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”)

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]

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]

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    

Eska Oliver 88 Closed Grill Pedal Tractor For Parts Or RepairRare Vintage 1950s Midwest Industries Studebaker Sportster Toy Pedal CarVintage Allis Chalmers D14, Barn Fresh Toy Pedal TractorVintage Tin Windup 1950 S Howdy Doody Pump-mobile Pedal Car Ny-lint Toy Nylint1960s Probe 3 Futuristic Pedal Car1930's Aero Flite WagonAustin J-40 Pedal Car Front GrillePedal Car Vintage Vw Beetle Pedal Car.Vintage Steering Wheel From A Murray Flat Face Pedal Car Fire Truck Vintage Windshield From A Murray Flat Face Pedal Car Fire Truck 1950s-1960 Murray Pedal Car Steering Wheel, Original, Good Condition !!!!Vintage Fire Truck Pedal Car Amf Unit #508 Hook And Ladder Outstanding ConditionMurray Pedal Car Hub Caps Vintage Flat FacePainted Purple Instep Murray 8 Inch Pedal Car Drive Wheel W/ Rubber TireMisc Lot Of Vintage Pedal Tractor / Car Parts - Rims, Wheels, Tires Two (2) Vintage Murray Flat Face Pedal Car Fire Truck Wheels Pedal Car 1932 Ford1956 1957 Eska Corvette Pedal Car - Ballot Box Extremely Rare Never Used New Murray Pedal Car Chrome Hub Cap Set(4) With Correct M/o Logo BeautifulTwo (2) Vintage Murray Flat Face Pedal Car Fire Truck Wheels Austin J-40 Pedal Car HornVintage Toy Catalog Betsy Mccall Betsy Wetsy Pedal Cars American Flyer Trains1910 Or 20's Vintage Antique Unrestored Wilkinson Nash Pedal CarVintage 1960's Oiginal Pedal CarVintage Chrome Kangaroo Pedal Car Bonnet Mascot Peerless Oldsmobile Rare Vintage Pedal Tractor Seat- I H RedChrome Rusty Pedal Car Windshield Hubcaps And EmblemGearbox 8 Inch Pedal Car Drive Wheel W/ Rubber TireAmf 1969-1970 Ford Probe 3 Three-wheeled Pedal Car1940s Pedal Car Steering Wheel, Murray/steelcraft, Good Original Condition !!!!Murray Flat Face WindshieldNew Murray 7 1/2 Inch WheelsAntique Early 1900's Tin, Klaxon Crank Pedal Car / Bicycle Horn1949 Garton Toy Company Catalog & Price List & R. E. Garton Signed LetterCrown Premiums 1940 Gendron 1/6 Die Cast Pedal Car W-trailer Schneider NationalPaibted Purple Rear Parts For Amf Pedal CarsState Farm Insurance 80th Anniversary Full Size Pedal Car Fantastic ConditionAntique Irish Mail Handcar Unrestored Good Condition Juvenile Folk Art Seat1960s Ford Mustang Pedal CarNew Molded Mustang Pedal Car Windshield Perfect Fit Vtg Childs Amf Power Trac Pedal Car Tractor Farm Plow Tractor Seat Child ToyMurray Style Chrome Steering WheelVtg Style California Rat Rod Mini Embossed Metal Bicycle License Plate Pedal CarVintage 1901 Ford Pedal Car, A Must For The 'tin Lizzy' CollectorVintage Amf Pedal Fire TruckVintage Hamilton Greyhound Wheels With CapsVintage John Deere Ertl 520 Pedal Ride-on Tractor Front Wheels & ShaftVw Pedal Car PartsHallmark Kiddie Car Classics 1964 1/2 Ford Mustang Pedal Car Replica CollectibleVintage John Deere Logo Plastic Seat From 520 Pedal Tractor Fits OthersVintage 1950's Pedal Car Fire Engine Truck Bell Classic Mustang Pedal Car Fits Ford Vtg Hot Rod Coupe V8 Ride On Toy Vanity FunMetal Pedal Car License Fits Mattel Vrroom Rocket Vtg Ride On Toy Vanity FunPedal Car Chrome V8 Hood Or Trunk Lid Deck Ornament Ford Chevy Hot Rod GasserRare Antique Amf Junior-trac Pedal TractorHallmark Kiddie Car Classics Murray Tractor & Trailer Pedal Car Mib1999 Jeff Gordon Pedal Car & Trailer Bank, Dupont Superman Racing Rubber TiresMac Tools Pedal Car Replica 1 Of 2500 1/6 Scale Car BankMurray Style Saddle Assy

Recent News: Pedal Cars

Source: Google News

What to do in El Paso: Events March 27-29
El Paso 411, March 27th

César Chávez Day at Lincoln Park – Live music, picnic, entertainment and motorcycle, lowrider bike and pedal car show at Lincoln Park, 4001 Durazno. A new column mural, “Dolores Huerta,” will be dedicated. 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Free. 411: 204-1584...Read more

All the fun of Dreamland: Margate amusement park set to reopen in June
The Guardian, March 27th

The 17 rides, evoking the old-fashioned fun of the traditional British seaside, include a replica helter skelter, a vintage pedal car roadway, a Wedgwood teacup ride, dodgems and a ferris wheel. A roller disco, Punch and Judy show and Messhams Wall of ...Read more

Just Drive Safe Driving Expo will take place April 4
Northwest Georgia News, March 26th

For little children, there will be a course set up with a pedal car, Ellenburg said. Other displays will feature buses and a diesel truck with cars parked in the blind spots. “People will be able to get in the driver's seat and see how the car just can...Read more

Morris Minor pedal car makes more than the real thing at Shropshire auction, March 26th

Modelled after the J-40 pressed steel pedal car made by Nuffield Group in the 1950s, the updated version used lighter materials and was closely modelled on the Minor 1000. The auction proved an all-round success with a boxed Corgi Batmobile, complete ...Read more

Rare Morris Minor pedal car expected to sell for £1200 at Shrewsbury auction, March 24th

The toy car, which was made by the Morris Minor Centre of Bath, is one of only 56 ever made in 1993. It will go under the hammer at Halls' toys and interiors auction at the Battlefield salerooms tomorrow. Modelled after the J-40 pressed steel pedal car...Read more

Spirax Sarco Hosts Children's Pedal Car Charity Event for Saint John's Preschool
Virtual-Strategy Magazine (press release), March 18th

Spirax Sarco employee's came together to kick off Spring with an afternoon of collaborative team building and charitable giving. Blythewood, South Carolina (PRWEB) March 19, 2015. Spirax Sarco, the leader in products and services for steam system ...Read more

Anthony Cowden: Boehner and his pedal car
The Providence Journal, March 6th

Immigration reform has demonstrated John Boehner's true nature as a leader. After the Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill, Boehner wouldn't bring it up for debate or a vote on the House floor. President Obama waited for over a year...Read more

2015 Detroit Autorama
Hot Rod Network, March 6th

Cars from the "Fast & Furious" movie set are present to walk around, how about Meguiar's car care tips or the Pedal Car Challenge presented by Genuine Hot Rod Hardware. It never stops for these three days in March (Friday through Sunday) as the ...Read more