Pass on the Passion
(to the younger generation)
Austin Pedal Car
Several people have mentioned to me that they have seen a rather old Austin pedal car at Brooklands Museum. The placard next to the car shows me being the owner, but this isnít quite true.
The car was made in 1946 at Longbridge, and here is its fascinating story. After the war, the chairman of Austin, Leonard Lord, decided that the company should produce a children's pedal car. He also had the idea that it should be built in a new factory in South Wales. This would provide work for former coal miners whose health prevented them from working underground, but could cope with light assembly work.
Lord invited three Austin workers, one of whom was Alfred Ash, to design and build a prototype pedal car. The car was modelled on the current Austin 8. The project was a tightly kept secret, and the car was created in a separate area of Longbridge, away from prying eyes.
Once the car was built, complete with bicycle type pedals and rotating chain drive, Alfred Ash needed to make sure that it was the right size for a child. Again, under strict secrecy, Alfred brought his 8 year old daughter Marcia into the Austin works one Saturday morning, where she pedalled the car around, and posed for official photographs.
Lord hoped that the pedal cars would bring joy to children, so the car was named JOY1.
By the time that the pedal cars entered production in Bargoed, South Wales, the Austin 8 had been replaced by the Austin A40 Devon. Consequently, the production cars, named J40 (J for Junior), were similar to the A40 Devon in design. The cars were sold in Austin showrooms and, by the time that production ceased in 1971, over 32,000 had been built.
Meanwhile, what had happened to our prototype JOY1? In short, no-one knows. However, in the early 1990s, an unusual old pedal car was found by an antique dealer in Chichester. The Austin J40 Pedal Car Club was informed, and Alfred Ash was brought along to check to see if this was the long-lost JOY1 which he had built 46 years previously. Alfred confirmed that this was indeed JOY1. A happy reunion!
However, the story then takes an unfortunate turn, because one day in the mid 1990s, a photo appeared in The Times with a Sotheby's auctioneer sitting astride JOY1. It was to be sold at an auction.
The J40 Club sprang into action, and tried to interest a number of museums in buying the car, but none realised the importance or attraction of this tenacious little car! Auction day arrived, but fortunately no-one matched the expected price of £3,200.
The antique dealer was contacted. He agreed to sell the car to the J40 Club at the asking price, and gave us 2 months to raise the funds. It was decided to create a JOY1 Trust, separate from any club, so that the car could be preserved without risk of being sold off by any individual or committee. The aim was for JOY1 to be seen and admired by the public, hence a museum was the ideal home.
A nail-biting two months ensued, with donations from many individuals and clubs, such as the Austin Counties Club, the J40 Club, and the 750 Club. Nearing the deadline, and still a few hundred pounds short of the target, Rover Group was finally persuaded to give a helping hand.
The new home for JOY1 was chosen as the Heritage Centre at Gaydon, where it is normally on display. It has also spent time at Beaulieu. In 2006, Gaydon started a refurbishment, and Brooklands Museum welcomed the chance to put JOY1 on display for a few months. It has certainly been much admired. It was decided to keep the car in its "as found" condition, as restoring it would remove some of its charm.
Alfred Ash is now in his mid 90s and is happy to be President of the Austin J40 Club. His daughter, Marcia, was club secretary for several years, and is now a vice president of the club. The J40 Club has about 200 members and holds a rally each September at Gaydon where about 30 pedal cars turn up, and children enjoy races, driving tests and drawing competitions, followed by prize giving and trophies. Certainly, lots of JOY!
Ian Nelson – Brooklands Centre
by Alan Daper
Brum is a ½ scale replica of a 1920s Austin 7 Chummy convertible and lives in a garage but finds adventures every day when he sneaks out to visit the "Big Town".
Brum was given his name as the programme was originally set in Birmingham where folk are nicknamed 'Brummies'. Brum also gets his name from the sound of a car engine revving! The opening sequence was filmed at the Cotswold Motoring Museum in Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire, where you can visit Brum today. Brum has since been filmed in Birmingham where its many streets and landmarks can be seen in each episode. Brum was first broadcast in 1991 and has been broadcast and translated in many languages.
by Val Biro
Gumdrop is an Austin Clifton 12/4 and ended up in a scrap yard. Mr Oldcastle found him and took him home and restored him then they embark on many adventures.
The books have been translated into many languages.
Danny, the Champion of the World
by Roald Dahl (1975)
Danny's mother died suddenly when he was only four months old and from then on he lived with his father in an old caravan at the back of a filling station, where his father also fixed cars. By the time Danny was five years old, he was able to maintain motor vehicles with his father and had been playing with car parts when he was less than a year old. He did not start school until the age of seven, because his father wanted him to be able to dismantle a motor engine and put it together again all by himself.
One evening, Danny's father went poaching and promised not to be back late, but Danny woke to find his father hadn't come home. Danny was worried and decided to go looking for his father, and drove an Austin Seven which his father had been repairing. On the way to Hazell's Wood he passed a police car in the opposite direction. A police car pursued Danny but he managed to dodge them, and he then found his father trapped down a hole with a broken ankle. He helped his father out of the hole with a tow-rope from the Austin. (Chapter 7 – The Baby Austin).
by Colin Thompson (1994 – ISBN 1-85681-089-5)
In the roots of an old tree live a family of tiny contented people. Their peaceful existence is shattered by the arrival of a ruby red Austin 7 and a picnic party. The car proves an irresistible trap that carries the family away to a dangerous adventure and a new life.
Ruby won the 1994 Primary English Best Picture Book Award. Click here (then click on 'Ruby') to see a photo of the 1934 Ruby which inspired the book.
Something for the older generation of males…!
Do you remember which cars were featured on the front of the following publications?
1. 'The Book for Boys' – 1940s
2. 'The World's Best Boys Annual' – 1930s
3. 'John Wentley Investigates' – 1950s
4. 'The Romance of the Motor Car' – 1920s/30s (features Brooklands race track)
5. 'Speed – and other stories for boys' – 1930s (features Brooklands race track)
6. 'Monster Book for Boys' – 1950s
7. 'The Wonder Book of Motors' – 1950s
8. 'The Modern World – Book of Motors' – 1940s
9. 'The Champion Annual for Boys 1956'
10. 'The Racer' – 1950s
11. 'Gumdrop Finds a Friend' – 1970s
12. 'Thrilling Stories for Boys' – 1930s
13. 'Our Boys' Tip Top' – 1930s
14. 'The Great Book of Motors' – 1930s (features Brooklands race track)
15. 'Stirring Boys' Stories' – 1930s
16. 'Whiteley's Schoolboys' Story Book'
17. 'Every Boy's Hobby Annual 1953'
18. 'Popular Book for Boys' – 1930s
19. 'Ideal Book for Boys' – 1950s
20. 'Tiger Annual 1958'
21. 'Monster Book for Boys' – 1930s
22. 'The Golden Picture Book of Motors' – 1950s
23. 'Collins Boys' Annual'
24. 'Famous Racing–Cars' – 1960s
25. 'The Ladybird Book of Motor Cars' – 1960s
26. 'Five go to Smuggler's Top' by Enid Blyton – 1960s
27. 'Boy's Own' – 1960s
28. 'Warne's Top–All Book for Boys' – 1930s
29. 'The Saint in London (The Misfortunes of Mr Teal)' – 1950s
Claire Norman – Brooklands Centre
Please email Claire if you know of any other children's books featuring Austins