Today, we’re taking another look at classic pedal cars, tipping our festive hats to RAC and Mr Dando of Eastcote, Middlesex.
Back in 2012, RAC rolled out an Austin J40 pedal car to help promote a seasonal offer for its breakdown cover. You’ll be able to find some rich information on the Austin J40 over on the Austin Works website, but in a nutshell, these fun-size cars were built in South Wales using scrap off-cuts from the Austin factory at Longbridge.
Production started in 1949 and the factory was run on a not-for-profit basis for the employment of disabled coal miners. The Austin J40 brochure stated:
Austin J40 cars are made in a specially constructed factory at Bargoed in South Wales. Here, in good conditions with the guidance of an experienced rehabilitation officer and under the supervision of a doctor, disabled Welsh miners are able to find new interest in life and do a job of work that is both useful and congenial. There are employment facilities at this factory for 250 men.
According to Austin Works, the J40 was a “very well equipped toy of excellent quality and was probably the best pedal car on the market at the time.” For a young petrolhead, it must have been a dream come true and was far superior to the vast majority of the plastic pedal cars found today.
Working headlights, a horn, detachable wheels with Dunlop tyres, leather cloth seating, an opening bonnet and boot and swathes of chrome. Early cars even had the Flying A ornament on the bonnet, although this was later dropped due to a change in legislation.
A total of 32,098 Austin J40 pedal cars were built and production continued until September 1971. The factory continued to be used, but was eventually closed down in 1999. An end of a wonderfully British era.
[bctt tweet=”The question is, would you rather be driving the RAC breakdown truck or the Austin J40?”]
The RAC ad is beautifully shot and dripping in nostalgia. The question is, would you rather be driving the RAC breakdown truck or the Austin J40?
Mr Dando’s pedal car pre-dates the Austin J40 by a couple of years and is captured by the retro brilliance of British Pathé. Today, we’re getting excited about petrol dropping below £1 per litre, but back in 1947, British motorists were facing a petrol shortage. Mr Dando (we don’t know his first name, but calling him Mr Dando just seems right) had an idea.
Using typically British built-in-the-shed ingenuity, Mr Dando created a pedal car that was so light it could be carried up and down stairs or – weirdly – stored upright in the larder. It cost £5 to create and – aside from some light lubrication – required very little maintenance. Watch until the end and you’ll discover you can also engage in some three-wheeled antics. Citroën GS owners, eat your heart out.
We’ll leave you with Mr Dando and his amazing zero-emissions and lightweight pedal car. Thank you, Mr Cholmondley-Warner. Goodnight, Mr Grayson.