Here’s why pedal car racing is the best race at the Goodwood Revival
For full disclosure, Subaru took me to England to attend the Goodwood Revival and experience two full days of the best classic car racing in the world.
The main attraction on the Duke of Richmond’s pristine grounds (where the Goodwood Festival of Speed also takes place every year) are the cars, of course, and the racing show they put on. The little Austin J40s, however, are the only non-motorized vehicles participating in the festivities, which makes them a bit odd to some. And, not to mention the fact that they’re driven by young children rather than wealthy car collectors or veteran racing drivers. But to everyone’s surprise, the popularity of the Settrington Cup, as pedal car racing is called, has literally increased tenfold over the past few years, eventually becoming one of the fan favorite races and one of the most popular races. of the Revival’s most watched races.
I have to admit that even though I was familiar with the Settrington Cup from watching YouTube videos from previous Revivals, I had no idea how big of a deal it really was. At least not until I found myself at the epicenter of it all, in front of what appeared to be dozens of Austin J40s and just as many child drivers. That’s when I realized I needed to know more: what it took to buy one, run one and win one. Also my nine year old daughter who loves the breed asked me to find this information and report to her so I had to find those answers or to face his anger.
The Austin J40 pedal car
Originally built by UK carmaker Austin Motor Company Limited as an ambitious toy for children, the J40 manufacturing project was funded by the UK government to give disabled coal miners another chance while generating essential income after the war. All J40s, along with their line siblings, the Joy 1 and Pathfinder Special, were built at a 24,500 square foot factory in Bargoed, South Wales, from 1949 to 1971, according to the original sales brochure.
The pedal cars were made from scrap metal imported from the automaker’s factory in Longbridge and featured real chrome bumpers and accents, pneumatic tires, and working headlights and horns. They were mini replicas of the real cars and even had individual serial numbers. Interestingly, the target audience for the J40 was the US market, although it found great popularity in Canada and was imported to Denmark as well, according to Austin Works.
Even Queen Elizabeth II’s son Prince Charles became the proud owner of a teal J40 at the age of five, although his was personalized with a windshield, wipers and a unique license plate. He is said to have terrorized the palace staff behind the wheel of his pedal car.
When new, a J40 costs an average of around £ 33 ($ 45 at the current exchange rate), making it a toy for children from affluent families. Considering the average male worker was making around £ 14 a week in 1960, it would have taken over two weeks’ pay to afford the cute little pedal car.
Because production ceased in 1971, the affordability of the J40 has not improved over the decades. In fact, it has become even more out of reach for the average person.
While chatting with Jamie Burnett of The J40 Motor Company, he explained to me that the price of a restored J40 today is around 5,000 pounds ($ 6,900). However, other people I’ve spoken to in the pedal car paddock claim to have spent over 9,000 pounds ($ 12,300) on their pristine rides, some of which have been converted to electric power for leisurely driving.