Pedal Cars

Online Launch of Pedal to the Metal: A Collection of Perfectly Restored Pedal Cars

There is a fantastic toy to foster an interest in transportation at a young age before anyone receives their first driver’s license, even before the age where go-karts or Power Wheels are permitted: Pedal Cars.

These child-powered toys, which gained popularity in the 1920s and 1950s, were essentially miniature copies of real cars; some premium models even have inflatable tires, handbrakes, and even opening hoods with mimic motors. Contrary to the minimal options accessible to new drivers, pedal vehicle manufacturers offered kids the chance to operate a variety of vintage cars, dump trucks, airplanes, boats, three-wheelers, and even an Amphicar.

The vast majority of this collection was organized and restored by collector Bruce Callis, who could not recall a period when he wasn’t passionate about cars. In a 1994 interview, he stated, “Cars have always captivated me. A 1963 “Tee Bird,” which Callis and his wife Nancy found in an antique mall in undamaged condition, catalyzed his interest in pedal cars in general. With the support of his wife, Callis bought the pedal car to restore it to its former splendor. Callis’ son Kevin had previously enjoyed a similar model.

Callis disassembled, cleaned, and restored almost every pedal car they could find or buy with the help of his grandson, Michael Ready. The team looked up historical retail catalogs for each pedal car to ensure that their restorations were as precise as possible. To undertake the more intricate bodywork, sandblasting, painting, and chrome plating required to make the pedal cars appear as though they had just been taken out of their box, Callis employed professional artisans.

The Callis collection, on display for two years at the McLean County Museum of History in Bloomington, Illinois, is noteworthy for its breadth and depth. Callis and Ready thoroughly restored the majority of the collection, but they left a few samples unrestored for comparison. The pedal vehicles’ state as-found highlights how unusual it is to come across perfect toys of any kind. “People must remember that toys were created to be played with. Finding them in the brand-new condition is difficult, if not impossible. The excitement of acquiring a new toy is a part of what draws people to collect toys in the first place, whether they remember it or not. Any collector will feel like a youngster again after seeing the range of cars, trucks, boats, and even airplanes available in this comprehensive collection:

1935 American National Skippy Racer

This pedal automobile was created by the Toledo, Ohio-based American National Company after classic 1930s race car designs. The twin, streamlined front fenders, which are in their original state, move in response to steering wheel input. The business was the most prominent global manufacturer of kids’ automobiles by the end of the 1930s. Although American National switched from manufacturing pedal cars to producing wheelchairs and medical stretchers during World War II, the company is still in operation.

Austin Motor Company’s 1955 Auston J-40 Roadster

Between 1950 and 1971, Welsh coal miners battling Black Lung Disease found work making the “Junior Forty” (J-40) pedal automobile. This high-end pedal automobile was created by employees at the Austin Motor Company “Junior Car Factory” in Bargoed, Wales, utilizing leftover parts from the Austin A40 Devon and Dorset manufacturing process. The J40 has a trunk and hood that can be opened, a spare tire, a functional horn, and battery-operated lighting.

1968 Murray-Ohio Skipper Run-A-Bout

It was an entirely new idea when the Murray-Ohio Manufacturing Company unveiled this pedal-powered boat in 1968. The Jolly Roger, Dolphin Gulf Stream, and Skipper Run-A-Bout were the three models of the three-wheeled ship that were available (shown here). A battery-operated outboard motor, chrome-plated rails, and a banner tied with actual rope are all included with the boat.

1929 Sidway-Topliff Scout Aircraft

A premium pedal car in the late 1920s might cost up to $60 (about $850 now), a high price when a pedal-powered tricycle costs one-tenth as much. The Sidway-Topliff Company of Washington, Pennsylvania, produced this Scout airplane in 1929. The nose cone, propeller, seat, and wings are made of aluminum and are attached to a hardwood fuselage. Except for a new tailfin, it is exhibited in its original state. Sadly, the Sidway-Topliff Company failed to withstand the Great Depression and closed its doors in the 1930s.

1929 Sidway-Topliff Scout Aircraft

A premium pedal car in the late 1920s might cost up to $60 (about $850 now), a high price when a pedal-powered tricycle costs one-tenth as much. The Sidway-Topliff Company of Washington, Pennsylvania, produced this Scout airplane in 1929. The nose cone, propeller, seat, and wings are made of aluminum and are attached to a hardwood fuselage. Except for a new tailfin, it is exhibited in its original state. Sadly, the Sidway-Topliff Company failed to withstand the Great Depression and closed its doors in the 1930s.

Chevrolet by Steelcraft, 1935

Murray-Ohio Manufacturing, created in 1919 to provide parts for adult-sized autos, included Steelcraft of Cleveland, Ohio, as a division. The company expanded its product line four years later to include miniature pedal cars. The company’s ability to pivot ended up being its saving grace; throughout the Great Depression, Murray-Ohio was able to stay thanks to its diverse income sources afloat. Between 1935 and 1937, this 1935 Chevrolet pedal was manufactured, and it features authentic-looking headlamps in the shape of cones.