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

Wylie Holds Pedal Racing after the Rain
CW33 NewsFix, May 1st

Downtown Wylie was transformed into a race track for the 12th Annual Pedal Car Race. More than 100 children selected a distinctive car that has been provided and decorated by local merchants and race 500 inches down Ballard Avenue in heats of six...Read more

Night life
Herald-Mail Media, April 28th

8 p.m. to midnight, 4 Corners Club, 72 Pedal Car Drive, Inwood, W.Va. No cover charge. 304-229-3443. SUNDAY, MAY 1. Rumours Band. 7 to 10 p.m., Zepheira Sports Bar, 49 S. Potomac St., downtown Hagerstown. Deck-opening party. No cover charge...Read more

Rugby Explorer Scouts dominate at Bruntingthorpe
Rugby Advertiser, April 28th

Rugby Explorer Scouts charged home to victory in the annual Bruntingthorpe pedal car race last Saturday, April 23. Those competing in the under 16s class (PC2) took 1st and 2nd place in the six hour race. Pedal car racing involves four drivers per car...Read more

Students race pedal cars for clean air
Victoria Advocate, April 23rd

After winning three races in a row, the team from Guadalupe Elementary School was feeling confident. They credited at least some of their success to a well-built pedal car, which they nicknamed "Old Reliable." "We just believed in ourselves," said...Read more

Entries wanted for Pedal Car Grand Prix
Torquay Herald Express, April 21st

A PLEA for entries has been issued by Babbacombe Rotarians who are busy preparing for this year's thrilling Pedal Car Grand Prix. Now in its 38th year, the annual Rotary Pedal Car Grand Prix attracts crowds of spectators, with 5,000 people turning out...Read more

Toys R Us selling Nerf Battle Racer pedal car with 'endless' ammo supply
Daily Mail, February 18th

The Nerf Battle Racer has adults wishing this 'ultimate go-kart' had been designed back when they were kids. The pedal car can carry four Nerf blasters and a supply of darts, and features ball-bearing mounted rims and a free-wheel setting - to give...Read more

Jumbo-Sized, Street-Legal Pedal Car Is One Awesome Toy
Yahoo Autos, November 16th

Pennsylvania's Dan Hryhorcoff wanted a different kind of project to occupy his leisure time, so the semi-retired engineer and machine shop owner opted to replicate a vintage Murray General pedal car, in larger-than-life fiberglass form, with the help...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