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    

Antique 1930s Garton Pressed Steel Toy Pedal Car, Fresh Pick, No Reserve!56 Chevrolet Corvette Pedal CarRare Antique Old Pedal Car Murray Vintage "eska""massey Harris 44 Special"cast Iron Child's Pedal Tractor. Vintage Amf? Mustang Pedal Car Dealer Give Away 1964 65 & 661950's Garton Hot Rod Pedal Car UnrestoredVery Rare Vintage 1955 Garton Kidillac Pedal Car -original Paint -wow!!!!!Vintage Allis Chalmers Ertl Toy Pedal Tractor One Ninety Model A 64 Rare Estate Scarce Vintage 1949 Garton Fire Chief Pedal Car 100% Original GreatVintage 1960s Hamilton Usa Army Jeep Estate Pedal Car1955 - 58 Murray Lancer Pedal Car For Restoration Or Parts Vintage ProjectRare Antique 1920's Pedal Car Racer American National Murray Garton SteelcraftAntique 1930s Garton Pressed Steel Toy Pedal Car, Fresh Pick, No Reserve!John Deere Pedal TractorVintage Pressed Steel Murray Pedal Car Fire Engine Ladder Truck 50's - 60's Vintage Pedal Car "rebel 11" - Almost Perfect ConditionPedal Boat Murray Classic Wagon Master Peddle CarVintage Bmc Pedal Tractor Wagon Wood Sides Original Paint Rare FindFleetwing Fire Chief Pedal Car 1112-3Boy On A Go Cart Pedal Car Seaside Tin Pail C1920s - EmbossedPrewar Gendron Pioneer Antique Tricycle Ride On Trike Pedal Car Vintage Garton1934 American National Fire Truck Pedal Car RareVintage 1960s Amf Scat Car Junior Pedal Car American Machine & Foundry Olney, IlVintage Murray Full Ball Bearing Red Fire Truck Pedal Car Vintage MurrayOriginal Vintage Griffen Pedal Car Hood Ornament Motorcycle Street Hot Rat RodVintage Fire Truck Petal Car Barn FindVintage Amf Fire Chief No. 503 In Good Original Condition. Needs Steering WheelAntique Vintage Triang Station Wagon Child's Pedal Car For Parts Or Restore1960s Pedal Car Fire Truck Original Not Restored No Rust Steel Peddle CarMurray Style Dip Side Pedal Car Running GearMurray Chrome Hood OrnamentOriginal Red And Black Kettler Kettcar Go Cart Racing Pedal Car For Kid's Vintage Outdoor Toys Old Pedal Car Parts Garton Hood OrnamentHallmark Kiddie Car Classics Luxury Edition Lot Steelcraft Murray Garton PedalK-line K661-6101 O/o-27 Scale Fdny Flat Car With 2 Pedal Cars Brand New In BoxVintage New Old Stock Tricycle / Pedal Car Pedals Fits 7/16" Shaft New In Pkg.2015 Hot Wheels Lot Homer,snoopy,pedal Car Jetson Rare1932 Ford Pedal Car/ Hot Rod / Stroller, Warehouse 36 Licensed By Ford.Pedal Car 1950's Toy Auto For Children White Metal Working VintageOscar Mayer Weinermobile (wienermobile) Pedal Car -good Condition-Lot Of 19 1955 Chevy Bel Air 1940 Ford Delixe Coupe Pedal Driven Car GearboxHallmark Mini Kiddie Car 1956 Garton Kiddilac Pedal Car Black/pink With BoxAged Pedal Car Pierce Arrow Juvenile Vehicle Metal Tin Sign The Skippy Toy CoVintage Car Photo Cute Girl W/ Police Pedal Toy & 1959 Chevy Chevrolet 595906New Step2 Easy Turn Coupe In PinkAmerican-retro Pedal Racer Model Ar5001 In Red - Rare. For The Discerning BuyerComet Pedal Car, Hot Rod, Rat Rod StrollerVintage Official Soap Box Derby WheelsPedal Tractor Parts-fits Murray 2-ton Diesel ,set Of Fender Skirts Gendron Crown Premiums Trust Worthy Pedal Car Bank In Box 1998Steelcraft Seat Label (last One) Murray Western Flyer Tractor Trac Pedal Car Left Side Part Vintage With Shifter Murray Western Flyer Tractor Trac Pedal Car Right Side Part Vintage Hallmark Kiddie Car Classics 1956 Garton Mk V Pedal Car With BoxXonex Die Cast Pedal Car Fire Truck Hook And Ladder Limited Edition1954 Photo Of Murray Jet Flow City Fire Department Pedal CarSummer 1941 Vintage Old Antique Boys Kids In Metal Pedal Car Children 4-3/4" X3"

Recent News: Pedal Cars

Source: Google News

People Loving People auction, BBQ this Saturday
Therogersvillereview, August 26th

“You know, it is almost 'Football Time in Tennessee' and we have a beautiful Tennessee Vol Pedal Car that we will be auctioning, as well as many other nice pieces. We encourage everyone to attend and make a bid on these one of a kind items. It is not...Read more

Letters to the editor, Aug. 27: Downtown Nashville
The Tennessean, August 25th

Pedal car after pedal car of rowdy young ladies, drinking to excess while patrons of the multilevel bars holler at them from above. The sidewalks were packed with drink-holding adults while the homeless and young children entertain the throngs of...Read more

Local Happenings: Pleasanton's Firehouse exhibit features area plein-air paintings
San Jose Mercury News, August 25th

Weekend happenings include more than 2,500 American-made and/or powered rods, customs, classics, muscle cars and trucks of all years; Veterans Day celebrations; a swap meet; a model and pedal car show; and free kids' entertainment. Alameda County ...Read more

City record
Sidney Daily News (subscription), August 25th

-2:15 p.m.: theft. Sidney Daily News personnel reported 20 newspapers, valued at $25, were stolen from a newspaper machine at 1010 Wapakoneta Ave. -1:40 p.m.: theft. Cynthia Longcoy, 1527 E. Court St., Apt. D, reported a bicycle, valued at $60, was ...Read more

Royal Oak OKs pedal pub minus the booze
Detroit Free Press, August 19th

Royal Oak is poised to become Michigan's next downtown with a pedal pub — but without the pub. City commissioners gave their unanimous support this week to allowing the quirky bicycle built for a crew, which in this case could be as many as 10...Read more

Get set for pedal car spectacular in Ellon
Ellon Times, August 15th

The pedal car race is in the afternoon and there will be stalls in the Market Street car park and some unusual cycles in Neil Ross Square. The Royal British Legion Pipe Band will lead the pre-race procession. Town centre roads will be closed between...Read more

Gainsborough: Pedal Car Grand Prix at Queen Elizabeth's High School
Worksop Today, August 4th

A Pedal Car Grand Prix is taking place at Queen Elizabeths High School on Sunday, August 9. The two hour endurance race, made up of 12 teams of 10 members, has been organised by the Rotary Club of Gainsborough. The event starts at 11am with the ...Read more

Gratiot Cruise set to hit the pedal to the metal
C&G Newspapers, July 29th

The big welcoming on the day of the event begins at 11 a.m. at cruise headquarters with the national anthem and the commencing of the pedal car cruise. The parade will start at noon, going from Metropolitan Parkway and Gratiot Avenue, making the loop...Read more