Murray Vintage Pedal Car Identification
Murray Ohio Manufacturing Company was founded in 1910, by J.W. Murray, in Detroit, Michigan until it moved to Cleveland, Ohio, in 1919. They original produced fenders, fuel tanks and other parts for automobiles. In the mid 1930s, the company began producing bicycles and pedal cars.
Until 1939, Murray manufactured all its products for branding and sale by other manufacturers, like Sears and Roebuck & Co. From 1939 through 1942, Murray made the body parts for the Crosley. After WWII, Murray moved to manufacturing inexpensive bicycles and pedal toys. In 1956, Murray moved its factory to Tennessee and over the next few decades, the Lawrenceburg facility grew to become one of the largest facilities of its type in the United States. In 1988, Murray was acquired by a British Investment group.
Above is a great example of a restoration project of a little Murray V-Front pedal car. From a heavily patina-laden body found at a swap meet to a fully restored Murray Tee-Bird. Blue Diamond Classics has all the restoration parts and accessories you need to make your project shine!
Dip Side and Full Side:
In 1951 Murray’s lead pedal vehicle was called the Champion. Its design was based on the full-sized Studebaker Champion automobile. The early body style was referred to as the “Dip Side,” then in 1956, Murray produced a more sleek and smoother version, known as the “Full Side.” The early version is the most recognized of all the Murray models.
Both models featured a deep-drawn, heavy-gauge steel body that permitted a great amount of detail and design. All the autos had a full ball bearing “Jet Flow Drive” for smooth, constant pedal action. Murray used the “dip side” and “full side” body styles to produce other models with an extended rear platform and handrails including a fire truck and station wagon.
Murray Flat Face:
Using the body styling of the new full-size Ford Fairlane as a guide, Murray introduced theFlat Face style pedal car in 1959. The Flat Face featured a dramatically different body style than that of Murray’s successful Champion pedal cars, along with improved full-ball bearing wheels, bright paint and many accessories. Versatility seemed to be the main reasoning behind the new styling, as minor paint and decal changes transformed the Flat Face again and again. A wide range of these cars emerged, including a Fire Chief, Radio Sports Car, Astronaut Car, Speedway Pace Car and Holiday Auto, just to mention a few.
A version of the Flat Face with an extended rear compartment was also available as a Station Wagon, an Earth Mover, Fire Truck, Circus Car, an Airline Crew Car, and a Dude Wagon. The extended Flat Face models had grip handles for an extra rider and some also had working tailgates. Since Murray produced the “Flat Face” from 1959 until 1972, restoration parts are in high demand as the cars are relatively easy to find.
Murray V-Front / Tooth Grille:
Murray had the customer in mind when the V-Front box style pedal car was introduced in 1960. Offered as a more economical alternative to the Flat Face, the V-Front had the same versatility Murray had become known for, which gave us new models including a Tee Bird, Fire Chief and Fire Truck.
Production of the V-Front ended in 1967 when Murray stamped out a new version of the box-style car called a Tooth Grille, which was offered until 1974. Styling changes of the grille and front of the car were the only noticeable differences from the V-Front. Names like Charger, Pinto, Camaro, Firebird and Fire Chief were the most popular of the Tooth Grille series. An “off the beaten path” version of the Tooth Grille with an exposed plastic motor and more contemporary graphics, called the Fire Drag-on, came out in 1969.
Murray also produced vehicles in both the V-Front and Tooth Grille styles with an extended rear platform, which was usually the place for an extra rider in the fire truck vehicles. These Murray peddlers are fairly easy to find due to their long production runs.
Murray Sad Face:
From 1950-58, Murray produced pedal vehicles with an unusual style front bumper and grille that gave the vehicle a frowning, sad appearance. From the aptly named “Sad Face” series emerged a Dump Truck, Fire Truck and Station Wagon. Most Sad Face vehicles were the extended styles with a rear platform and hand rails; the fire truck had wooden ladders. A sedan model Sad Face called the General Auto, made a brief appearance in 1950, and today is a rare collector item. In 1955 the Ranch Wagon took the place of the Station Wagon.
Murray’s color presentation on vehicles during this period reflected the trends of full-sized automobiles of the time, so two-tone paint schemes were popular on the Sad Face cars.
Murray Comet / Torpedo:
Murray introduced a streamlined style of pedal car in 1949, the sleek looking Comet. Designed to be a more economical offering from Murray, the simple styling of the Comet didn’t last long and was quickly overshadowed by the more expensive Torpedo which featured the same body as the Comet, but was painted in vibrant colors and had chrome trim and many chrome accessories. Since the body styling stayed the same, there is some disagreement when referring to this car. Some call it a Comet but it is more widely known as a Torpedo.
