If a kid wants to drive some kind of simulated ride today, Mom or Dad go out (or order on line I suppose) and get them a computer or NinPlay or PlayTendo driving game, and they can drive, race, do whatever on their screen. Before video games, before flight simulators, we had driving simulators. This “Mutoscope Drivemobile” driving Simulator was for kids, kids of all ages. I hesitate to call it a game, but certainly an amusement/arcade item, and it certainly was good entertainment for a dime. These were placed usually in arcades according to the netwebs, although I only remember seeing these in my youth when visiting the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE).
I present to you, the 1954 International Mutoscope Drive Yourself Road Test Drivemobile Coin-Op Arcade. A long name for a fun ride. Look at that speedometer below the steering wheel. Someone will recognize that out of a classic of some kind.
My recollections of riding on these are vague from the long distant past. The always crowded Canadian National Exhibitions was the location I recall riding on these. The “Ex” always took place in the last two weeks of August annually, leading up to Labour Day. Except for Covid, that is still the schedule. The final weekend is a big attraction as that’s when the Canadian International Air Show is run. The “Ex” was always a popular day’s outing.
The object of the simulator was that you had to steer to stay in your lane while the roadway scrolled past. The roadway was painted on a rotating drum. When I first saw these photos, I had believed there was an accelerator pedal you had to press to move along, but since this is not visible in these photos, I cannot confirm this. Perhaps the ten cents fee took care of all the motion you were going to experience. There were curves in the road you had to navigate. It was not impossible, but it was a challenge to an unexperienced kid trying to drive, to stay in your lane. After all, you couldn’t really see down the road more than a dozen or two car lengths in front of you as the roadway whizzed along before your eyes.
This video shows the machine going a bit more quickly than I recall. As fast as it did go, made it that much more challenging to accumulate credits. The speed at which you were supposed to be travelling was not specified, but it was a bit quick for me, having only experienced a pedal car that may or may not have been mine, and a tricycle here and there.
This one has the optional upgraded three spoke steering wheel. A green light flashes to ensure you that you are still on the road, while a red light indicates you have gone off road. The object is to stay on the road to collect as many points as you can so you can escalate from a “creeper” to an “expert” driver.
My recollection was that the seat slid left and right to simulate motion around curves. However in researching this, it seems that the device tossed you left and right depending on the direction you steered the wheel. This made it more difficult to control.
A reseller wrote that “While you sit on the seat and steer, the seats moves in the direction you turn. The object is the stay on the road to get more points.” You were supposed to advance from Creeper, to Sleeper, to Road Hog to Back Seat Driver, all the way up to Expert, and Wizard. This would have represented an accumulation of 100 points, all in sixty seconds. There was a timer as well as the lights, which was altogether too much to take in while you were trying to watch the road. The kids crowding in on you made sure to let you know if you were not advancing. “Oh look, he really missed that turn!” The noise of the surrounding crowd made the experience more intense.
Hmm, I don’t see any semiconductors in the mechanics of these.
There was always a lineup to get on these, and they were a lot of fun.
Imagine what may possibly have been your first time behind the wheel. You get Mom or Dad to drop in the dime, and off you go. Come to the first turn, you try to move the wheel, and, the damn kids on either side of you crowding in for their turn prevented you successfully navigating that tricky curve. The lineups always meant that there were other kids crowding in on you from either side, limiting your elbow room to manoeuvre the big steering wheel. You only got a minute, one turn at a time, if the guy running it was nearby. Forget about getting a second turn, there was too big a lineup.
The advertising literature certainly used the masculine gender heavily in promoting these. “He” will learn to drive, “he” will get the feel of the road. At least they used a woman in one of their photos.
The darn thing was patented too!
This one has survived, and apparently was sold after having been listed in the $4K range. Another unit from an undated listing recently sold for $2,063 USD.
Hey lookit the neat taillights for those behind you to see. And a handy spare tire too! I hope they renewed the license plates on these annually.
Some of you might remember seeing these occasionally, if you are in the right age group. This may have been what some of us navigated as our first driving experience after a pedal car, and before driving school, or the family car out away from traffic in a parking lot or field somewhere.
These units were made in the USA with measurements five feet by two and a half wide by six and a half feet tall. As was befitting the times, there were no seat belts apparent.
Some older models are pictured here, going back to the 1940s I believe.
This is one and the same company that once produced those photo booths we used to see in malls, plazas, or department stores.
All photos sourced from the net, notably Buffalocars.com, and also ebay and wikipedia.