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Children’s Pushmobiles Ready to Run at the Indiana State Fair

The Pushmobile became very popular in the early-teens in the greater Indianapolis area and remained so up until the mid-1930s when gravity powered Soap Box Derby cars became the new thing. In the region, the racing of the custom or home built pint-sized cars, driven by children and pushed by another child or a runner became so popular that the City of Indianapolis held organized races for the little cars at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the pre-race festivities for the world famous 500-mile race.

Today’s circa-1933 feature image contains six of the small cars, with their drivers, pushers, and teams on the Indianapolis State Fair track for races held there during the annual fair. To show just how seriously this racing series was treated in the area, the three cars in the center appear to be professionally built and include working suspension systems. The Bowes Seal Fast car is so well turned out that it looks as if it might have been have been constructed and sponsored by Mike Boyle’s racing team and is similar in appearance to the Miller racing cars his was running at the time.

Tell us what you find of interest in this J.C. Allen and Son photograph courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society.

9 responses to “Children’s Pushmobiles Ready to Run at the Indiana State Fair

  1. These , with the exception of #18, ( which clearly was made on a tight budget) look pretty well built. I’m sure the kid in the end “Polarice” car went on to much greater things. Sadly, we lost many of these young men in WW2. There appears to be only one girl in the whole bunch, above the “Polarice” car. That’s the gal for me. Probably in her ’90’s now, but I bet SHE led an interesting life.

    • Howard I kinda like ol’ No. 18., even though it doesn’t appear as polished as the others. Low resistance tires make it easier to push (depending upon bearings of course), reduced bodywork means lighter weight, the lack of a ‘radiator’ aids streamlining, the bamboo “pushrod” was the epitome of homebuilt honeycomb construction, and the camber of the front wheels made it easier for the pilot to track, even if the ride was rougher over the bricks.
      Wonder how long dad had to push the coaster, against the college track star boys on the inside…

  2. As youngster, I attended an earlier Soap Box Derby Event that was staged on a (blocked off) Steep hill side street , that (Teed!) : Figuerora Avenue in North Los Angeles : A “publicity stunt” Pitted a: Professional Midget Racing Car! (retired ) against: a Soap- Box Derby Kid,s car: a “Coasting contest”: The kid’s car went down the (Steep!) hill without incident! The “Midget” was another story: Someone had neglected to check the brakes (a minimal brakes item, anyway! ) They barely worked !!! In order to prevent crashing — or striking the crowd , —he engaged the engine – to utilize: “compression braking”, also! He overran the course — and there was one more block where the crowd wasn’t: He utilized the curb as: one more “brake” — and finally stopped short of a T- bone crash! The show of sportsmanship went away — and the Midget Driver’ s hostility toward the car’s: Lack of preparation — was quite evident , —( with” sailor words”!) A very strange (but good!) object lesson for young racers !!! Be prepared! (The famous: Boy Scout motto!) Circa : Early ’50’s. The next year, — the “Officials” in fear of libel — made a new: Very Wimpey “Official” Hill, (off of city streets !!!) The professional race- car Stunt —queered the future of the Soap boxers !!! The Dark Side of : “Political Correctness”, — the way “us kids” saw it!!! Bummer!

  3. The lack of females is a sign of the times, sad but true. I served on a “pit crew” for several Soap Box Derbies in Denver in the ’60’s. Very competitive stuff.
    Have to wonder why those racers in Indianapolis didn’t think to race down hills or don’t they have hills there. Pushing the cars, where is the fun in that!

  4. I like the #18 car, always liked the look of a Bob Tail racer. Note the front end, two springs top and bottom, was this built in Pop Dreyer’s shop in INDY? That wiggle front end design was used on many Midget race cars he built. Bob

  5. After spending some time Googling things is that fellow behind #18 Pop Dreyer himself? His grandson has a collection of Dreyer built race cars, is that his dad driving the #18? There is an ad that turned up were Pop Dreyer was marketing “Push Cars” along with gas powered kids cars. Bob

  6. Brings back memories of the late 40s. Then a number of us kids built similar, but more crude, derbies out of whatever scrap lumber we could find. Skinned with paste board or scrap tin, modeled after track roadsters we’d head for nearest hill where there was least traffic and ‘race’ to the bottom. More than one old baby buggy gave up it’s wheels for the cause. The downside? Had to take turns pushing. That’s where younger brothers came in handy.

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