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.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

DFW Elite Toy Museum

DFW Elite Toy Museum

Ron Sturgeon's excellent gallery of fancy model cars and other vehicles. Nice high resolution shots with classy mus… [read review or visit site]

Museum of Childhood

Museum of Childhood

Embrace your inner child on this website from the Victoria and Albert Museum, filled with high-quality images and i… [read review or visit site]

The Show Room

The Show Room

This gallery at Dave's Show Rod Rally features model show rods from 1960 to 2001. Favorites include the 1958 Thunde… [read review or visit site]

VW Toys and Models

VW Toys and Models

A comprehensive site completely dedicated to miniature Volkswagen vehicles. Browse hundreds of toys by country, man… [read review or visit site]

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

A John Deere Model Lgt Type 2 Pedal Tractor Circa 1965 Bmc Special Race Car Pedal Car Original PaintVintage Old Eska Farmall 560 Original Unrestored Diecast Pedal Tractor Car 1930's Steelcraft Pedal Car *great Condition*Vintage Antique Keystone Ride'em Tractor Steel Ride On Toy, Truck Pedal CarFord Mustang Pedal Car Red Metal Children's Toy Local Pickup Seattle StoreAntique Vintage 1950's Murray Pedal Car Vintage Antique Murray Pedal CarVintage Murray Pedal Car V-front Fire Truck/fire Chief With Bell Red Original1930s Steelcraft Deluxe Pedal Car.4- Original Pedal Car Artillery WheelsAntique Soap Box Derby CarVintage Amf Pedal CarOriginal Front Bumper For Garton 1937 Ford Pedal CarToledo Pedal Car 1920's Dodge SixState Farm Pedal Car - Full Size - Special Edition 80th AnniversaryVintage Pedal Car Tractor Rear Wheels Two Vintage Air King Tricycle/wagon Or Pedal Car Wheels Vintage Jeep Pedal Car1950's Jet Ace Pedal Car1920s 1930s ? Antique Pedal Car Front Bumper Vintage Old Steelcraft Toys Kids Antique "rare" Irish Pedal CarVintage Bright Green Plymouth Gtx Peddle Car Windshield For 1930's Pedal CarHallmark Kiddie Car Classics Don's Street Rod Limited Edition Mini Pedal Car!5 Pedal Car Tires For Murray Wheels Vintage 1920s 1930s Original Gendron Pedal Car, Wagon Or Tricycle License PlatePedal Car Bell (used)Replacement Nose Cone For Murray Atomic Missle Vintage 1920s 1930s Original Antique Gendron Pedal Car Tricycle License PlateCustom Pedal Car TaillightsPedal CarVintage 1950s Red Pedal Tractor Castelli De Luxe Red Painted Chrome Murray Torpedo , Comet Pedal Car Windshield Vintage 1920s 30s Original Antique Gendron Pedal Car Trike Wagon License PlateMurray Pedal Car Hub Caps Set Of 4. Pair Of Pedal Car Fire Truck Ladders1960s Mustang Pedal Car Junior AmfStep 2 Big Rig - Rare Pedal Car Semi TruckVintage New Old Stock Tricycle / Pedal Car Pedals Fits 7/16" Shaft New In Pkg.Pedal Car Tractor Mower Parts WheelsVintage Antique 1960's Pedal CarVintage Antique (large) 1960's Fire Truck Pedal CarVintage Murray Pedal Car Wheels Vintage 1920s 1930s Original Gendron Pedal Car, Wagon Or Tricycle License PlateVintage 1931 Western Auto Supply Co. Catalog - Antique Car (pedal Car On Cover)Antique Western Flyer Pedal Tractor With Dump Trac Vintage Red Car Trailer MetalMurray Style Dip Side Pedal Car Running GearMurray Pedal Tractor PartsUsed Windshield For 1930's Pedal CarHallmark Pedal Car Parking SignOriginal Vintage Murray V Front Tee Bird 1960-1967 Ball Bearing Drive Pedal CarEarly 60's "fire Cheif" ? Vintage Pedal CarVintage Antique 1960's Murray Pedal CarPedal Car Chrome Windshield Murray Dipside Or 41 ChryslerProp For Steelcraft Pursuit Plane Pedal CarVintage Pedal Car Part=== Front Axles===????????Vintage Pedal Car Airplane Steering Shafts (2)1999 Crown Premiums Napa Tow Truck Pedal Car Bank Nib. 1940 Gendron Tow Truck.Amoco Limited Edition 1955 Chevy Bel Air Pedal Car Chain Driven W/ Movable Santa

Recent News: Pedal Cars

Source: Google News

Library News
Chronicle Times, July 28th

Binky, who must be around five, receives a pedal car. He proceeds to drive under clotheslines, through flower beds and wet cement, eventually breaking his parents' big picture window by knocking over a pole with a birdhouse, all the while saying "V...Read more

Blast from the Past
Richfield Reaper, July 23rd

There will also be giveaway drawings for an 18 foot 7K car hauler, sponsored by the car show committee and Innovative Trailers, as well as a pedal car. Cost for tickets, which are available in advance at The Parts House, 65 North State Street in Salina...Read more

Celebrations at the 2015 Pedal Car Grand Prix, but who was crowned champion?
Torquay Herald Express, July 20th

Eight teams battled it out over the weekend for the title of Pedal Car Grand Prix Champions. The event began at 10am, with entertainment and activities for the whole family including, live displays and performances, games stalls, bouncy castles and an...Read more

PHOTOS: Need for speed at Hampshire pedal powered Grand Prix
Daily Echo, July 12th

Race organiser Conrad Curtis said: "The racing was brilliant, particularly between Squeals on Wheels and the visitors from Germany, they were swapping places all of the way through the race and up to the lane when the girls just beat them." The pedal...Read more

Scouts get revved up for pedal car race day
Lytham Today, July 8th

More than 60 Cub Scouts, Scouts and Explorers from across the UK came to Jubilee Gardens in Cleveleys on Sunday for a full day of pedal car racing. Teams travelled from as far away as Manchester and Scarborough for the event, with local organiser Steve ...Read more

Petal father builds custom vintage car stroller for son
Jackson Clarion Ledger, July 5th

“When he gets older, I can take the floor out of the stroller and put all the pedal car parts back in so he can ride it around on his own,” Osenbaugh said. “Some of my nephews saw this and asked me to make something like this for them with their Power...Read more

Rare pedal car built in a Bargoed factory more than 60 years ago sells at ...
WalesOnline, July 2nd

An extremely rare pedal car that helped injured miners get back on their feet has been sold for £4,400. Introduced in 1949 and only made for one year, this classic children's pedal car holds a special place in the Rhymney Valley town of Bargoed. The...Read more

Wienermobile pedal car a rare item
Press of Atlantic City, June 12th

Question: My father-in-law asked me to write to you about a yellow, red and black plastic Oscar Mayer Wienermobile pedal car he won at a Newark supermarket contest during the 1970s. It is 48 inches long and shaped like a hot dog on a bun. Because Dad ...Read more