My life as a pedal-car thief

| 11 Jan 2019
My life as a pedal-car thief

They say we have reached peak ‘stuff’ as a society. I certainly have. I cannot think of anything I seriously yearn for other than, possibly, a Savile Row suit.

Money is nice, for sure, but writing about old cars never made a millionaire of anyone. The important thing is I have a house, a few nice cars and have got to an age were I realise mere possessions only bring fleeting happiness.

Thus, when Christmas 2018 loomed, my wife Mia and I agreed to not to get each other anything. Which was a fine arrangement until I discovered she was making a special trip to Weybridge to get whatever it was she was not supposed to be getting me.

What could it be? It was certainly too big to wrap and put under the tree, and I was under strict instructions not to look in the garden shed.

Meanwhile, I had to scuttle off and get her something to open on Christmas morning, which turned out to be a jumper she already had.

So I felt a bigger twit than usual when the secret pressie turned out to be a Rolls-Royce pedal car; not on the ‘must-have’ list of many 17-stone 52-year olds, I will admit, but an indication that Mia pays a lot more attention to what I say than I care to admit.

My life as a pedal-car thief

I had, presumably, told her the story of my last brush with a pedal-powered Rolls well over 40 years ago. It was a Tri-ang Silver Cloud III pedal car that belonged to some kids across the road. This was Manchester in 1972 and it was a few years old even then, Tri-ang having stopped production in 1969.

But what a thing it was: 50in long and modelled in plastic on the MPW ‘Adaptation’ convertible; my neighbours’ was maroon, but they also came in grey and black. With ‘real’ chrome bumpers, a ‘wooden’ dash, Plexiglas windscreen and 6V electrics, it seemed the most superior pedal car since the Austin J40. Not that I knew what a J40 was in those days; I just knew them as the cars I sat in on the roundabout at Denton market.

The Tri-ang Clouds were presumably built with the full approval of Crewe. I’ve seen it written that they were only sold through Hamleys and Harrods, but I don’t think that’s correct.

Whatever the case, researching this article has piqued my interest in these things: I didn’t know that Tri-ang did Jaguar MkX, Corsair and TR4 pedal cars, for instance – and an MG Midget with independent suspension. 

At six going on seven I was probably already getting a bit big for such a thing, not that it mattered. The point was I coveted this Rolls-Royce greatly and, in my opinion, my neighbours did not treat it with the respect such a noble steed deserved; it was often to be seen abandoned in the street, usually languishing on its side. 

So one sunny day my cousin and I took the maroon Cloud into protective custody; we manhandled it onto the cricket pitch behind my house while nobody was looking and hid it under grass cuttings, the idea being that the lads across the road might just forget they ever owned a Silver Cloud III pedal car (with working headlights).

Eventually it was missed and my career in grand theft auto was nipped in the bud.

My life as a pedal-car thief

Spool forward 47 years and I’ve finally got my wish; a plastic ⅛th-scale bought-and-paid-for Corniche made by Tri-ang-Sharna in the early ’80s. These ones came in red, white or blue as pedal cars (like mine) or with two 6V batteries for the kids who were too posh to pedal.

They all had solid rubber tyres and working headlights, but the ultimate specification included working indicators and hazard-warning lights, and a simulated horn and starter sound.

Mine has long-since lost its key, windscreen and the rubberised Spirit of Ecstasy, but it seems replacement parts are available. The main thing is, it looks good parked on top of the big wooden trunk in my shed that I use to hide unsightly odds and ends.

Here it sits next to my gold Ford Capri and Jaguar E-type pedal cars, the last a very approximate representation, but then it only cost £25 new compared to £500 for the Corniche in the ’80s.

I’ve been collecting old rubbish like this for years, for what reason I’m not quite sure – but maybe with the Rolls sitting on that shelf and with that childhood itch finally scratched, my pursuit of ‘stuff’ will finally be at an end.

Although actually, I do quite fancy one of those pedal-car MGs now…

Top image: Aston’s Auctioneers


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