Bumper cars are one of those uniquely American inventions that were designed for nothing more than sheer fun. They’ve been around for almost 100 years, but people still like to rent them for parties or drive them at the state fair.
Who can blame them? Bumper cars are fun. Here are a few facts about bumper car history that you might not have known.
Why They Are Called Dodgem Cars
Bumper cars are sometimes known as dodgem cars because that’s what the original inventors, brothers Max, and Harold Stoehrer of Massachusetts, called them. After two years of development, the brothers created the car. They filed a patent for the invention on Dec. 7, 1920, and created a new company called the Dodgem Company.
But What About Victor Levand?
According to the American Treasure Tour Museum in Pennsylvania – and many other sources – some credit Victor Levand, an employee with General Electric, with creating the technology that led to the bumper car. As the museum notes, that’s a part of bumper car history that we may never know for sure.
Not Meant to “Bump”
The original cars were not meant to bump because they could easily fall apart. The thrill was in giving kids a chance to drive and avoid hitting the other cars. That’s why they were called dodgem – the whole point was to dodge the other car while steering around a track with a ton of other cars. It was only years later that crashing became the point, not dodging.
In the early years, bumper cars were made of tin. That meant a lot of dents and not much protection. Operators often had to hammer the cars back together after each day. Once ruined, the cars were simply burned. You could do stuff like that back then. The EPA might have some issues with that now!
How Are Bumper Cars Powered?
There are three main ways to power a bumper car. The most often used for many years was the Over the Head system in which a pole in the back of the car runs up to a ceiling that carried electrical current. Now, a Floor Pick Up system allows for current to run through panels on the floor that are separated by insulters. That’s become the most popular. Some of the newest bumper car rides run on batteries.
Science and Bumper Cars
Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. That’s a fundamental quality of bumper cars. The reason why you get a jolt – but not too big of a jolt – is because the energy from the impact is absorbed in the bumper around the car. The heavier the car, the bigger the jolt, so get ready for a bigger reaction if you ram a car with two people or an adult. That’s science!
They Are Still Fun
The initial fun that kids had back in the early part of the 20th century with bumper cars remains to this day. Except now, they are much safer. The ones offered by Fun Crew USA operate within a giant inflatable track and run on batteries. It’s easier than ever to set the ride up and let the kids have a good time ramming into each other – or taking a page from bumper car history and trying to “dodge ‘em.”