys were not cheaply made. In fact, they were often as lavishly detailed as the real things. The steel was typically enameled to ensure rich colors, while pedals were adjustable to give young drivers a comfortable ride. Like the cars that adults drove, models ranged from economy (Whippet) to luxury (Studebaker). On the better models, steering wheels and other solid parts were custom cast.

After World War II, the J-40 (or Junior Forty) made by Lines Bros. in Wales by retired miners and modeled after the 1949 Austin A-40 was probably the most popular pedal car in England. In the 1950s, the company offered 33 pressed-steel-body pedal cars, its heavily chromed Tri-ang Centurian being the top of the line.

By the early 1960s, the company experimented with novelty cars such as the Noddy, which was like a small go-kart, but as the decade progressed it reverted back to pedal cars based on real automobiles such as the MG Midget.

Pedal cars were also popular in Australia. In fact, they have such a rich history there that the government recently issued a series of toy-theme stamps, including one with a red Cyclops pedal car from 1953. Though based in Australia, many of Cyclops’s pedal car designs were based on U.S. models and manufacturers, from Buick and Chevrolet, to Pontiac and Packard.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

DFW Elite Toy Museum

DFW Elite Toy Museum

Ron Sturgeon's excellent gallery of fancy model cars and other vehicles. Nice high resolution shots with classy mus… [read review or visit site]

Museum of Childhood

Museum of Childhood

Embrace your inner child on this website from the Victoria and Albert Museum, filled with high-quality images and i… [read review or visit site]

The Show Room

The Show Room

This gallery at Dave's Show Rod Rally features model show rods from 1960 to 2001. Favorites include the 1958 Thunde… [read review or visit site]

VW Toys and Models

VW Toys and Models

A comprehensive site completely dedicated to miniature Volkswagen vehicles. Browse hundreds of toys by country, man… [read review or visit site]



Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Ford 6000 Commander Diesel Pedal TractorJohn Deere Pedal Tractor Made By Eska Company In Dubuque IowaRare Large Antique Vintage 1930 Garton Graham Sharknose Metal Pedal Car ToyOriginal Murray Country Squire Chain Drive Pedal Car Solid Condition Eska Oliver 88 Closed Grill Pedal Tractor 1947ish - Refurbished 1980 Eska TiresRare Original Minneapolis-moline Tot Amf Pedal TractorVintage Murray Jolly Roger Pedal Boat For Restoration1950's Eska Case Pedal Car Tractor Cast Ride On Original Pedals Attic Find Fendered Pedal Tractor WagonJohn Deere 20 Pedal Tractor Ertl Original Or Restoration Barn Find No Reserve !1930s Garton Pontiac Pedal CarsJohn Deere 20 Pedal Tractor Ertl Early Version D-63 CastingRare Hamilton Steel, Jeep Pedal Car And Wagon, Dealer Promo ItemPedal CarVintage Allis Chalmers A-64 Pedal Tractor, Barn Find! Harvest International Pedal Tractor Antique Vintage Metal Taylor Tot Baby Stroller/walker - Original Red & Yellow1950's Vintage/antique Bcm Pedal Car TractorOld Pedal Fire Truck1965 Midget Mustang Pedal CarKettler Kiddi-o Pole Position Pedal CarAntique Pedal Car Fire Engine Bell W Fire HatNos Vintage Antique Pedal Car Tricycle Plastic Chrome Hub Caps Set Of 4 Really Cool Vintage Antique 1900's Chain Driven Toy Pedal TruckMurray Pedal CarAmf Fire Fighter Pedal Car Unit#508(2) Two Reproduction Vintage Pedal Car Steering Wheels Heavy Stamped MetalUnique Fiberglass Body Soap Box Derby Type Car, NrPottry Barn Kids Pink Pedal Car Hallmark Kiddie Car Classic Murray 1968 Murray Jolly Roger Boat Pedal Car BoxClassic Pedal Car Ford Vtg Hot Rod Mustang Coupe Model T Truck V8 Ride On Toy Pedal Car2-original Pedal Car Artillery WheelsErtl Red Pedal Tractor Trailer/ Wagon Steel **new** NibCrown Premiums Die Cast Gendron Tennessee Vols Pedal Car BankVintage Amf 503 Fire Chief Pedal Car Murray Tractor HamiltonLantern For 1930's Pedal CarVintage John Deere Pedal Tractor Seat Eska Ertl Original 1950's 1951 1952 19552- Original Pedal Car Artillery Wheels With TiresVintage Steel Pedal Push Toy Car Lot Old New Stock Pedal Car Hood Ornament Made By The La Porte Corporation Mustang Pedal Car Complete Graphic Set Best On The MarketHallmark Kiddie Car Classic 1956 Kidillac Pedal Car Mint Condition 4- Used Pedal Car WheelsRare Postcard Photo Australian Rupert Kay Sydney Boy In Old Pedal Car C.1910Hot Wheels 2015, Pedal Driver Lot Of 5 Cars1996 Hallmark Die-cast Kiddie Car Classics 1941 Junior Sevice Truck Pedal Car Coca-cola Diecast Metal Mini Pedal Car 1956 Nash Metropolitan Convertible New Vintage Murray Pedal Car Antique Fire Truck With Wooden Ladders (not A Repro)Ford Motors 1932 Fire Engine Pedal Car Bike For Kids Warehouse 36Gearbox Pedal Car Fire Truck No1 Vfd .volunteer Fire Dept. Local Pickup Only1930's,1940's Streamline TrikeDie Cast Metal 1:3 Scale 1964 Mustang Official Pace Car Pedal VehicleSinclair Gas Pump/attendant Mechanical Bank Pedal Car Accessory Nascar Nhra Hamilton Circa Pedal Tractor TrailerNew Pioneer Early Pedal Car Grill Or Seat DecalVtg Style California Kid Mini Embossed Metal Bicycle License Plate Pedal CarNew Molded Mustang Pedal Car Windshield Perfect FitTexaco 1941 Garton Pedal Car Race Hauler Set 1857 Of 2500 Vintage 1950's Salesman Sample Pedal Cars & Tractors - 7 Pages

