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Pedal Car Racing in Bristol....

We are waiting to hear exactly who started pedal car racing and when, but so far as we know it started as a project at Bristol University Department of Mechanical Engineering - probably in 1959. We have found archive matter from as far back as 1960 when the University Rag Week pedal car race was reported in the student newspaper 'Nonesuch News'. The wording of the race report suggests that it was a regular event, but it is not listed in any copies from previous years - at least, not as a Rag Week race. 

The race took place around College Green as seen here in 1964. In those days the A4 main road passed along the front of the Royal Hotel and the side of the Cathedral - that traffic now follows Anchor Road at a lower level.

The race reports in 1965 do not mention the City Corporation's displeasure with litter and damage to the grass, but we do see Shadow Foreign Secretary Reginald Maudling seated in a car before starting the race. The Barnet MP narrowly missed being leader of the Tory party, had been Chancellor of Exchequer and later served as Home Secretary. A later Nonesuch News discloses the damage problem and anticipates that the race will need to find a new home. It migrated for following years to Whitchurch Airfield, now the area known as Hengrove Park as shown in this undated photo. It eventually found itself on the Downs, judging from the black and white photos and 35mm colour slides dating from that time. A team of apprentices from Rolls-Royce Parkside Works in Coventry won the trophy in 1982, with last evidence of the race dated 1987. By then it was no longer part of Rag Week and only one university team took part - from the University Air Squadron.

We have been sent photos (this is entitled Sleep Pedalling) of team Bubbles and team Squeak from 1968 by Terry Newman who was then a 2nd-year student of aeronautical engineering. The full gallery is on our Facebook page.

And here's a British Pathé film from 1968: thanks to Mike Abrahams of Wild Oats for emailing the link!

Rag? - it stands for Raising And Giving.

Please return to this page to see cuttings, photos and film, as and when we have access to it. We are very grateful to the Bristol University Special Collections unit for permission to reproduce archive material on this page

This front page article from May1964 reports an incident before the phrase 'risk assessment' had become widespread.

Thanks to Bristol University's Alumni Relations unit sending out the Spring 2015 'Nonesuch' with a double page about the race we have been emailed pictures of 1961 College Green from John, recollections from Mary who joined a team on the basis that 2 women equalled 1 man (different times!) and from David who was an organiser of that last race, on Parrys Lane in 1987 when no university team took part. More of John's 1961 photos on the Facebook page.

Here's the programme from the 1968 race, sent by another David. It states that it's the third race as part of Rag Week, but would also be the third at Whitchurch. This is the map of the circuit. The race was started by Raymond Baxter, the doyen BBC radio and TV presenter, wartime flying ace and rally driver, fronting Tomorrow's World and finished by Innes Ireland "from Autocar" magazine. He had retired the previous year as a racing driver and was with Team Lotus when 4th in the Drivers World Championship of 1960. This is the list of entries -loads of them!

....and under other skies....

Follow these links to get the international picture (with thanks to the British Federation of Pedal Car Racing) and to Hong Kong Royal Yacht Club for these pictures of a rhino-car and sheer determination.
Hong Kong
USA - a country with over thirty places called Bristol. The five most sizeable towns are in Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Tennessee. The last two being one settlement with the state line being right down the middle of the main town-centre highway.