Here’s Why Pedal Car Racing Is the Goodwood Revival’s Best Race


For full disclosure, Subaru flew me out to England to attend the Goodwood Revival and experience two full days of the best vintage car racing in the world.

The main attraction on the Duke of Richmond’s pristine grounds (where the Goodwood Festival of Speed is also held every year) is the cars, of course, and the racing show they put on. The little Austin J40s, however, are the only non-motorized vehicles to partake in the festivities, making them a bit of an oddity to some. And, not to mention that they’re driven by young children rather than wealthy car collectors or veteran racing drivers. But much to everyone’s surprise, the popularity of the Settrington Cup, as the pedal car race is called, has grown literally ten-fold over the last few years, ultimately becoming a fan favorite and one of the most-watched races of the Revival.

I have to admit that while I knew of the Settrington Cup from watching YouTube videos of previous Revivals, I didn’t know just how big of a deal it really was. At least not until I found myself in the epicenter of it all, in front of what seemed like dozens of Austin J40s and equally as many kid drivers. That’s when I realized that I had to find out more—what it took to buy one, race one, and win in one. Plus, my race-loving nine-year-old daughter asked me to find out this information and report back to her, so I had to track down these answers or face her wrath.

The Austin J40 Pedal Car

Originally built by British automaker Austin Motor Company Limited as an aspirational kid’s toy, the J40 manufacturing project was funded by the British government in order to give disabled coal miners another shot at life while generating much-needed income after the war. All J40s—along with their lineup siblings, the Joy 1 and Pathfinder Special—were built at a 24,500-square-foot facility in Bargoed, South Wales from 1949 to 1971, according to the original sales brochure.

The pedal cars were made from scrap metal brought over from the automaker’s Longbridge factory, and featured real chrome bumpers and accents, pneumatic tires, as well as working headlights and horns. They were very much so mini replicas of the real cars and even had individual serial numbers. Interestingly, the J40’s target audience was the American market, though it found great popularity in Canada and was also imported to Denmark, per Austin Works.

Even Queen Elizabeth II’s son, Prince Charles, became the proud owner of a teal J40 at the young age of five, though his was customized with a windshield, wipers, and a unique license plate. He reportedly terrorized staff at the palace behind the wheel of his pedal car.

When new, an average J40 cost around £33 ($45 at today’s exchange rate), making it a toy for children of well-off families. Considering the average male worker earned around £14 per week in 1960, it would’ve taken more than two weeks’ salary to afford the cute little pedal car.

Because production came to a halt in 1971, the J40’s affordability hasn’t improved over the decades. In fact, it’s become even more out of reach to the average person.

While chatting with Jamie Burnett of The J40 Motor Company, he explained to me that the price of a restored J40 today is around 5,000 pounds ($6,900). However, other folks I talked to in the pedal car paddock claim to have spent upwards of 9,000 pounds ($12,300) on their pristine rides, some of which have been converted to electric power for leisurely driving.

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