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.
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Letters - March 2014Hot Rod Magazine, March 10th
It has a five-speed conversion, A/C, disc brakes, limited-slip rearend, and a House of Kolors candy paint job. I also have a vintage Mustang pedal car painted to match my car. I have entered my car in several local shows and have done well with a Best...Read more
The ultimate playhouse from The Master WishmakersTelegraph.co.uk, March 9th
Your child will, for example, love you a little bit more than they already did if you say you have bought them a toy car, and they'll positively pop with emotion if that toy car in fact turns out to be pedal car in which to zip around. So just imagine...Read more
Elvis Presley Celebrated with Another Prized Vehicle on Display at the ...Beach Carolina Magazine, March 8th
More than 30 vehicles are on display, including the Pink Cadillac, Harley-Davidson motorcycles, cars from his movies, a dune buggy, a pedal car, a six-door Mercedes Benz limousine, his John Deere 4010 tractor and many more. So which famous car will be ...Read more
Over 350 Lots of Music Items, Coin-Op, Advertising, Toys, Country Store, Banks ...PR Web (press release), March 6th
The auction will also feature a pressed steel American National Pedal Car kid's barber chair, convertible form, with long running boards and fenders (est. $4,000-$6,000); a Gouldings Manures advertising clock, signed New Haven (Conn.) Clock Co. (est...Read more
It's a Go, go go! call for pedal car grand prix volunteersDaily Echo, March 3rd
An appeal has been issed for volunteers to help with one of the major events held in a Hampshire town this year. Ringwood is gearing up for the Pedal Car Grand Prix on July 13. Thanks to sponsorship from Ringwood Brewery, the event that draws thousands ...Read more
Bill Jacobs BMW Donates Rare Childrens BMW M6 Convertible Pedal Car to ...Consumer Electronics Net, February 27th
Bill Jacobs BMW of Naperville is proud to announce their donation of a one-of-a-kind Childrens BMW M6 Convertible Pedal Car, paired with an ultimate weekend test drive experience in a BMW 750Li ($100,000 MSRP)* for the Big Mac Under Glass Charity ...Read more
Pedal power: Big race plans are creating a 'buzz'Bristol Post, February 18th
PLANS to resurrect a historic pedal car race around Bristol's city centre have received a good response from the public. It was announced last month that the Bristol 24-Hour Pedal Car Race would take place over October 11 and October 12 this year...Read more
Attleboro Arts Museum to feature 'Compact and Collectible' pedal car exhibitAttleboro Sun Chronicle, February 16th
Attleboro Arts Museum to feature 'Compact and Collectible' pedal car exhibit. Story · Comments · Image (2). Print: Create a hardcopy of this page; Font Size: Default font size: Larger font size. Previous Next ...Read more