Garton Vintage Pedal Car Identification
During its 95 years of family business, Garton Toy Co. was the largest wheel goods toy factory in the world manufacturing wagons, sleds, tricycles, scooters and pedal cars.
Founder Eusebius Bassingdale Garton started in a small woodworking shop along the north bank of the Sheboygan River in 1879 and in 1887, they produced their first catalog. After a large fire in 1890, a bigger factory was built at North Water Street and Niagara Avenue in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
Every year, Garton Toy Co. introduced a new toy to the market. First the Velocipede, then sleds and ironclad wagons in 1915. Wheel goods with metal bodies became the company's specialty after 1920. The steel body wagon in 1929, known as a “coaster” wagon was known for its paint color "Garton Red.”
And then came the pedal cars. They ranged from deluxe models like the Pierce Arrow to the Buick. The most distinctive toy in company history was the 1950 Garton Kidillac. The Kidillac was the most expensive vehicle offered by Garton at $20.36. In 1953, the Space Cruiser created an "unprecedented demand" that exceeded production abilities.
Four generations of the Garton family would ultimately own and operate the business. The introduction of plastics to the toy industry and increased government regulation led to Garton's sale to an investment group in 1973. In 1999, the large Garton Toy Factory became part of the Water Street Development, and was renovated into apartments.
The image you see above was taken in 1953, of Speedway Motors found “Speedy” Bill Smith with his father and his young son Carson. Carson got his own Garton Hot Rod pedal car for Christmas and smiled for his mother’s camera.
In 1950, the Kidillac was Garton’s most elaborate pedal car, its design obviously taken from the 1950 Cadillac. With its clever name, flamboyant two-tone paint job, and chain drive pedaling system, it was a top-of-the-line offering during this era. Kidillacs were uniquely styled, featuring a streamlined, one-piece steel body with no seams or joints that would split apart. Deluxe Kidillacs had electric horns and working head and taillights. Continental spare tire kits, a common accessory found on full-sized autos of this era, added to the Kidillac’s appeal. Among the chain driven Kidillacs were Police and Fire Chief cars that had working horns, bells, spotlights and antennas as accessories. Production of the basic and deluxe style Kidillacs continued until 1963.
Some more simplistic versions of the Kidillac were offered with a pedal drive system instead of the chain drive. Today, a Kidillac in restorable condition is in high demand with limited availability.
Garton Mark V:
Garton introduced the Mark V in 1954. The heavy duty steel construction and two-tone paint set this car apart from other cars of the era. A pedal-driven basic sedan was made into a Fire Chief’s car with bell and Fire Department Car with ladders attached to the vehicle’s sides. A deluxe model Fire Department Car featured a chain-driven pedaling system, fire light, ladders and racks. In 1958, a Mark IX appeared, which was the Mark V with small fins on the rear, lasting only one year. That same year, Garton made a slight styling change to the grille.
As was evident on other Garton pedal vehicles, major styling changes were uncommon, so it’s not surprising the Mark V remained the same through its sixteen year production run. Garton did make a couple of rare versions in the late ‘50s. A Deluxe Ranch Wagon had a rear platform that doubled as an extra seat and featured a chain driven pedaling system and working headlights. Most memorable was the rare Mark V Dragnet version, its design taken from the car in the late 1950s television series. This police car featured an electric microphone with loud speaker tucked up under a hood scoop. Today, finding a restorable Mark V is relatively easy, although many times the chassis did not survive years under the heavy steel body.
Garton Hot Rod:
A popular chain driven pedal car of the 1950s and one of Garton’s best sellers, was the Hot Rod Racer. In 1953 the first Hot Rod had orange paint, with black hot rod and side pipe graphics, and large artillery wheels. This version remained unchanged until 1956. A color modification made the Hot Rod bright yellow with red graphics through 1960. The only other change Garton made during this time was the addition of a windshield in 1958. In the early ‘60s, the Hot Rod maintained its same racy style with only a graphics rearrangement for the 1960-62 models. Finally, a major color change made the 1963 Hot Rod bright blue. New checkered flag and race car graphics made this version very popular.
It was on the 1963 Racer that Garton offered a one-year-only safety lap belt. Realistic side pipes and a hood ornament were new accessories on the otherwise unchanged 1964 Hot Rod. Major changes on the 1965 model included a roll bar and noise maker, which proved to be problematic and were removed for the last year of production in 1966. Garton also produced basic pedal cars with this body style, including a pedal-driven Fire Chief with bell, and Police Car with a siren, spotlight and antenna.
Garton Casey Jones:
The Garton Toy Company became known for manufacturing pedal cars that were a reflection of historically significant strides made in the U.S. In 1961, Garton paid tribute to the railroad industry and a legendary rail man by introducing the Casey Jones Pedal Locomotive. It showed off bright red and black paint and yellow graphics, along with artillery wheels and adjustable pedals. For a pedal vehicle that was intended to be a toy, some of the authentic features like the front cow catcher and the smokestack did not stand up well to the rigors of child play. Today, finding a restorable Locomotive with all the accessories would be quite a feat. Even more difficult is finding the rare Frontier R.R. Coal Tender partner piece to the Casey Jones.
Garton Tin Lizzy:
In 1908, Henry Ford unveiled what would be the most famous U.S. automobile ever produced, the Model T Ford. In 1964, Garton Toy Company capitalized on the historical importance of the Model T by producing a Tin Lizzie pedal car. Authentic features included old-style running boards and fenders, a french bulb horn, visor style windshield and authentic motor meter. Bright green paint accented with yellow and black made this unique pedal car even more appealing. Thanks to Garton, the already famous Model T was captured forever in the hearts of young and old alike with this faithful reproduction. Today, the Tin Lizzie is a highly sought after collector pedal car and is often hard to find in good, restorable condition.
In 1959, Garton offered a salute to the U.S armed services with the introduction of the Army Jeep. This pedal-driven vehicle had traditional olive drab paint, simple white U.S. star graphics and thick military tread tires. The plain Army Jeep was soon replaced by a bright blue Air Force Jeep that featured yellow winged-star graphics and was offered until 1964. The basic Army Jeep came back with a vengeance in 1964, sporting a bazooka military launcher attached to the vehicle’s side. Later in 1964, Garton offered the laid-back Country Squire. This pedal-driven cruiser was bright blue with woodgrain side graphics a gun site hood ornament and three removable wooden racks around the rear of the car.
Still not ready to give up on the military vehicles, Garton produced the 1966 camouflage painted Army Jeep, with a chain-drive pedal system and hood mounted machine gun. A Hook and Ladder Fire Department model also made a brief, one-year appearance during the production period. A bizarre offering from Garton was the 1967 bright pink Surrey, complete with fringed pink-and-white striped canopy top, blue grille, windshield and wheels. Garton got a lot of mileage out of the basic jeep styling, making the cars easy to find today.