(This article originally appeared in Hemmings Classic Car #105, June 2013)
A Real Car for Kids!
Would you trust your eight-year-old child enough to operate a gas powered vehicle on their own? Would you trust your eight-year-old enough to work on a carburetor or adjust the valves on said vehicle? That is exactly what the Omar Motor Company had in mind when they introduced the Browniekar in 1908 to offer “the greatest combination of pleasure and practical instruction in any device suitable to place in the hands of children.”
The Browniekar had a 66” wheelbase and provided two bucket seats. Transmission was friction belt drive and featured a water-cooled single-cylinder engine that produced 3.6 horsepower from its 3” bore and 3 ½” stroke. This was enough power to propel the car up to 10 mph; quite speedy on bumpy dirt roads and rough farm fields!
Finding original sales literature for this kids car is pretty challenging but I was able to track down one complete Browniekar catalog. It measures 8 ¼” X 4” and has a color illustration on the cover. Inside the catalog are details and illustrations of all the Browniekar specifications. In addition to speed claims, the catalog promised fuel economy of 30-50 mpg and the ability to drive 500-600 miles while only consuming one gallon of engine oil. Browniekar came with a three month warranty on manufacturing defects but pointed out that boys and girls may provide “indifferent care and unreasonable abuse” so the manufacturer could not assume any responsibility beyond manufacturing flaws.
The spirit of the Browniekar is summed up on the third page of the sales catalog:
“Browniekar is a toy designed for harmless sport and amusement of the young folks, of such light weight and low speed as to remove all element of danger, but nevertheless a real motor car, designed by a practical automobile engineer of several years’ experience in the production of large powerful machines.
It is of so simple design…that any intelligent boy or girl, of just eight years or more can operate, adjust and after becoming familiar with its construction, if necessary repair it. Browniekar has a maximum speed of ten miles an hour and is intended to provide healthful, instructive amusement, at a small cost, to absorb idle hours.
The boy or girl who drives a Browniekar will obtain by practical experience a knowledge of things mechanical: construction, carburetion, ignition and operation of gas engines, etc., that he or she would not be able to obtain from books.
Simple? Yes, but nevertheless a real motor car.”
Locating ads for the Browniekar was easier than finding sales literature as they ads were somewhat prevalent in contemporary trade publications like MoToR and The Automobile. By examining these ads it is clear that this car was marketed to dads and not the youngsters who would get to drive it.
In today’s era of Thudguards (Google it) and helicopter parents, I doubt too many eight-year-olds would get the opportunity to drive a vehicle like the Browniekar. But then again, at a cost of $175 (nearly $4500 in today’s dollars), not many kids had the opportunity in 1908. It is not known how many of these juvenile cars were built, but only three Browniekars are known today.