It is also called a Buick, since the top of the line version featured four port holes like the ones on the full-sized Buick automobiles of this era.
The 1948 Murray Pontiac was first introduced in 1941 as a style change to the ‘41 Chrysler pedal car. The molds for the newly designed Pontiac were used from March through December of 1941. Manufacturing then ceased as Murray’s facilities, like many others in the U.S., dedicated their production toward the war effort, leaving the barely used molds for the Pontiac shelved and its fate in question.
In 1948, Murray decided to dust off those molds for a two year run of the Pontiac which produced a Star automobile, a Pontiac, and a Pontiac Fire Chief in sedan form. Murray then added an extended rear area and a step to produce the Hook and Ladder and a Station Wagon with a working tailgate. At some time during the interrupted production a Service Truck with an authentic wrecker boom was among the offerings from Murray. The ‘48 (‘41) Pontiac was very popular until 1950, considering the odd production run, and today is a great find for any collector.
A salute to public service seemed to be the driving force behind the themes of Murray’s three-wheeled pedal vehicles. First on the scene was a Police Radar Patrol Cycle, then came the Good Humor Ice Cream Truck, a Fire Patrol Cycle, Police Radio Patrol Cycle, Highway Patrol Cycle and finally an Airport Service Truck. These peddlers, first built in 1955, were designed to provide years of operation as they featured full ball bearing chain drives with large semi-pneumatic tires up front, and smooth running full ball bearing wheels and molded tires on the rear. Realistic sirens, bells and built-in rear compartments with opening doors, along with eye-catching graphics, made these three-wheelers very popular.
Murray Tot Rod:
“Built for speed and fun in ‘61” is the catchy phrase that can be attributed to the introduction of Murray’s radically different styled Tot Rod. This new peddler became a popular choice with its open cage, go-cart design, and was better suited as a child’s toy since it was made with a safe and sturdy tubular drop-wedge frame design. A Super Tot Rod featured an enclosed chain driven pedaling system and a more substantial front end area, while the basic Tot Rod remained pedal driven.
Both Tot Rod models were scarlet red and had adjustable bucket seats surrounded with a rubber padded roll bar. Simple white graphics gave a speed racer look to what would become one of Murray’s most popular offerings of the 1960s. Special edition Tot Rod Racers called the silver and gold cup specials appeared during the early ‘60s, and were known as the Fireball and Thunder Bolt Racers. These cars had wrap-around hoods, exhaust pipes, front grille and hubcaps, and flamed racing style graphics. Later in production, Tot Rods had chrome plastic exhaust pipes, hood scoops and all-terrain style plastic wheels.
Murray anchored its line of pedal vehicles in 1966 with a fleet of pedal boats. The whimsical, three-wheeled design was first seen in the flagship of the series, the Jolly Roger, which featured such nautically correct accessories as a battery operated outboard motor, dual lens flashing navigational light, bow staff with pennant, chrome plated bow rail and wrap around windshield.
The Jolly Roger was white with red graphics and had bright blue wheels. While the styling of the boat always remained the same, Murray docked some of the accessories in the Skipper Run-A-Bout, the next in the boat series. The outboard motor, chrome bow rail and the bow staff and pennant remained, making the Skipper a popular pedal cruiser. The Dolphin Gulfstream, the last boat in the series, had a bow staff and pennant and featured bright blue graphics and wheels to offset the white body. Murray’s pedal boats were produced from 1966 to 1968 only, and today are among the most desirable of the Murray pedal vehicles.
Murray Atomic Missile:
During the years 1954 to 1964, as the U.S. was entering the space age, Murray countered with its own sign of the times in the form of the three-wheeled Atomic Missile, Super Sonic Jet and Sky Rocket pedal vehicles. The performance-minded youngster had the choice of two drive trains on these three-wheelers, the usual pedal drive or the smoother dyna-chain drive. An extra-large semi-pneumatic front tire and solid rubber rear tires provided maximum pedaling performance. Murray’s “out-of-this world” styling was reflected in the colorful paint schemes and realistic dual jet controls with simulated gauges and instruments. A noise-making “motor tone” shifter added to the authentic fun.
In 1970, a three-wheeler called the 727 Jet Plane took off. It featured the same styling and had the same realistic features as its predecessors.