After automobiles replaced bicycles on city streets, manufacturers started making children’s pedal cars to keep up with this new style of transport. By the 1920s, pedal cars were marketed towards babies, with older children buying tricycles and bicycles. From the 1930s onwards in America, functionality became less important in children’s wheeled toys than style. Art Deco and Streamlined Modern design movements changed the look of youngster’s transportation as well as that of adult vehicles.
But, for the most part, European styles of children’s bicycles and tricycles remained true to their roots, rarely influenced by American trends. This French tricycle is an exception. Its simple design is very stylish. Instead of handlebars and bike saddle, it has a steering wheel and full seat, which turn it neatly into a ‘tricycle car.’
Of course, the American equivalent – the Kar-Bike from Metal Specialities Co of Wisconsin – was totally over-the-top by comparison. It was also a four-wheeler rather than a tricycle, reflecting the fact that the USA was dominated by the automobile, while, in France, the tricycle was still in common use. France even had motorised tricycles, such as the Vespa taxi, below. So this hybrid children’s tricycle – a car and bike combined – seems to fit neatly into the landscape of the era.
1950s Kid’s Tricycle with Steering Wheel
French, Unknown Manufacturer
32″ Long/ 24″ High