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Global Economy

50 years Bobby-Car – small car, big cult

    It got on the nerves of many a neighbor and ruined many shoes. The Bobby-Car is now 50 years old – and it’s no longer just loved by children.

It is red, can be clearly heard from afar and is extremely robust: almost every child knows the Bobby-Car. The little push-along cars are also a cult among adults, because many of them have been rolling around in them themselves. 50 years ago the Bobby-Car was presented for the first time at the toy fair in Nuremberg. Since then it has conquered garages, children’s rooms and many a racing track.

So far, more than 20 million Bobby Cars have rolled off the assembly line at the manufacturer Big. About 2000 pieces are produced daily in the plant in Burghaslach, directly on the Autobahn 3 between Nuremberg and Würzburg – and it’s no longer just the bright red classic. To date, there have been more than 100 different models, some of which are limited: in numerous colours, as a fire brigade or police edition or designed by well-known artists or designers such as James Rizzi and Philippe Starck.

Unbroken demand

When the Bobby-Car came onto the market 50 years ago, there was mainly only the tricycle for small children. Today it competes with balance bikes for minis, three-wheeled scooters and all kinds of push-cars. Nevertheless, according to the manufacturer, the demand for the Bobby-Car is unbroken. “It’s the typical gift for birth or at the latest for the 1st birthday,” explains Big Managing Director Thomas Röttenbacher. “We also benefit from the fact that the generations that grew up with the Bobby-Car are now parents themselves or in some cases are already grandparents.”

But initially it didn’t look like a success story: The Bobby-Car was smiled at because of its functional shape with the ergonomic seat. However, that soon changed. According to industry insider Ulrich Texter, the red runabout with steering wheel and horn is one of the design classics, just like the Lego brick. “It’s an iconic design that’s not based on any vehicle. But everyone can see immediately what it’s for.”

In contrast to other children’s vehicles, which are only interesting for a certain period of time, the Bobby Car is basically ageless, says Texter, editor-in-chief of the specialist magazine “Planet Toys”. “You can still bang on it when you’re 10 years old,” he observed with his children: “They kneel on it so they can really get going.” And adults can also have a lot of fun with the Bobby-Car, as can be seen not only in various videos on TikTok.

Holger Späth collects bobby cars – and exhibits them in his own museum

Holger Späth, 51, butcher by trade, for example: He is a huge fan. The Hesse has not only been driving bobby car races for a long time, but also collects everything to do with the legendary plastic car. He has collected more than 300 exhibits in his own Bobby Car Museum in Braunfels – almost 70 kilometers northeast of Frankfurt – from the original from 1972 to the hand-signed special model.

The passion for collecting and racing seized him in 2008 when his daughter was given a bobby car for birth. “It’s probably the child in the man,” he says. At that time he drove a race with his daughter’s car for fun – and broke it right away, although it can actually withstand quite a lot. So he had to buy a new one. “That’s when I basically started collecting.”

You brake with your feet

Together with other fans, Späth later founded the Bobby Car Sport Association, which organizes the official championships. In addition to his treasures in the museum, he also owns several racing sleds that have been tuned in accordance with the rules and have special ball bearings and pneumatic tyres. Normally – i.e. before Corona – he drives down sloping slopes several times a year in adventurous races at breakneck speed, reaching speeds of more than 100 kilometers per hour.

“When you sit on it yourself, it doesn’t seem so quick,” he says. This may also be due to the helmet and protective clothing. There is no need to train extra for the races. But what you absolutely have to practice is braking, he emphasizes. Because with the Bobby-Car you not only push yourself with your feet, you also use them to brake. That’s why Späth sticks car tires under his shoes for the races. “Once you’ve braked at 120, there aren’t any shoes left.”

Yes, the shoes, they are an issue with the bobby car anyway. To the annoyance of some parents, the soles and toes of shoes are subject to severe wear even during normal driving. The manufacturer has therefore been offering special shoe protectors for some time. And there is also relief for the nerves of noise-sensitive neighbors: whisper tires meanwhile dampen the rumbling noises typical of the bobby car.

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