Murray was the largest American manufacturers of pedal cars, the basis of their success being a simple strategy: they made quality products with innovative designs at reasonable prices. The company diversified from automotive products into the toy car market in the 1920s. This enabled them to weather the Depression in the late twenties, while other sheet metal suppliers to the auto industry went out of business. Murray received a large order in 1936 from Sears & Roebuck for bicycles and wheeled toys. As a result, the company entered the bicycle market, creating one of America’s top brands – the Mercury – with styling by leading automotive designers of the day.
Children’s toys with a police theme had always been popular with kids, and police pedal cars became a sought-after toy for American kids of the 1950s.
The ‘Radio Patrol’ series of small books, introduced in 1937, were part of the Dick Tracey series, first published as newspaper comic strips. It would appear that Murray was unable to use this name for their innovative new series of ‘Police Cycle’ when they introduced it in 1955 (see catalogue extract below), so they gave it the name ‘Radar Patrol’ instead. However, it did become the ‘Radio Patrol’ in the 1960s. This radical new style of pedal car was also provided with different livery, as an ice cream ‘Good Humor Truck.’
At $28.95 the 1955 ‘Radar Patrol’ was the company’s most expensive pedal car. Their velocipede tricycles were $12.95 to $19.95, four-wheel pedal cars from $13.95 to $25.95, three-wheel tractors $21.95 to $25.95, and the exclusive Super Sonic Jet (precursor of the ‘Atomic Missile’) was priced at $28.95 like the ‘Radar Patrol.’ I couldn’t see pictures of it in the few 1960s Murray catalogues I found, until 1968, where it was now named the ‘Radio Patrol.’ It was an extremely attractive top-of-the-range model, and a popular line, so I wondered if there was a patent infringement issue with the name which caused its temporary withdrawal from sale? More likely, it was just that the catalogue pages available did not include one for this model. I’ll update my research once I’ve found more information, as I’m interested to know when the name changed from ‘radar’ to ‘radio.’
1960s Murray ‘Radio Patrol’ Pedal Car Tricycle
This ‘Radio Patrol Cycle’ is in excellent original unrestored condition. Although the 1968 catalogue illustration shows a front light fitted, there does not appear to be a hole for mounting one on this example, so either it was an optional accessory, or this one is pre-1968. I’ve only been able to base my research of this model on the catalogues I’ve managed to locate: 1955-1959 plus 1968.
If you compare the 1968 catalogue picture above with the 1958 catalogue picture below you can see there’s very little difference between the two. Apart from a different front light, it’s the same product with slightly different name and paint scheme. The windscreen appears to have been an accessory option.
Another interesting fact can be observed in the 1958 catalogue price list below. The Garton Kidillac, which is the pedal car most prized by collectors today, was priced at $39.95; however, the most expensive product on the page, at $59.95, is the Rempel New Racing Sulky, a 50″ long pedal-powered go cart with horse and reins.
THE POLICE HARLEY DAVIDSON SERVI-CAR
The design of the Murray Police Cycle was inspired by the Harley-Davidson Servi-Car, which was popular with police forces throughout the USA.
1951 ‘COP CYCLE’
Compare the very basic ‘Cop Cycle’ from another supplier in 1951 (above), with Murray’s new range in 1952 (below) that includes the first of their pedal car tricycles, the Murray Tractor.
1952 MURRAY CATALOGUE: ‘NEW IN ’52’
1957 MURRAY CATALOGUE: GOOD HUMOR TRUCK; POLICE CYCLE, FIRE PATROL
The evolution of the tractor into the Police Cycle and its two compatriots was a major design success for Murray. The introduction of this model – as well as the ‘Atomic Missile’ and ‘Jolly Roger’ pedal cars – consolidated Murray’s position as the top American pedal car supplier.
1959 MURRAY CATALOGUE
The Police Cycle now has a ‘realistic radar antenna’ and a whirring police-type siren fitted to the rear
1968 MURRAY CATALOGUE
The siren has now disappeared but it has a red flashing front light