By: Michael Collins | Ford Communications Network
It wasn't long after Henry Ford began mass-producing Model T's at the turn of the 20th century that kids took to sidewalks in miniature pedal cars. The steel-covered toys remained high on children's wish lists until the 1970's when the manufacturer ceased production.
Just as the 1965 Mustang was a runaway hit, so was its counterpart pedal car, selling over 93,000 units in its first year. Four decades later, the pedal car with the Mustang logo is back and demand extends beyond kids, to their parents and grandparents as well, some of whom may have owned an original.
"That Mustang became one of the hottest pedal cars of all time," said Mark Bentley, Ford licensing manager. "At first they were simply toys, but now adults see them as collectables. It's a nostalgia thing."
Created as a promotion, Mustang Pedal Cars sold in Ford dealerships across the United States for a discount price of $12.95. But plastic gained ground over metal as a material for toys in ensuing years. Eventually, the Mustang's initial pedal car manufacturer, AMF, sold the tooling to a Mexican company. In the early 80's that company closed, leaving the original equipment in a warehouse, where it remained untouched for nearly 20 years.
Enter Mark Luzaich in 2004. As the owner of Warehouse 36, a small company in Windsor, Calif., Luzaich started importing and producing pedal cars as collectables. Hearing about the original equipment, he flew to Mexico, bought it, and prepared to produce the original Mustang pedal car once again. Despite modifications for contemporary safety standards, it would be exactly the same with all-steel construction, adjustable rubber pedals, a clear windshield and authentic Mustang markings.
The biggest difference from the original pedal car is the price. While Ford dealerships sold them at discount prices, in stores they retailed for $25. Just as the cost of the Mustang has increased over the last 40 years, so too has the price of the pedal car, which now retails for around $250.
"The nice thing is that they're made out of steel, so when kids outgrow them their parents can save them for the grandkids," said Luzaich.
Luzaich contacted the Ford Licensing Office for permission to market the toy as the original Mustang Pedal Car.
"We were excited when they approached us, it was like finding a piece of history and bringing it back to life," said Bentley. "Like the Mustang itself, the pedal car has always been considered an icon."
But the Mustang wasn't the only icon Luzaich wanted to license. Having learned the ropes of the pedal car business, he wanted to try something that hadn't been seen before. Working with toy designer, Graham Metcalfe, they created a 1932 Ford Roadster pedal car based on the lines of what had become known as the original "Deuce Coupe."
"The '32 Roadster is the quintessential hot rod," said Metcalfe. "We worked very hard to make sure the grill and other markings were just right. We wanted it to be very retro."
Metcalfe says not only are a growing number of pedal cars being sold to car enthusiasts and their kids, there's also a growing market for hot rod shops. Hot rod designers are modifying them to look like miniature versions of their vehicles.
Leslie Kendall, a curator at the Petersen Auto Museum in Los Angeles, says he is not surprised by the rebirth and growing interest in pedal cars