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”)
Museum of Childhood
DFW Elite Toy Museum
The Show Room
VW Toys and Models
Other Great Reference Sites
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: Pedal Cars
Source: Google News
Chatfield woman plans two-year trip by solar-powered bikePost-Bulletin, April 24th
Hanna Elshoff of Chatfield is getting ready for a two-year ride across the U.S. in her solar-power assisted, electric pedal car. Buy this photo. Posted: Saturday, April 25, 2015 5:15 am. Chatfield woman plans two-year trip by solar-powered bike Derek...Read more
Texting While Driving: Story of teen's fatal crash impacts BHS seniorsBrainerd Daily Dispatch, April 24th
Seniors Lindsey Wagner and Nick Tietz, who both took part in a simulation event of driving a pedal car while texting and driving, both agreed Logan's story was impactful to students. "I thought his story was amazing," Wagner said. "He showed us that we...Read more
Local mothers save money buying on Facebook: 'It's other moms'KATU, April 24th
PORTLAND, Ore. -- For many local parents, Facebook is the new marketplace for selling stuff and scoring deals, safely. Stephanie Bean is a mother of two and a seller of many things online, including lots of shoes. "We don't need it all," says Bean...Read more
Bringing back Bugsy Malone: 'we're going to smell of Angel Delight for months'The Guardian, April 23rd
Not a Goodfella or a Godfather, but one of the half-pint hoodlums from Bugsy Malone. I wanted a pedal car. I wanted a pencil-drawn pencil moustache. And more than anything, I wanted a splurge gun. Well, dreams really do come true: I'm 30 years old and...Read more
Scuderie Campari's Mira Pedal Car Is Your Kid's Dream Come True - Photo ...autoevolution, April 23rd
Like most of the great things on this planet, the beautiful pedal car you're looking at has its inspiring story. It involves a loving father who wanted to offer his son a special gift for his 5th birthday. Since the man is skilled in constructing...Read more
Custom Pedal Car Raffle UnderwayClay County Times Democrat, April 9th
"This is a 1952 pedal car, but it has been extensively customized," noted car show committee member Tony Pace. "It was built to replicate the old lead sleds of the 1950s and 60s and was customized by artists in Ohio and Pennsylvania." The custom car...Read more
Morris Minor 1000 pedal carClassic Cars for Sale, April 1st
A replica Morris Minor 1000 pedal car has sold for a world record price at auction. The replica of the Birmingham-made vehicle, one of only 56 produced, sold for £3600, triple its pre-sale estimate, at Halls' Fine Art Toys Auction in Shrewsbury. The...Read more
Morris Minor pedal car sells for world record price of £3600 at auctionBirmingham Mail, March 29th
Just like a real vehicle, the pedal car was launched at the Earls Court Motor Show. Halls' toy specialist Stewart Orr remembers it well. He was at the same show, manning the neighbouring Matchbox stand. “It attracted a huge amount of interest at the...Read more