Pedal Cars at GM
Since their inception in the late 1890s, pedal cars have been one of the most popular children’s toys. They have ranged in scope from homemade ride-on carts to sophisticated copies of expensive and high-performance automobiles and trucks. They reached the height of their pre-World War II popularity in the 1920s and 1930s as the public developed an awareness and interest in all things automotive.
GM’s sales and marketing organization was obviously aware of the popularity of the pedal car as we can see this photograph from the GM Media Archive of a company event where some very happy children have just received their new Pontiac Silver Streak pedal cars.
Pedal cars were also used in dealerships to create interest in the new products for the entire family. What child refuses to go to the dealership if they knew they could drive around the showroom floor in their very own Silver Streak coupe.
GM sales literature also took advantage of pedal car popularity as we can see from the cover of this 1944 sales brochure.
While no pedal cars were manufactured during World War II, they had a resurgence in popularity in the 1950s and 1960s. GM continued to make use of pedal cars in a variety of marketing programs. Some lucky children got their first driver’s training experience in kindergarten with this fleet of 1955 Chevys.
Pedal cars were also part of many GM auto show exhibits to attract the attention of families that had brought their children along to the show.
When GM presented a new 1955 Chevy to Bob Sweikert, the winner of that years Indianapolis 500 winner, they included a matching pedal car for his son.
The Corvette marketing team used pedal cars in several major events. In these photos from the famous Daytona Beach Time Trials, we can see the race they staged right on the beach track where the real cars competed.
In the 1960s, pedal cars began the transition to battery power. This 1963 Corvette Sting Ray coupe is a great example of how these little cars were used to generate news and interest in GM products.
Judging by the number of battery powered, GM brand pedal cars available today, one would have to conclude that the attraction of pedal cars has continued right up to today.