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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Recent News: Pedal Cars

Source: Google News

Land Rover Defender pedal car is for the kid with everything
Autoblog (blog), October 5th

Land Rover seems to be missing a big opportunity by not having its obsessively detailed Defender pedal car ready for very wealthy children in time for the holidays. Going on sale next spring for the lavish sum of around 10,000 pounds ($15,200 at...Read more

This Ice Cream Pedal Car Will Make Your Kid Twice As Happy
autoevolution, October 1st

But the pedal car ice cream van is not like that; no goodies are being sold here; this toy car is designed for fun. It does evolve the bygone era when automobiles were hand-cranked, and frozen novelties were truly novel. Hammacher Schlemmer claims that ...Read more

This Land Rover Defender pedal car costs more than some real ones
Autoweek, September 29th

Land Rover showed off a very small Defender at the Frankfurt motor show -- in concept form, that is. Dubbed the Defender Pedal Car Concept, the wee SUV previews a production version that will go on sale in the spring of 2016, just in time for some real...Read more

News: Land Rover launches Defender pedal car in UK
Plymouth Herald, September 26th

LAND ROVER has launched a zero-emissions Defender and it will go on sale in the middle of 2016, just after mainstream Defender production comes to a halt. The only snag with this Defender is that it's for kids, and power comes from pedals rather than...Read more

Italian Startup Presents the First 3D Printed Pedal Car for Kids in Manhattan ... (press release), September 26th

Meet MQB in New York, discover the first 3D printed pedal car for kids and learn about the Italian approach to 3D printing. The Italian startup invites you to an exclusive 3D video mapping event in October...Read more

Land Rover unveils NZ$24000 Defender pedal car, September 17th

Land Rover has just released a pedal car that will be beyond the budget of most parents. For a cool NZ$24,450 you could have a hand built replica of the famous Defender, built in the UK since 1948. With production of current Defender now in its final...Read more

This Defender pedal car costs more than a Dacia Duster
Top Gear, September 14th

Still, there's no denying this scaled down pedal car – the work of JLR's SVO division no less – is an object of extreme desire. Wherever possible it stays faithful to the full-size Defender – note skinny but authentically knobbly tyres, mud flaps, faux...Read more

Land Rover Discovery pedal car unveiled for £10000
Daily Mail, September 14th

If your sons or daughters are desperate to try driving your 4x4 and you've got a spare £10,000, then this could be just the ticket. Land Rover has unveiled a Defender pedal car aimed at collectors and children of all ages which measures 55in by 22in...Read more