Austin pedal cars were made in England by Austin Motor Company Limited. Available models were the Junior Forty (J40) and the Pathfinder. The J40 Roadster was based on the 1948 A40 Devon and Dorset. The Pathfinder Special was based on the Jameison OHV 750 Austin Seven racing car of the late 1930's.
The pedal car factory opened on July 5, 1949 and was called the Austin Junior Car Factory. It was actually paid for by Government funds and it was run on a not-for-profit basis and purely for the employment of the disabled coal miners. The factory had a floor area of 24,500 square feet and was tooled up by the Sheet Metal Planning Department.
Production started of with the Pathfinder and it was planned to build 250 a week, but unfortunately this figure was never reached. After a year the Pathfinder was dropped and was replaced in 1950 by the J40. The cars were made from scrap off-cuttings of metal from the Longbridge Austin motor car factory and were built and painted the same way as the motor cars themselves.
The J40 was a very well equipped toy of excellent quality and was probably the best pedal car on the market at the time. It featured real working headlights and horn, detachable wheels with Dunlop pneumatic tires, real like facia panel and leather cloth seating. It had an opening bonnet and boot and also a lot of good quality chrome, namely both bumpers, hub caps, grille, boot handle, and center bonnet moulding with the Flying A ornament. It was later dropped because of a change in the law. It was claimed people could injure themselves on the mounted bonnet badges if they rolled on to the front of a car.
The J40 sold for 27 pounds plus 6 pounds added purchase tax, while the Pathfinder cost 20 pounds plus 5 pounds purchase tax. At the time the average working man would have to save 2 or 3 weeks full wages to buy a J40.
The J40 was primarily intended for the American market but it also established its own export markets in Denmark and Canada. The Austin pedal cars eventually were to be found in homes around the world.
The Austin pedal cars were used for many purposes. They were used to teach road safety to school children and appeared in many road safety films. Pedal cars were fitted to roundabouts at fairs. These cars had two steering wheels and did not have any pedals. Some were single-mounted on coin-operated rides. Some pedal cars were later converted to gas engine power. Some of the gas-powered cars had the bodies "stretched" to make room for taller drivers.
There was a total production of 32,098 Austin J40 pedal cars. Production stopped in September 1971.
The factory was later used to make parts for the 'A' Series motors. The Bargoed Plant closed down on April 30, 1999 - 'A' series rocker covers were still being produced alongside other small pressings for Rover Group products. [SOURCE: Austinworks.com]
You can date your J40 by looking at its chassis number. So the number 1948 is not the year of manufacturing (in fact, they all say 1948). Use the book by David Whyley for more info, find it on Amazon US or Amazon UK.
What's it worth? Take a look at this Austin J40 price guide: sold listings for a value indication.