Full On Fun: 1958 Offyette Quarter Midget

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When I found this very cool looking 1958 Offyette Quarter Midget race car for sale here on craigslist near Agawam, Massachusetts, I thought it might be a very realistic looking toy. But this is a real race car, even though it is so small. It is definitely not a toy. This car was built for kids’ racing – it’s a quarter-sized version of the midget racers that were so popular in America in the fifties.

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I had a vague memory about seeing one of these cars years ago, so I did some research online to learn more about them. The first quarter midgets were built in Mineola, Long Island, when a group of parents banded together to form the Long Island Junior Motor Sports Club. The first cars were all hand built by parents and their friends, and most used lawn mower engines for motivating power.

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After a few years, as the sport became more popular, companies started manufacturing and selling these race cars, and the junior racing craze spread to California. One of the east coast-based companies that started up then was called Larc-Douglas, which built the Offyette using a fiberglass body (the cute name references the full sized Offy racing cars of the era – and Corvette too).

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Finding one of these midget racers in original condition is almost impossible. This one is said to have had one owner from 1958 until 1999. It was then restored and put on display. It now has a non-original engine in it, but the seller will include the original Continental Red Seal engine, along with a roll bar, tool box, and spare parts.

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The asking price for this cool little racer is $9,500. That seems like a lot of money, but as the seller says, it is very rare, and if you were one of those kids in the fifties who drove one of these in races, maybe it would be valuable enough for its memories to pay that price. Or perhaps more likely, this example will end up in a museum.

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This car is a very special piece of American motor racing history. I can certainly imagine how much fun it must have been for the kids who got to drive these when they were new.

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Photo courtesy of Radiusnation.net

The Long Island Street Racers Association features a story about these midget racers here. The article was written by Doug Schiller, whose family owned the company that built this car. That’s him in the picture above.

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Comments

  1. Skip

    Wow! I haven’t seen a quarter midget since the late ’50s when we had quarter midget races here in Midland when I was still in jr. high. There was a small track on the northside of Midland, and during the Spring and Summer, races were run every Friday night. As I’ve noted on other comments I’ve left on this board, I spent many years operating a standby ambulance service in Lubbock. The quarter midget races back then operated without an ambulance or any sort of medical help present. I doubt that would happen nowadays.

    Since most of the racers at the time were my age, and some of them went to my school, I became good friends with them. So what was really fun was in getting to drive someone’s quarter midget around the track: either after the races or during intermission. I remember getting to drive one of them in a race one Friday night; but I don’t remember now whether I won or not. But it was a lot of fun either way, and wish the popularity hadn’t died out.

    If I were 40 years younger I’d love to have this one.

    • Jon

      Skip,

      Very cool. Yes, that would have been a blast !!
      Midland what?

      Jon

  2. cj32769

    How things have changed; now days you can’t let a kid ride a bike without a helmet. Parents of the 50’s must have been very cool to think if the kid is not big enough to drive a real race car let’s build him a little race car until he grows into one. The only thing I ever got to “grow into” were jackets or jeans. Maybe those 50’s kids were just tougher than the phone texting video kids of today? Very cool car I just hate that I have probably “out grown” it in my own personal girth.

  3. Skip

    Jon: Yeah, it was cool and fun. And it’s Midland, TX!

  4. JW

    Very cool car, Yes we have let others dictate how we raise our kids so now our hobby has been taken over by the deep pockets and nannie crowd. Hopefully it will survive another couple decades before I head to the great garage beyond. I remember watching black & white movies in the 60’s of midget racing, I think Tony Curtis played the lead role in one of them.

  5. Don Chabra

    When I lived in Warren , Michigan, our neighbor up on Topher st. had one just like the one in the picture. It was gold in color and had the number,43 on it. I believe their name was Nichols. Their Son actually raced it. Because of them, my Dad bought me one. It was an older model, with a square engine cover.I would drive it around the school parking lot in the summer.

  6. Ronald Wheeler

    Mickey Rooney made a racing movie too.

  7. Richard Lewis

    Clearly a very significant car. However children’s racing really started many years earlier.

    Children’s Maytag Toy Racers have sold in the teens and low $20,000 areas. They predate these cars by 25 years. Often drivers were sponsored by the local Maytag dealerships.

