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.
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
DFW Elite Toy Museum
Museum of Childhood
Race Car Toys And Automobilia
The Show Room
VW Toys and Models
Other Great Reference Sites
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: Pedal Cars
Source: Google News
Moonlight Stampede will fight drug use, raise fundsTimes Record News, April 22nd
The Texas Department of Transportation is bringing a rollover simulator and a DWI pedal-car course to educate and try to prevent people from driving drunk. The event also features a raffle with Home Depot giving away a grill along with several other...Read more
The fightback against gendered toysThe Guardian, April 22nd
Jump to comments (…) A level playing field … the Hollywood pedal car – one of Hamleys most-wanted. Cars and girls … the Hollywood pedal car – one of Hamleys' most-wanted toys for Christmas 2013. Photograph: London News Pictures/Rex Features...Read more
At last, a pedal car to call his ownWeekly Times Now, April 22nd
Growing up in Echuca, he never owned a pedal car — although he desperately wanted one — and, in a classic show of overcompensation as an adult, Brian at age 64, owns 80 of the darned things. “I was the youngest in our family and my older brothers ...Read more
Mayor George Ferguson backs plans for Bristol pedal car raceBristol Post, April 21st
BRISTOL Mayor George Ferguson has thrown his support behind plans for the first pedal car race through Bristol's streets in nearly 30 years. The race, a yearly event organised by students at Bristol University in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, is on the verge...Read more
Monty Tech team wins car-building competitionSentinel and Enterprise, April 20th
Some of the students in the Collision Repair Technology program at Monty Tech pose with the 1937 pedal car they built that placed first in the "Pedal Car Challenge" held recent in Boston. From left are: Lindsey Luksha of Sterling, Iris Pichardo and...Read more
Gearing up for Ellon's pedal car race 2014Inverurie Herald, April 18th
The countdown is under way to Ellon's popular pedal car race. This year's event, officially launched last week, will be held on Sunday, August 24. The town centre race is in its fifth year and is organised by Ellon Rotary Club in partnership with Ythan...Read more
Sign up for pedal car grand prixSalisbury Journal, April 17th
IT'S time to oil your chains, dust off your cycling shorts and polish your paintwork in time for Sunday, July 13. Entries for this year's Ringwood Brewery British Pedal Car Grand Prix are now open. There are places for only 60 teams, so those who are...Read more
Attleboro Arts Museum Pedal Car PreviewAttleboro Sun Chronicle, April 2nd
Announcements · Online Services. Home. Attleboro Arts Museum Pedal Car Preview. youtube. youtube fysokYvcB0w. Attleboro Arts Museum Pedal Car Preview read more. Attleboro Arts Museum Pedal Car Preview. Attleboro Arts Museum Pedal Car Preview ...Read more