The Smallest Car Agency In The World

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That might be a bit of a misnomer. The post isn’t really about small agencies, but rather about small cars. Not as small as model cars, but small enough. The sorts of vehicles that children get to drive. Kiddy cars…but of the most elaborate kind.

This was prompted by another visit to the York car Museum. A year ago I went and tried a new camera and lens in the place – this time it was the same camera but a different lens – and a different photographic experiment. If you want to find out about that you’ll have to go over to my frontierandcolonial.wordpress.com to read about it…

The cars themselves were the joy toys of children in the early part of last century. I was not sure of this, as there are any number of reproduction  and pedal cars made today – but the evidence of the lamps on the bonnets of many of them seems to put them back in history.

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The first one seems the simplest, but the chain drive in it meant that the rider had a pretty good chance of getting up some speed. Later cars that adopted a push/pull set of pedals driving and eccentric crank may have been able to be produced more economically, but were never as easy to operate as a bicycle-style set of pedals. I was made acutely aware of this at 5 years old when a company representative from Caterpillar presented my Dad with a metal ride-in model dozer with working crawler tracks and a blade. My Dad was vice president of a construction company and in line for this sort of bribe.

Well it had the push/pull swing pedals – rather like the rudder pedals of an airplane. They worked, but the combination of the force needed to throw the crank over the centre and the friction in the crawler tracks made it all but impossible to operate for a little kid. I was always disappointed in it.

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Our second candidate is much more streamlined, as befits a later model. It’s almost a Ford and has full running boards to prove it. The opening boot is a nice touch.

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The third one is the prize of the lot, being far more detailed and painted with a distinct set of pinstripes as well. The petrol tank is probably functional, but what you would put in it is anyone’s guess. Perhaps acetylene gas for the carbide lamp…And there’s the intriguing thing about this and the little brown number at the start. The single lamps on top of the bonnets are functional and bolted on the cars, which argues that the children were allowed out to drive around the streets after dark. Perhaps they had an excess of kids and didn’t mind them occasionally disappearing under a coal lorry at twilight.

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The motor bike is a puzzle – I am saying it was intended for kids to ride based upon the size, but that little air-cooled engine might be capable of propelling it far faster than a child could control. And again, a functional headlamp, so perhaps this got a run after dark as well.

My own experience with mini scooters was based upon my Dad getting two nose wheels from Firestone Tire in Akron as a present and building a bike round them. They were nearly ball-shaped, which was the whole point of the exercise. Power was a Briggs and Stratton lawnmower engine, and transmission was belt drive with a rider to snug the belt onto the pulleys.It worked…not well…but good enough to get me arrested by the RCMP and hauled back to my folks in back of the RCMP squad car. Never got into legal trouble for it, but I wasn’t allowed to ride it into town after that.

I can proudly say that I provided an electric motorbike for my daughter when she was a little kid, but we had a big enough brick back yard to allow it to be used there. They were a craze in the 80’s but as the batteries never lasted, neither did the bikes.

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