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Barn Finds Are For Kids Too: 1949 Austin J40


It’s possible that the city of Boise doesn’t own a single snow plow! The white stuff is piling up outside and the inexperienced winter drivers here make the trip to work frightful. So, maybe I will just stay inside by the fire and do some Christmas shopping. Since my little boy enjoys spending time with me out in the garage, I would like to get him something that he can wrench away on for himself. The plastic play cars of today just won’t do though. I’m thinking Santa should bring him something more like this 1949 Austin J40 that I just found here on eBay.

The price might surprise you, but this isn’t just any old pedal car. In my book, this is the coolest pedal car that a kid could ever buy. They were produced by a real car company in a factory that employed disabled coal miners. Even the metal used in their construction was scrap from the real cars. The history is interesting and all, but what really made these cars special was all the the unique features they offered. This thing was the closest that a pre-teen could get to owning a real car in the fifties!


The headlights worked, as did the horn. The seat was upholstered in faux leather and the dashboard had gauges. The tires were real and the hood and trunk even opened. Heck, there was even a replica four-cylinder engine under the hood complete with removable spark plugs and wires! My little guy would love to perform a tune up while spending some quality time with Dad, as I’m sure tens of thousands of children have done over the years.


This particular J40 appears to be in great shape and also has an interesting past. As is evident by the hand painted signage on the trunk, this pedal car once sat in the Allen Chevrolet dealership of North Kansas City, Missouri. Presumably, it went into storage at some point and was saved from the ravages of time, and children… See, even our youngsters could be out there hunting for barn finds of their very own!

Look they even let the kiddos race them at Goodwood! Complete with white overalls and Le Mans style running starts, I can’t think of a better way to live through your children! They made a ton of these Austins and most of them came to America. Good luck finding an affordable one today though. You can still get parts for them, but even rough projects bring a pretty penny. The auction for this one ends in a few hours and with an asking price of $3,200, I will just have to hope that the jolly old elf is watching…


  1. That Guy

    I’ve always loved these. Look at the construction and compare it with other pedal cars of the period. Though it’s modeled after an Austin, as pedal cars go it’s a Rolls-Royce. They were never cheap, but even so they were pretty popular and there are still quite a few out there. I’ve stopped adding to my toy car collection in recent years and have been slowly selling it off, but owning one of these would have been a heck of a centerpiece.

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  2. Dolphin Member

    Lots of things I like about this. The little cars of course, complete with those terrific sparkplugs on the “engine” sheet metal. And the band brake too.

    The fact that disabled coal miners made them, and that someone arranged it so they could get those jobs and keep working.

    That clip from a Goodwood Festival ‘race’ with these little Austins. Who can keep from smiling while watching that?

    I thought that snow plow from the other day was the best little vehicle on Barn Finds in a long while, but this one beats it by a hair.

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  3. bowtiecarguy

    Been there
    Done that
    Got the “Whoa” from my granddaughter when it was done

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  4. bowtiecarguy

    early progress

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  5. bowtiecarguy

    drive train

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  6. bowtiecarguy

    after paint

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  7. bowtiecarguy


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  8. bowtiecarguy

    2nd try, “Whoa!”

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    • bowtiecarguy

      can’t get it to load

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    • bowtiecarguy


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      • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

        Thanks for sharing! Looks like a great little project and glad to see that someone liked the new upload feature. Maybe I need to find a “lesser” pedal car to restore in time for Christmas!

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  9. jim s

    and it is sold, i think. both this and the mustang in the comments are way cool. more of both for sale on the internet/ebay. great find.

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  10. Tim H

    There is all kinds of things you can do with a pedal car body.

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  11. jimmyrk3

    “Whoa!” to a bowtiecarguy that restored a Mustang… Great job, lucky grand kid….

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  12. Alan (Michigan)

    There is a glass store-front facing US23 from the West side of the highway in I think Carey, OH. I noticed when driving that route yesterday that the windows were lined with someone’s pedal car collection. My impression was that they were not restored, but in “survivor” condition. I’ll pay more attention when I go back that way in a week or two. Perhaps I can even take a camera and get a photo for this thread?

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  13. Graham Lloyd

    Watched the video and I wonder what ever happened to the work ethic. Disabilities due to work injury now seem to be an excuse not to work.

    On a more positive note, I wonder what happened to the dies to make these pedal cars. More likely scrapped or converted to other uses. Would be interesting to see what response there would be to the reintroduction to these unique pedal cars. In kit form, I would imagine they would be quite popular.

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  14. Sid Member

    I only hope it does not get restored as the seller suggested and remains as it looked on eBay. Just needs the headlights fixed and the missing valve cover replaced.
    I never had a pedal car when I was a child but I think I would have quickly got bored driving something that required so much effort. What would have kept my interest was the ability to take out the spark plugs and remove the valve cover. This is a great feature that is lacking on American Murray pedal cars.
    As I was watching the first video I was blown away by the guy with black lung leaving the mine office and lighting up a cigarette as he headed for his new job. Then later the old man who was “getting on in his 60s” (blah, I am 66) puffing away on a pipe made my jaw drop. Really a sign of the times along with lack of factory eye, ear and skin protection.
    Jesse-this was a [another] great story

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  15. ConservativesDefeated

    @bowtiecarguy: Wow…….just an amazing job…beautiful…….of course you’ll have to change your post name to ‘blueovalcarguy’……….but hey ……..consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds!

    @Jesse: Great that you added the upload feature.

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  16. Ed

    My restoration project. Has been sitting for 2+ years. Where do I start?

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    i have this j40 bought it in plattville wi. about 3 yrs ago. its a 1954 car im in darlington wi.fixed it up a little but still all original. so cool to see it in a past life

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