Choice of:Six-Month Wheel Alignment and Inspection Service Package: Inspection, Oil Change, Tire Rotation, and Wheel Alignment Bumper Cars: A Crash Course
Bumper cars have been around almost as long as the Model T, reflecting from the very start every driver’s innate desire to smash into other cars. Read on to learn how these mites of motorized mayhem came to be.
They’ve got engines, steering wheels, and even seatbelts, but in a way bumper cars have more in common with billiard balls than with their grown-up cousins. Bumper cars, after all, are designed to crash, possessing notoriously unpredictable steering and rubber bumpers that beckon for sideswipes. Typically, the cars run amok in an arena outfitted with a conductive ceiling and floor. To power the engine, an electrical current runs through a protruding pole to contacts at the bottom of the vehicle. This design is for safety as much as efficiency; the operator of the rink can shut off the floor at any time, stopping every single car before drivers can injure themselves or drive away with the amusement park’s jewels.
A Smash Hit
In 1920, father-son team Max and Harold Stoehrer opened one of the very first bumper car floors on Massachusetts’s Salisbury Beach. Early models had a rear-mounted engine underneath the seats and nothing but a spring and a layer of wood and tin to protect the driver. Despite their somewhat flimsy design (they often had to be nailed back together after each round, and accurate steering was virtually impossible), the little vehicles proved irresistibly popular and immediately spawned imitators. It wasn’t until 1928 that the cars began to take a more recognizable form. Designed by Joe and Ray Lusse, the Auto-Skooter was the first bumper car to boast a front-mounted engine, which made it much easier to steer and thereby choose which car to attack or which corner to spend an entire round stuck in. Though technological advances have been made in the interim, virtually all modern bumper cars follow the basic design spearheaded by the Lusses.
Bonus PointsThe first bumper cars were called Dodgems, reflecting the owners’ desire that riders don’t bang them up too much. In fact, Great Britain still refer to modern bumper cars as “dodgems.” The earliest patent for such an electrically powered vehicle was filed in 1890 by James Adair, who envisioned the device as a tricycle and suggested it be used for transportation of cargo. There is some dispute over the true creator of bumper cars: some credit the Stoehrers and others name a GE employee named Victor Levand.
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