Skip to main content

1950s Eshelman Kids Sports Car: Thrills for Tikes

Oddities  /   /  By Daniel Gray

The Baltimore-based Eshelman Motor Company produced a splendid collection of itty-bitty cars for children throughout the 1950s. The bright yellow 1956 Eshelman Child’s Sports Car offered on eBay is a prime example.

Interior of the Eshelman Kids Sports Car

The kids’ two-seater rolled out of the factory with a rope-start Briggs & Stratton engine that produced a heart-pounding 2.25 horsepower. The top speed was about 15 miles per hour. It was primitive, although very sporty from a kid’s perspective.

The restored 1950s kids car has real headlights.

The restored 1950s kids car has period-correct headlights.

The 1956 Eshelman kids’ car on eBay could be described as a restomod. The Briggs & Stratton powerplant was replaced with a modern 6.5-horsepower Tecumseh engine. Tecumseh primarily supplies engines for lawnmowers and snow blowers.

The restoration process also added an electric starter, battery, and generator. The seller states that it “runs and drives well” and is “great for parades.”

The interior features fresh upholstery and door panels finished in red and white. The spare tire cover matches the interior. The headlights and taillights are functional, with “period correct lighting.”

Eshelman Cars Were Not Just for Kids

Eshelman sold just two models initially—one for kids and one for adults. The product line expanded to include a version for adults that could hit 30 miles per hour. The grown-up variant grew to about five feet in length and was offered with useful options, such as lawn sweeper and hauling cart. A community of Eshelman car fans keep the legacy alive via Facebook.

By 1959, Eshelman started making slightly upsized coupes, pickups, and delivery vehicles. It also re-trimmed and re-badged Chevrolet Corvairs. Later on, founder Cheston Eshelman tried to market an energy-absorbing front bumper made from a vehicle’s spare tire.

The Eshelman Car vs. Other Tiny Vehicles

Eshelman’s creations are more than go-carts or clown cars. They are attention-getting machines. Moreover, the Eshelman car is less common than other better-known tiny cars.

BMW Isetta microcar

  • BMW Isetta
    Isetta is arguably the best known classic microcar. The car’s name is diminutive for the Italian firm, Iso. BMW acquired the license to use the design.
  • Nash Metropolitan
    The Nash Metropolitan was sold in the United States and Canada from 1954 to 1962—an era known for boat-like sedans. It’s no speed demon. A 42-horsepower engine delivers zero-to-60 mph performance in around 30 seconds.
  • King Midget
    Time magazine put the King Midget micro-car on its list of the 50 Worst Cars of All Time. The King Midget Motor Company of Athens, Ohio, was once the sixth largest automobile manufacturer in America.
  • Peel P50
    The Peel P50 is 54 inches long and 39 wide—making it the tiniest car ever made. The top speed is about 37 miles per hour.

How Much Does an Eshelman Car Cost?

The Eshelman Sports Car is offered on eBay with a Buy-It-Now price of $10,600. Of course, it has value as a collector’s item. Back in 1956, it sold for the princely sum of $295.

Way ahead for its time, Eshelman’s kids’ sports car was often shipped to its buyer in a crate.

Restoring an Eshelman Car

Remarkably, eBay is home to more than one Eshelman this week. If you yearn to build your own souped-up, classic 1950s kid’s car, eBay has you covered. This rusty 1955 Eshelman small car is waiting for a new home.

A 1955 Eshelman car for kids is ready to be restored.

A 1955 Eshelman car for kids is ready to be restored.

The original Briggs & Stratton engine and belt drive look to be intact. The frame appears to be solid. All the bones are there, but trim pieces are missing, and there’s no windshield. Alas, the front grille, headlamps, rear panel, and bumpers are also gone.

But take heart. Parts for Eshelman microcars also turn up on eBay. For example, there’s an entire Eshelman front assembly available.

Front assembly of an Eshelman car

Front assembly of an Eshelman car

Can you imagine the delight of putting a grade-schooler behind the wheel of a fully restored mid-century kid’s two-seater sports car? The scale is perfect for the knee-high, aspiring car builder in your life.

About the Author

Daniel Gray is a best-selling tech author and video maker. He is also the road-test editor at Autobytel and the creative force behind Dan has had the good fortune to own a string of notable Hondas, including a CRX Si and a trio of S2000s. His legendary beater 1999 Civic HX coupe, a.k.a. “Slambo,” is a rolling experiment in hardware-store aerodynamics.

Related Posts

What happens when you find your dream car—only to discover that it's right-hand-drive? Here's what...

Carlo Ferrari styled the cute-as-a-bug Italian-built Ferves off-road runabout now on eBay. But he’s...

The Lambo tractor is not going to set speed records. But it will do a great job of plowing your...

Leave a Reply