DThe VW Beetle will certainly catch up with the Bobby Car soon: more than 20 million examples of the push-along car have already been built at the Big factory in Franconia, with the Beetle making 21.5 million vehicles. But while the Volkswagen hasn’t been produced for almost 20 years, around 2,000 new Bobby-Cars roll off the assembly line in Burghaslach in Central Franconia (on the Autobahn 3 between Würzburg and Nuremberg) every day. Big is likely to skip the Wolfsburg bar in the coming years.
When the Bobby-Car premiered 50 years ago at the International Toy Fair in Nuremberg (February 5 to 11, 1972), this success was evidently not in sight. At least the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung did not mention the innovation of the engineer Ernst A. Bettag in its trade fair reporting at the time. Customers were all the more enthusiastic about the robust, red vehicle with a white steering wheel and black wheels: instead of Bob the master builder, who only made his debut on the BBC in the late 1990s, little boys at the time probably took Bob the racing driver as their role model.
The body of the classic has been manufactured using the same method for half a century. It is made from 1.5 kilograms of the thermoplastic low-pressure polyethylene in a blow molding process, an extrusion blow molding technique. To do this, the raw material, which is in the form of granules, is heated until it turns into a dough-like mass. A machine presses this into a tube (this is extrusion), in a similar way to making pasta, which is then placed in a two-part hollow mold made of metal. After the mold has closed, the plastic inside is inflated like a balloon and takes on the desired shape. Sounds airy – but results in an extremely resistant hollow body. The 140 employees at Big assemble the vehicle from these and 29 other individual parts. A finished bobby car weighs 3.6 kilograms, is 60 centimeters long and 40 centimeters high.
For generations of little ones between the ages of one and five, at least that’s what Big recommends, the Bobby-Car has brought a lot of driving fun: in the yard as well as in the kitchen or living room. However, because the rolling noise is considerable, especially in closed rooms, the “Whisper Wheels” are available for retrofitting. But be careful: According to the manufacturer, the quiet runners currently available fit Bobby-Cars built after 2000. Many families, however, still use older models. One or the other vehicle should now even be ripe for a history license plate. With real cars, this occurs at the earliest 30 years after the first registration.
The range of accessories developed by the manufacturer, which has been part of the Simba Dickie Group from Fürth since 2003, also includes bump caps made of rubber. In contrast to the whisper tires, they don’t spare parents’ nerves, but protect the tips of the young drivers’ shoes when they are wildly chasing curves over the pavement with the “continuous axle steering” proudly advertised by Big to this day. After all, the bobby car has no drive, you push yourself off with your feet.
What inspires children quite intuitively also had medical significance for the inventor of the bobby car. According to the manufacturer, the ergonomic shape of the push car developed by the wood sculptor Christian Meyer trains an orthopedically correct posture. From the perspective of real-life 1972 model year automobile design, however, the original Bobby-Car will not have been considered the big hit, as the body looks more like an MG TF on steroids from the side.
In the meantime, the body variants New (a quad), Neo (based on modern car design) and Next (a modern reinterpretation of the classic with LED headlights) have joined the original form. The manufacturer speaks of model maintenance as in the automotive industry. With the small difference that the classic bobby car was not replaced by the “mopped” variants, but is still being built today. It is available in the typical red color scheme as well as in various other shades and with decors from “Flower Power” to “Police”.
Bobby car as a mobile identification object
For the anniversary, according to Big, there will be a limited Bobby Car edition with a trailer “in a special color combination”, and the classic model will now also be available in a “Light” version with LED lights. However, the fiftieth birthday cannot be celebrated with a large audience in Nuremberg, because the world’s leading trade fair for the toy industry is no longer a face-to-face event due to the pandemic. The digital version of the fair ends today, February 6, 2022.
The manufacturers of the model also appreciate the fact that a bobby car is not just a toy vehicle, but also a mobile object of identification. In 1997, the “Porsche Baby Boxster” was the first licensed push car based on a real passenger car. Later, a VW Beetle appeared at Big. The ride-on car is currently available as a Porsche 911 and Mercedes-AMG GT. Clear case: Such a bobby car with its uncompromisingly hard chassis and the body reduced to the essentials is a real sports car.
Such qualities are taken quite literally by the Bobby Car racing scene. These are mainly adult lovers of push-cars, who let them roll down sloping streets in the manner of the classic soap box. With the vehicles trimmed for performance (from ball-bearing axles to the body cast in concrete), some pilots reach more than 100 km/h.
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