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Homepage. This page: Fore-runner to the J40, Austin's Pathfinder pedal racing car.
Old pedal cars

The Pathfinder pedal racing car of 1949.

Old pedal cars are keenly sought-after by many groups of enthusiasts, including classic car owners, people who are nostalgic about their own childhood and remember coveting these pint-sized machines in their formative years, and of course pedal car collectors. Of the many post-war types produced, two stand out in particular. The ever-popular Austin J40, produced from 1950 right through to 1971, is one, while its predecessor, the cracking Pathfinder racing car, is the other.
In July 1949, the Austin Junior Car Factory was opened in Bargoed, South Wales. Here, disabled coal miners, no longer able to work after contracting lung disease in the Welsh mines, were employed in the production of these desirable pedal cars, the organisation funded by central government. The steel from which the cars were produced hailed from Austin's car production facility at Longbridge, offcuts and scraps being packaged off to Wales where they'd be turned into brightly-coloured pedal cars. The Pathfinder Special was the first type produced, entering production in 1949 but replaced in 1950 due to poor sales, by the J40 which by contrast proved very popular - probably due to children identifying with its general lines, shared as they were with the Austin A40 Devon and Dorset models at the time. The J40 was also very well specified, with working headlamps to further increase its appeal.

Selfridges announces the Austin Pathfinder Special pedal car.

Due to its short production run and attractive styling (based on a 1930's racing Austin), the Pathfinder is now a collectable machine. Despite the factory not being officially opened until July 5th 1949, the advertisement shown below was in fact published in June of that year, announcing the new pedal car to a worldwide audience. On sale for just over twenty-five British Pounds, Selfridges of Oxford Street in London was the supplier. Note how only a cream paint finish is referred to.
Announcing the new Pathfinder pedal car in 1949
A pedal replica of the famous OHV "Austin Seven" Racer - it is more than a toy - it's a beautiful engineering job expertly made in true Austin tradition - the pride and joy of any youngster who can slip into the driving seat.
  • Pressed steel bodywork in cream finish, with upholstered leather cloth seat. Parcel compartment behind the seat back. Detachable bonnet reveals dummy engine with sparking plugs and leads.
  • Rocker-type rubber covered pedals, adjustable for leg reach.
  • Two-position exterior hand brake, easily adjustable.
  • Pressed steel detachable wheels with roller bearings, and Dunlop 12.5" by 2.25" pneumatic tyres.
  • Easy, direct steering action through divided tubular track rods.
  • Length 5' 3"; width 2' 3"; height 2' 2.5"; weight 74.5 lbs

Pathfinders today.

Pathfinders don't often come on the market, partly because few owners are willing to let them go, and as mentioned, because not all that many were made and most have succumbed to the passage of time - just like their full-size relatives. Fibreglass replicas can be found, but to the keen collector, only a genuine Bargoed-built original will cut the mustard. Even semi-derelict wrecks are worth restoring, helped by the supply of re-made and original parts that can be sourced. Shown below are a couple of surviving examples. If anyone has a Pathfinder they'd like to part with, preferably an un-restored original car needing work, please get in touch.
A green example
Red Pathfinder at the Haynes Museum
A period black & white photograph of the twin-cam Austin Seven racer, on which the Pathfinder is based, may be found on this page of the gallery section at OCC.
Please click here to return to the main pedal car page.

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