Recent News: Pedal Cars

Source: Google News

BMWBLOG Test Drive: 2015 BMW 2 Series Convertible
BMWBLOG (blog), January 30th

Thankfully for those who prefer a three pedal car, the 335i Cabrio offers a manual as a no cost option. Second, I wish BMW would offer those wicked cool neck warming seats available in the 4 Series Convertible. They are definitely not a gimmick and a...Read more

70 vintage pedal cars lead to record sale of automobilia collectibles
Gizmag, January 30th

Rare is the child that doesn't want a pedal car. Pedal cars have been available since the time of the very first motorcars they sought to emulate in the late eighteenth century. For much of the last century, such cars were the exclusive domain of the...Read more

Driver overdoses with foot on gas pedal, car catches fire in Manchester
WCVB Boston, January 30th

Driver overdoses with foot on gas pedal, car catches fire in Manchester. Driver and passenger treated for apparent overdoses. Published 6:27 AM EST Jan 30, 2015. NEXT STORY. Forecasters track Monday storm, as snow brings slippery roads today...Read more

Small Business of the Week: Sheer Delight Classic Car Toy Shop
Liverpool Echo, January 29th

There are grandparents who have just had their first grandchild and they have bought a pedal car and put it away until the baby is a big bigger.” Nick currently sells about 30 different models, but he will be getting more stock in for spring, with...Read more

'Street Outlaws' stars among guests at Pittsburgh's World of Wheels
Tribune-Review, January 21st

Also scheduled is an FMX Motorcycle Stunt show, a Pedal Car Challenge and the Pittsburgh High Scrollers Pinstripe Charity Auction, benefitting the Autism Society of Pittsburgh. Other celebrities set to appear are Laura Marano, who portrays Ally Dawson...Read more

Air museum volunteers restore vintage WWII glider
Hometownlife.com, January 21st

"I worked on the SPAD and the SPAD pedal car. I did the fabricating and painting," he said. "This is what I love to do. Airplanes and history are my greatest loves in life. What better way to put the two together than to come here and help?" The goal...Read more

Pedal car donation keeps firefighter pride on display
SW News Media, January 10th

Inspired by A&E television reality shows like “Pawn Stars” and “American Restoration,” he purchased his first pedal car on Ebay from a seller in Duluth. “That one turned out to be a wreck,” Hanel recalled. “I didn't matter how many times I spray...Read more

Pedal-Car Auction Brings in Over $500K for NAAA Scholarship Charity
Auto Remarketing, October 2nd

The four remaining awards went to the following auctions: McConkey Auction Group for the "Most Creative Pedal Car;" Greater Milwaukee Auto Auction for the "Best Custom Pedal Car;" Pittsburgh Auto Auction for the "Best Accessories;" and, Akron Auto ...Read more