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

Event reminds people not to drink and drive
KTTC, November 26th

The Southeast Minnesota Toward Zero Deaths Program was out at Apache Mall Tuesday afternoon, raising awareness of what it's like to drive drunk. Mall patrons attempted to steer a pedal car through an obstacle course, while wearing "drunk driving...Read more

Law enforcment stepping up DWI patrols over the holidays
KIMT 3, November 25th

Deandre, along with several other community members, are taking part in a drunk driving simulation, where people drive a pedal car around a course wearing “fatal vision” goggles. The goggles give people an idea of what a person would expect to see if...Read more

DWI Simulation at Apache Mall
KAALtv.com, November 25th

(ABC 6 News) -- Shoppers at Apache Mall experienced the perspective of someone that's driving drunk. Participants wore blurry goggles and drove a pedal car through a course of cones at a DWI holiday event to raise awareness on impaired driving...Read more

Happy Mayoral #Thanksgiving!
LA Downtown News Online, November 25th

Instead, #EnergyEfficientAngelenos are urged to arrive via Prius, bicycle, Flintstones-type pedal car, ostrich or Conestoga wagon. Anyone who drives solo in a gas-reliant car will have to sit at the Siberia table with former City Controller Wendy...Read more

'Drunk driving' experiment set for Tuesday at mall
Post-Bulletin, November 24th

Participants will be invited to drive a pedal car through an obstacle course wearing different levels of "drunken driving" goggles, and go through a field sobriety test. The event kicks off a stepped-up statewide DWI enforcement effort that begins...Read more

Antiques & collecting: Egyptian furniture has lost its appeal
Columbus Dispatch, November 23rd

Pedal car, racer, Indy 500, Pennzoil, belt driven, radio-controlled, 1970s, 43 inches, $2,280. Terry and Kim Kovel, authorities on collectibles, write for King Features Syndicate. Write to them in care of The Dispatch, King Features Syndicate, 300 W...Read more

On 'Cops,' Des Moines suspect just wanted to bowl
DesMoinesRegister.com, November 20th

Fred Flintstone in his pedal car could get up to 25 mph on Bedrock streets. "It was totally bizarre," Mann said. "He wasn't going fast, but he would not pull over." The chase went on for an awkward 7 minutes or so. Mann's bosses back at Des Moines...Read more

Proof that 4-Year-Olds Can't Get Enough of the New Power Wheels 2015 Ford F ...
Car and Driver (blog), November 13th

Keeping up with the times, the Power Wheels F-150 is no Bam-Bam Rubble pedal car or coal-rolling gas hog, but a pure EV (electric vehicle), running on a rechargeable 12-volt battery. It takes about 14 hours to juice up the cell fully with the standard...Read more