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THE AUSTIN CARS

The Austin Cars is one of our most popular juvenile rides, and that's mainly due to their interactive nature – it gives small children the opportunity to drive on their own scale. Judging by their earnest expressions, there's nothing more fun than driving a speeding motorcar around tight bends while simultaneously waving to parents.

The Austin Cars have an interesting history. In 1943 Parliament passed an act finally recognising the existence of pneumoconiosis in miners – what was commonly known in Wales as "the dust". A lot of Welsh ex-miners were suffering badly from the condition and Leonard Lord, then chairman of Austin Motors, felt that they should be given the opportunity to earn a wage. He built a factory in South Wales and employed the disabled men to build pedal cars in the style of contemporary Austin cars.

The toy car, known as the Austin J40, was designed with the basic premise that it could be operated by a child up to the age of about nine; it should have room for a younger brother or sister to ride as a passenger; and it should have opening bonnet and boot. Built around the smallest tyre available (the Dunlop Cord on 8" wheels), they were built using scrap sheet steel from the Austin factory, and had dummy engines with real spark plugs donated by Champion.


Men at work at the Austin J40 factory

Showmen, never to miss a trick, soon came up with the idea of using the J40 on roundabouts, and adapting them to run on electrical power. A number of Austin Car rides were made; it's not known whether Austin actually provided cars with floors and no pedal mechanism for the show trade, or if showmen adapted the toy cars themselves for the task.

Our Austin Car ride is thought to have originally been built by Hayes Fabrication (who also built the Octopus and the Skid) in around 1955, and was owned by showman Billy Hewett. We purchased it from John Smith in 1988, and subsequently renovated it for travelling.

The two red and maroon cars have electric motors which engage with copper contacts in the brass track on which they run, and they pull the non-motorised ones around. The ride originally had no roof, but English summers soon put paid to that, so a canopy was added in 2008.

This is one of the few Austin Car rides which is still travelled in parts and built up, rather than being travelled on a trailer. They're a lot harder to build up this way, but they're closer to the ground and on the right level for little children. Its rounding boards along the top are decorated as a tribute to a Lakin's dodgem track, which was originally painted by top fairground decorator Edwin Hall.

Who can ride, and what does it cost?
The Austin Cars are suitable for pre-school children up to the age of about 6 or 7, as they're not particularly fast or furious. They cost 4 tokens per person and, depending on their height, two children can fit in a car together. Prices may be subject to change.


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Hire the Austin Cars
If you are interested in hiring the Austin Cars, the price starts from around £1200. Please click here for more information. The Austin Cars measures approximately 28 feet at its longest length, and is about 12 feet high. Please be aware that you will need a good level ground and clear enough access to get an articulated lorry on to the site (any gate must be minimum of 10 feet wide). It runs on electricity, which we can generate with one of our lorry-mounted sets if necessary.

Advert for the original Austin J40


Workers in the factory.


Carters Austin Cars at night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Carters Austin Cars run on a track with electric motors.

The lifelike cars are very popular with young children.

 

 

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