Youngsters have always played “grown-up,” imitating adults and playing with scaled down versions of adults possessions.
And it wasn’t long after the adults began buying automobiles as a family possession in the years after the turn of the century before a miniature toy automobile was on the market.
When I was a youngster, however, only a few fortunate families could afford a peddle driven miniature car for their child or children.
Painted boxes. A painted wooden, either pedal powered or battery driven, toy car, quite similar to the box shaped auto of the adults was first produced in Europe.
The idea caught the eyes of the public, and catalogs soon began to advertise them. It was still pricey for a toy, however, and was only for the well-to-do families or very indulging parents.
As adult size automobiles evolved, became all metal and featured a variety of dash board gadgets, children’s versions followed pace. For the youngster that could not pedal readily a battery driven model was available.
Needed accessories. Changes were made as public demand increased. Stamped headlights gave way to more realistic units on pedestals on some models, just like grown-ups cars. Windshield glass was added. Hood ornaments became standard. The cars even began to feature squeaking horns, rubber covered tires, and a device to create a whiring sound like an engine.
A variety of vehicles for the youngsters was made in metal. When they had a wreck and were dented, like grown up cars, they could sometimes be hammered back into shape, more or less.
In the 1920s and ’30s some impressively realistic pedal cars were being produced, cars that now are often found in the antique stores windows.
Companies that produced child-size automobiles were American National Company of Toledo, Toledo Metal Wheel Company, and the Gendron Wheel Company with factories in Ohio and Italy.
Race car model. Bugatti of Italy produced a fanciful custom-built battery powered child sized sport car, that looked quite a lot like an actual racing car. It had forward and reverse gears, a solid steel body, and leather straps to hold the hood in place – a very prestigious toy not available to the ordinary child of ordinary means.
Today, the older pedal cars, the original models, sell quite high, from $500 to $2,000 each if they are all original and in mint condition.
But since there has begun to be a number of reproductions of these cars, if one is too mint it is probably wise to question its authenticity.