by Dr. Lori Verderame
Pedal cars are the small scale self-powered toy cars that are a popular collecting category. Established in the early 1900s for children, pedal cars thrilled kids, encourage collectors, and sparked a restoration movement, too. Today, American pedal cars are some of the most coveted objects at antique shows, flea markets, and yard sales. Even the pedal car parts are desirable and costly on the internet. Many pedal cars are valued into the thousands of dollars for fine examples.
Pedal cars enjoyed a major resurgence in the vintage toy and car markets in the mid 2000s when the category turned fifty years old. Just as they loved full size automobiles, Americans have a love affair with pedal cars. The pedal car collectibles market helped train generations of automobile collectors. In the suburbs of America in the 1950s and 1960s, mid century modern kids used pedal cars for neighborhood mobility. While the 1950s was a major period of automotive mania, these child size pedal cars gained in popularity.
Kids in pedal cars mimicked their parents in the 1950s and 1960s during the era when the Interstate Highway System was establishing 46,000 miles of American roadway. President Eisenhower’s $34 billion law got the asphalt flowing on the union’s massive highway project and the system’s famous hub and spoke design around major cities was designed to assist if Cold War evacuations were deemed necessary and to give suburban commuters easy access to urban workplaces.
What to Look For
Some of the companies producing pedal cars since the early 1900s at home and abroad were Cyclops, Steelcraft, Whitney Reed, Lines Bros., Eureka, Butler Bros. etc. Sheet metal pedal cars were sold through dealers, toy stores, and the Sears catalogue. Some of the most innovative early pedal cars had working brakes, spare tires, and headlights. Enameled steel brought real life color designs to pedal cars. Pedal car designs followed the Model T Ford, Austin, Peugeots, Renaults as well as other well known Grand Prix racing cars and popular automobiles. Also popular are pedal cars that reflect the models of the day by Chevrolet, Buick, and Pontiac.
Today, collectors look for all types and styles of pedal cars by many different makers. Condition is key to value when it comes to pedal cars and just like adult automobiles, collectors want pedal cars that are as close to pristine with complete and original parts as possible. They seek out original enamel paint colors too.
Pedal car collectors look for unique examples in pedal cars like the mini Austins, Mack dump trucks, Junior 40s, and police and fire engine pedal cars.
Get an online appraisal report of your pedal car from Dr. Lori.