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
Museum preserves rail history, offers rides on life-size carsThe State Journal-Register, September 13th
restored steam and diesel engines and a host of kids' activities, including the popular Hodge Pedal Car rides. A number of exhibits will be on display in various cars, including kerosene lanterns used as a way of communication, reproductions of...Read more
Lowrider Pedal Car - RedrumLowrider Magazine, September 12th
When Omar was 13 he did the closest thing he could do to buying a car of his own and purchased a pedal car to build. Over the next two months Omar earned and worked hard to build the car the way he wanted it. After performing the bodywork himself, Omar ...Read more
Bristol pedal car race cancelled due to lack of fundsBBC News, September 10th
A 24-hour charity pedal car race in Bristol has been scrapped because of a lack of cash, the organiser has said. The event, a revival of a tradition during Bristol University's Rag Week from the 1950s to the 1980s, was due to take place on 11 and 12...Read more
Organisers of pedal-car race put brakes on planned revivalBristol Post, September 9th
ORGANISERS hoping to revive Bristol's 24-hour pedal car race have postponed the event until next year. Despite winning the backing of mayor George Ferguson and Bristol City Council, the race, which was due to happen next month, has not received ...Read more
24-Hour Pedal Car race cancelled due to lack of entrantsBristol Culture, September 7th
Ambitious plans for a 24-hour pedal car race around closed-off Bristol city centre streets next month have stalled due to insufficient entries and sponsors to cover costs. The aim was to start at City Hall and continue along Deanery Road, St George's...Read more
Kayla Frary's Hot Rod pedal carPocono Record, August 21st
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Rules. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag...Read more
Ellon gears up for fifth pedal car raceAberdeen Press and Journal, August 20th
Hundreds of people are expected to flock to an Aberdeenshire town this Sunday for an annual cart racing event. The Ellon Pedal Car Race – now in it's fifth year – will take place in the town on Sunday August 24. The event is organised annually through...Read more
Dad's pedal car purchase delights sonThe Salinas Californian, August 20th
Well, there was an old pedal car his father had purchased for him. “He really wants it, but doesn't want to help work on it. That's typical when there are electronics around,” Ron Coffer joked. “He was actually working on it earlier, he's just shy and...Read more