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Start Small: Restore A Pedal Car

Start Small: Restore A Pedal Car

It is no fun being “in between” fun cars.  I sold my last classic, a 1976 GMC pickup, in 2019.  What followed was a series of newer car trades, sales and purchases. That’s all well and good, but I miss working on older cars and doing paint work.

Related articleMy Cheap And Fun Vehicles

With the supply chain shortages and resulting impact on all car values, I decided to pause any more car purchases until things stabilize.  That might not happen until 2023, so I found a way to practice my restoration skills on a couple of 1960s vehicles.

When you can’t go big, you can always go small.  In fact, starting small is also a great way for beginners to learn bodywork and paint skills at little to no risk. 

It’s also a fun way to stay connected to the restoration process without a major project hanging over your head.

1962 Murray Pedal Car

In the fall of 2020, I was getting the itch to get another project car.  With the uncertainty of the pandemic, I chose not to make any big purchases.  In reality, I waited too long to consider any big purchases as I could have picked up something in April or May when the world was in turmoil.  

By the time I felt comfortable with a purchase, vehicle prices were on the rise due to the pent-up demand for cars.  I’m not a patient man, so I decided to turn my attention to pedal car restoration.  This allowed me to play around with bodywork and paint while keeping things simple and not breaking the bank.

I found this 1962 Murray fire engine on Facebook Marketplace.  I bought it from a man who got it when he was a kid.  It has been used by his kids and a grandson, so it was in rough shape.  I did not get around to working on it until the middle of 2021, and decided to transform it from a tired fire engine to a sporty convertible.

It was a fun little project that flexed my restoration muscles.  I don’t have any grandchildren yet, but may keep it just in case.  For now, it is wall art in my basement studio.

1964 Mattel X-15

When I was almost four years old, I got a Mattel X-15 for Christmas.  It was a very sturdy, pressed steel, ride-on toy built for speed!  As far as I can tell, Mattel only made the X-15 for one year, so I am glad it is still in the family.

My parents had the foresight to store the X-15 in their attic after it was used by me and my four nephews.  It was in decent shape when they stored it, but a bit banged up.  In 1994, I pulled it from their attic and repainted it for my kids.  I did a mediocre job using royal blue Rust-Oleum spray paint, but the kids loved it.

Time for Restoration

After a few years of use by my kids, the X-15 went into my attic.  Truth be told, I forgot it was there until earlier this year when I went into the attic for something else.  This was great timing, as I was getting antsy for another project.  Unlike the repaint in 1994, the X-15 was going to get a proper restoration.

I really wanted to duplicate the color that came on the X-15 in 1964, so had to find an automotive color to match.  As it turns out, the 1964 Chevrolet Corvette “Silver Blue” paint is a near perfect match.  Very fitting and very period correct.

With the paint on order, I turned to prepping the body.  My biggest challenge was finding replacement decals for the dash and side.  I found a reproduction set on eBay, but it was over $100.  Also, the original decals had a foil backing with a unique serial number.  I decided to trim the curled edges, paint the body Corvette Silver Blue, then apply a clear coat over the paint and original decals to preserve them.

Originality Matters

Please note the original red handgrip found on the joystick above.  Notice the black markings near the hole at the top?  That was from my older brother, Bob, some time around 1966.  He is ten years older than me, and put a firecracker in that hole when I was sitting on the X-15.  He thought he was being funny, but it scared the crap out of me.  

That’s OK, I got even with him.  In 1969, I crashed my mom’s 1968 Impala into his new 1969 Camaro SS.  It was my first day of third grade, and I was anxious for my ride to school.  I helped my mom by pushing her car out of the garage.  Unfortunately, it rolled right in my brother’s car.  Oops.  

In the restoration world, they say it is best to keep original parts on a vehicle.  Between the decals and that handgrip, you can see why!  One other thing:  the X-15 came with a “V-RROOM!” motor sound that was activated by the big red switch on the dash.  It stopped working in the 1960s, so getting it working was a real feat (and treat!).

Here are some after pictures of the X-15.  Returning it to its original color had an amazing effect on me.  As soon as I sprayed that first coat of paint, a ton of fun memories returned.  Between the original paint color and the functional V-RROOM speaker, it was 1964 again.

These two small projects did more than just bring two old vehicles back to life.  It allowed me to stay restoration-ready and jar loose some great memories.  For budding car restorers, these kinds of projects are perfect to launch your restoration hobby.

About Our Young Model

The feature picture at the top of the page is my neighbor’s three year old granddaughter.  I asked her to strike a pose similar to the ad from 1964 (see below).  I think she did a far better job than that little boy from 1964, don’t you agree? 

About The Author


  1. Lee Snyder

    Nice job Bill. You’re a very good writer. I really enjoy your stories regardless of where they are published.

    • Bill

      Thanks, Lee…very kind!

  2. Brian Kehew

    Nicely done! I like the idea of small projects, same skills, but easier scale. The X15 was an amazing design – steel, joystick control, tilting rear-wheel steering, flared bucket seat, and that motor sound! Pretty advanced and better than 10,000 Big Wheels!

    • Bill Taylor

      Thanks! I’m very lucky it survived after all these years, and that restoration was mostly cosmetic.


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