The Maytag Toy Racer
One of the most highly prized Maytag collectibles is the Maytag Toy Racer. Collectors now know there were 498 toy racers which the Maytag Company made between 1934 and 1941 are the only toy racers associated with Maytag. Toy racers, however, appear to have been powered by with the Maytag Multi-Motor since the early days of Multi-Motor washer production. A 1929 biographical sketch of Fred Maytag, II, indicated that as a teenager he had become the sensation of Newton with his homemade toy racer powered by an early Multi-Motor.
Maytag advertisements published in the early twenties mention that a company had been organized in the west to manufacture Multi-Motor powered racers. However it was not until after the introduction of the model 92 Multi-Motor that toy racers became a widespread phenomenon. Several dealers in the late twenties placed model 92 washers on wagons and used the Multi-Motor to power these wagons in local parades.
Service managers for the local dealers were soon making small Multi-Motor powered cars for their children. Mechanically adept teenagers also found the Maytag Multi-Motor useful as a power source for their home built go-carts. With the development of rural electrification, local dealers exchanged electrical motors for Multi-Motors as electricity was installed in rural communities. Many such dealers found encouraging the construction of toy racers by local teenagers to be a convenient method of disposing of their surplus Multi-Motors and advertising their products. In Communities where a significant number of these home made racers were constructed, the dealer would often join with the local newspaper in sponsoring parades and races for toy racers using Maytag Multi-Motors. Store owners would often provide decals for these racers and encourage their use in advertising the local Maytag dealership. These home made racers were often given names such as "Washing Machine Flyer" or "Gas Driven Tub".
By 1931 Regional Maytag distributors were bringing national attention to these Maytag toy racers. In that year a Fox Movietone News short showed fifty or so Maytag powered racers racing and parading in Salt Lake City's Liberty Park.
Questions soon arose as to whether these toy racers were automobiles requiring license or toys which did not require plates. In Utah, teenagers demanding license plates for their toy racers were turned down by Secretary of State Milton H. Welling. Licenses were also denied in Tennessee. However, Maytag Multi-Motor racers were licensed in Texas and California.
While the unnamed firm organized in the 1920's to make Maytag powered toy racers may have made a few small cars, the Winston Corporation, of Joliet, Illinois, appears to have been the first large scale manufacturer of Maytag powered toy racers. In 1932 it began manufacturing "Winston Racers" which where sold to Maytag dealers and carnival rides as well as to individuals. In early 1933 a group of dealers in Virginia and west Virginia sponsored a series of races using six Winston Racers. These races, which were held in various communities, were used to promote the local dealership and regularly drew audiences between four and five thousand. These racers were geared to achieve a high speed of around twenty miles an hour.
Winston Racers became the center of attraction at the carnival rides in the Chicago Century of Progress Fair in 1933. They were far more stylish than most of the home made racers and dealers soon found they could be put to effective use in promotions. A local salesmen would often get children to distribute his leaflets in turn for rides in his toy racer. Some gave rides in return for children obtaining a washer demonstration in a
local home. Others held contests in which a Winston Racer would be given away to the child who obtained the most points based upon demonstrations and sales. The Maytag News promoted the Winston Racer as an ideal marketing tool for dealers and salesmen.
By early 1934, dealers could also purchase a Multi-Motor powered "toy truck" from the Grimes Manufacturing Company of Urbana, Ohio. Although the Grimes truck did not receive the same promotional space as the Winston Racer in dealer publications, several were sold to dealers in states immediately surrounding Ohio.
Although it is not known whether they manufactured toy racers for sale to the public, the Quick Tool and Manufacturing Co. of Wichita, Kansas, produced a special Multi-Motor powered toy racer for "Speed" Bradford, a well known race car and stunt driver, who used the racer in promotional appearances for dealers in Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma in 1934. A promotional stunt, sponsored by Emerson Dole's Wichita Maytag Co. and the Wichita Beacon where "Speed" Bradford and Miss Betty Lou Mason would drive a two person Multi-Motor powered "Quick-car" all the way across the United States apparently was dropped after they were unable to come up with additional funding from dealers outside the region.
In November of 1934 Maytag be an selling their toy racer to dealers for promotional purposes. Maytag Toy Racer's coexisted with the Winston Racers and Grimes Trucks in campaigns encouraging children to arrange for demonstrations in homes in their communities. Many of these Maytag Toy Racers were given away in local contests. Others were retained by regional managers or local dealers for use in parades or to give rides in payment for children distributing their sales literature. Quite a few were purchased as gifts for children. Maytag also sold toy racers to carnival rides such as the Grove City Amusement Park, Lancaster, Pennsylvania and to the Texas Centennial Exposition. In addition to providing carnival rides, one or two Maytag Toy Racers at the Centennial Exposition Maytag Toy Racers were attached to trailers and used as press vehicles.
The Maytag Toy Racers built between November, 1934, and December, 1937, were powered by the single cylinder Multi-Motor. However, beginning with serial number 934 the single cylinder Multi-Motor was replaced by the new twin cylinder Multi-Motor.
In California, Craft's Twenty Big Shows, which toured the carnival circuit on the west coast manufactured their own Maytag Multi-Motor racers for use in their carnival rides. Some Craft racers were also shipped to Belgium for use in European carnival rides in 1935.14 By 1937 one or two other carnival companies were utilizing Maytag Multi-Motors to power their own carnival racers. Unfortunately these carnival rides have not yet been identified.
Maytag's production of Toy racers was halted at the end of 1941 when it became clear that the company would have to prepare for war time production. The company had manufactured nearly five hundred toy racers which had shown the power of Maytag Multi-Motors and helped convince the public of the quality of Maytag washers. Around thirty five Maytag Toy Racers have found their way into collections across the United States. However, I have not yet heard of any collectors who have found any of the other toy racers utilizing Maytag Multi-Motors.
Orville R. Butler
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