Antique Pedal Cars
Antique pedal cars work via pedal power. They are generally made from wood or steel and remain very collectible.
After Karl Benz patented and introduced the three wheel Patent Motorwagon for adults in the 1880s, the market was flooded with a playful equivalent designed for children – the antique toy pedal car. By the early 1900s pedal cars were ubiquitous in the USA and Great Britain.Background and collecting information
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.
“Juvenile Steel Automobiles” were manufactured by the Butler brothers around this point. These cars boasted chassis made from sheet-steel, double-spoke wheels and open steering systems, bottoms and pedals. Models included the Scorcher, the Wizard, and the Speedwell. The pedal version of the best-selling Ford Model T was especially popular among children, and remains highly prized today.
Before the outbreak of the first world war, pedal cars designed in the style of Grand Prix Peugeots were being manufactured and sold in Paris. Following the war’s emd, Eureka, a French toy maker of considerable note, continues this trend, making pedal cars fashioned after Peugeots, as well as Renaults and the Citroen Rosalie.
In Great Britain, Lines Bros had created lines of more than 30 different types of pedal car, which were duly advertised in its 1937/1938 catalogue. Prince, a fairly basic model was designed for younger children (2 to 4 year olds), while the Electric Rolls, which starred an electric motor – thus its name – was presumably designed for slightly older, and rather aspirant children. The impressive toy car also featured 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 interwar period proved to be an important time for pedal car manufacturers, who saw their products’ popularity grow exponentially. Pedal cars became so ubiquitous they were even fixtures in Sears catalogues of the era. However, pedal cars could only be sent from Sears to customers who lived near railway lines because mailing a steel car, even a small one, was impossible.
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 headlights and rubber tires. Steelcraft’s Chrysler was 50-inches long, and could be yours for only $31.50.
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.
Condition and restoration
Damaged pedal cars can be carefully restored to their original condition. Restoring the condition of a battered pedal car will also restore a great deal of value. In this respect they are a lot like the classic cars on which they were based.
As previously stated, the condition of an antique pedal car impacts upon its value. However, these were toys, and in as much were designed to be played with: most pedal cars will exhibit signs of use.
Most antique pedal cars fetch between $150-300 at auction. Heavily used cars can be bought for less and restored, however, the cost of new parts and possibly labour should be taken into account before any purchase is made.
Truly exceptional examples that very rarely come to auction have been known to bring $600-700.