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Garage Style Magazine
Garages in History


One of the eternal cries of GSM readers is “If I only had more space.”  Space it seems is the rate-limiting step (next to money, aging, and life) to that next acquisition.  There is an alternative and that’s storage lifts (often curtailed by garage height) or enlarging the footprint of the garage by expanding it.  But there is another pathway and that is downsizing.  While that seems like a paradox it’s not.  We’re talking about downsizing the “size” of the cars, not the size of the garage itself.

Right after Karl Benz first assembled his three-wheel Motorwagen an onlooker said, “My son Fritz would love having a little car like that,” and the birth of the pedal car was hatched. Like the first cars themselves pedal cars were for the rich.  By the early 1900s pedals cars were widespread, especially in the United States, England, France, and Australia.

Like the cars themselves they come in a variety of styles, colors, options, marques, and details.  In addition to great garage art, they have now graduated into sophisticated collectibles and have given birth to pedal car clubs, restoration shops, reproduction parts suppliers, and even special classes at prestigious concours.  The pedal car culture follows the same fads and fashions of the big ones.  You even have “barn find” pedal cars, competition cars, customized cars, patina, and authentication and appraisal experts.  I imagine that most of the specialty car insurance companies would provide coverage under their automobilia policies.  The same dictates apply to the small cars, buy the best you can afford, if it matters to you be aware of the reproductions, buy what you like and not for investment.  There is an abundance of historical information available and, like the big cars, most of the enthusiasts are happy to guide you and assist in getting started.

My brother Phil and I have restored about a dozen pedal cars and find the challenge and rewards to rival those of our full-size cars.  Of course, the costs of restoration are smaller than the full-size cars, but in reality, chrome plating, show level paint, replacement parts, custom interiors, decals, and accessories will get you to raise an eyebrow regardless of the scale.

We laid out two rows to display our collection.  Among our collection we have three Triang (England) boat tailed race cars which we created tributes to the British, French, and Italian racing stables; two German electric Porsche cars (550 and 356); an American Kidilac (Pan Americana tribute); a 1940’s Coney Island fire truck kiddie ride; two Austin J40s (made in Wales by disabled miners); a reproduction National dual cowl phaeton, and assorted others.  They make a nice companion display to the two-wall mounted soap box derby racers.  The beauty of pedal cars is that when floor space is limited, they can be hung from the ceiling.  You can customize them, create tribute cars, and acquire a child-size mannequin to ensure they are properly being looked after.  We have also incorporated a sign that signifies we are displaying at the famous “Pedal Beach Concours.”  Of course, each pedal car has a scaled down copy of Garage Style Magazine on the seat. | GSM

-Rick Rader

    Garage Style Magazine
    P.O. Box 812
    La Habra, CA 90633-0812

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