The Austin Eight Joy I Pedal Car car was made in 1946 at Longbridge, and here is its fascinating story. After the war, the chairman of Austin, Leonard Lord, decided that the company should produce a children's pedal car. He also had the idea that it should be built in a new factory in South Wales. This would provide work for former coal miners whose health prevented them from working underground, but could cope with light assembly work.
Lord invited three Austin workers, one of whom was Alfred Ash, to design and build a prototype pedal car. The car was modelled on the current Austin 8. The project was a tightly kept secret, and the car was created in a separate area of Longbridge, away from prying eyes.
Once the car was built, complete with bicycle type pedals and rotating chain drive, Alfred Ash needed to make sure that it was the right size for a child. Again, under strict secrecy, Alfred brought his 8 year old daughter Marcia into the Austin works one a Saturday morning, where she pedalled the car around, and posed for official photographs.
Lord hoped that the pedal cars would bring joy to children, so the car was named JOY1.
Alfred Ashes 8 year old doughtier Marcia in the Austin 8 pedal car in 1946
By the time that the pedal cars entered production in Bargoed, South Wales, the Austin 8 had been replaced by the Austin A40 Devon. Consequently, the production cars, named J40 (J for Junior), were similar to the A40 Devon in design. The cars were sold in Austin showrooms and, by the time that production ceased in 1971, over 32,000 had been built.
Meanwhile, what had happened to the original prototype JOY1? In short, no-one knows. However, in the early 1990s, an unusual old pedal car was found by an antique dealer in Chichester. The Austin J40 Pedal Car Club was informed, and Alfred Ash was brought along to check to see if this was the long-lost JOY1 which he had built 46 years previously. Alfred confirmed that this was indeed JOY1. A happy reunion!
However, the story then takes an unfortunate turn, because one day in the mid 1990s, a photo appeared in The Times with a Sotheby's auctioneer sitting astride JOY1. It was to be sold at an auction.
The J40 Club sprang into action, and tried to interest a number of museums in buying the car, but none realised the importance or attraction of this tenacious little car! Auction day arrived, but fortunately no-one matched the expected price of £3,200.
The antique dealer was contacted. He agreed to sell the car to the J40 Club at the asking price, and gave 2 months to raise the funds. It was decided to create a JOY1 Trust, separate from any club, so that the car could be preserved without risk of being sold off by any individual or committee. The aim was for JOY1 to be seen and admired by the public, hence a museum was the ideal home.
A nail-biting two months ensued, with donations from many individuals and clubs, such as the Austin Counties Club, the J40 Club, and the 750 Club. Nearing the deadline, and still a few hundred pounds short of the target, Rover Group was finally persuaded to give a helping hand.
The new home for JOY1 was chosen as the Heritage Centre at Gaydon, where
it is normally on display. It has also spent time at Beaulieu. In 2006,
Gaydon started a refurbishment, and Brooklands Museum welcomed the
chance to put JOY1 on display for a few months. It has certainly been
much admired. It was decided to keep the car in its "as found"
condition, as restoring it would remove some of its charm.