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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BMWBLOG Test Drive: 2015 BMW 2 Series ConvertibleBMWBLOG (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 collectiblesGizmag, 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 ManchesterWCVB 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 ShopLiverpool 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 WheelsTribune-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 gliderHometownlife.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 displaySW 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 CharityAuto 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