  8. joe bloggs

    wow, here in new zealand we have kids racing in ministocks, a small version of a full blown v8 stockcar. these kids will out grow them and graduate into the bigger stocks thereby keeping members in the sport. go here to watch a clip of them: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2V9CR31oGg
    and here for the big guys : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_-DOmVBZ24

    • JW

      Very cool videos, those mini stocks look like miniature Ford Model A’s to me.

    • Skip

      Joe: I met some delightful people from New Zealand at an international go-kart race held in Lubbock, TX in the summer of 1988. My standby ambulance service worked the entire weeklong event, and watching those races was a lot of fun. Then-16-year-old Glen Suckling from N.Z. came in second. He was beat out by then-15-year old Aaron Justus who is from here in Midland, TX. Those were some good races and I met a lot of neat people from all over the world who were there.

  9. John Alley Member

    I grew up racing 1/4 midgets at Alpenrose Dairy in Portland, Oregon and Hill Military (inside) during the winters. Racecraft, Mossberg, and several other companies sold ready to race cars. 2 1/2 horse Continental lawn mower engines put out up to 20 hp in the AA methanol burning fast class. Good memories!

    • Steve Robertson

      John
      My older brother and I also raced at Alpenrose and Hill Military. When we started racing Alpenrose was still dirt.
      My father spent time helping all of the other race fathers prepare the track for pavement. As of last yearAlpenrose was still being used. I was told this year due to COVID that no racing will happen on that track. This is the first year
      in over sixty years there will not be QM racing. A
      I am currently restoring a 1958 Racecraft to match the first QM I raced. Between me and my older brother we are restoring four vintage cars. We hope to begin showing them summer of 2021. They bring back great memories. I bet we might of raced at the same time!
      Steve

    • Steve Robertson

      John
      My older brother and I also raced at Alpenrose and Hill Military. When we started racing Alpenrose was still dirt.
      My father spent time helping all of the other race fathers prepare the track for pavement. As of last yearAlpenrose was still being used. I was told this year due to COVID that no racing will happen on that track. This is the first year
      in over sixty years there will not be QM racing.
      I am currently restoring a 1958 Racecraft to match the first QM I raced. Between me and my older brother we are restoring four vintage cars. We hope to begin showing them summer of 2021. They bring back great memories. I bet we might of raced at the same time!
      Steve

  10. John Alley Member

    An old news clipping for the Nationals held at Alpenrose Dairy.

  11. John Alley Member

    Sorry, the pic is here. 13 was my lucky number.

  12. David Wilk Member

    John – you are a lucky guy. Great photo. What happened to the car you drove?

  13. John Alley Member

    It got sold to another family when I outgrew it.

  14. PCS

    This car probably raced in the TV CH 40 parking lot on liberty St. in Springfield Ma. in the late 1950s. My dad took me to see them race there and I wanted one real bad but there just wasn’t the money for one.

  15. Bruce

    Just saw this car on tv. Wayne Carina of the tv show Chasing Classic Cars bought it .

    Like 1
  16. John Fair

    I just ran across your web site and saw the information on the Offyette racer. I have been restoring a 1950 model that I found with all the original parts including the engine. I located Doug Schiller in Texas and have spoken with him a number of times during the process. He is a great guy and has been very helpful. These are fantastic little cars and way ahead of their time with hydraulic brakes.

    • John Prather

      @John Fair…..8.26.18 current comments….:). Is your ’50’s model a 61? I’m restoring a Model 61 and desperately looking for some period correct wheels. Any leads would be appreciated. You are correct. Doug nice guy, great family history.

      John in Kansas

  17. John fair

    John
    The believe the one I have is the smaller model. Doug said it was a 50 model I believe. I am on my way out of the country but will send you some pictures when I return. I know the model I had had some tires made by General. I looked all over and could not find any. I ended up finding something that looks ok but not exactly the same. If you have any pictures please send them, I would enjoy seeing them. My direct email is wjohnfair@gmail.com. Thanks
    John

  18. Don Pylant

    I saw this 1/4 Midget on Chasing Classic Cars that Wayne Corini purchased. It looks a lot like my 1/4 Midget that my dad hand built in 1952. I was also contacted by the Petersen Automobile Museum to have it displayed there in 2016 for a whole year. Of course, I couldn’t turn that down, so they made arrangements to have it picked up and also returned. Wow, what a privilege it was to continue the tribute to my Dad. Feel free to check it out at racerboys.com.

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