f.k.a. Dodgem Junior
Location: Central Midway
Manufactured By: Dodgem Corporation – Lawrence, Massachusetts
Ride Model: Dodgem Junior, et al.
Bumper cars have been a common attraction at amusement parks and carnivals for decades. There are a variety of makes and models of bumper car rides today, but it all started with the Dodgem.
Invented by a pair of brothers in Massachusetts, the earliest Dodgem vehicles were round in shape with a small seat and a steering wheel at the end of a long column sticking up from the front of the vehicle. The ride quickly became a success, despite its problems. For example, steering was counter-intuitive and riders often got knocked out of their seat and onto the floor.
The Dodgem Corporation continued to make improvements to the ride over the years. The first major update was the Dodgem Junior, introduced in 1923. In this oval-shaped model, the riding compartment was better-protected. It wasn’t until 1930 that the engine was moved to the front of the vehicle and started to resemble an automobile (as seen above on the right).
Lagoon’s first Dodgem was the Dodgem Junior, which opened in 1925. It has yet to be confirmed, but it’s assumed for now that it was located in the same place the ride was shown on the 1950 map below. Many buildings were added or remodeled throughout Lagoon in 1947, so if the original 1925 building was ever replaced, it could’ve happened that year.
Whether the Dodgem ride originally took up the entire building or not is unknown. In later years, it only occupied the southern half, with games and concessions in the northern half.
Dodgem was featured in the park’s 1939 brochure with a reference to its appearance at the World’s Fair taking place in New York that year. It’s possible that this was when the Dodgem Junior cars were replaced by newer models.
The building was spared from the large 1953 fire that destroyed much of Lagoon’s west side. The photos below were taken the day after the fire, showing the Dodgem building that still exists today.¹
Another set of Dodgem cars were supposedly added in 1951, but no other information is given about them. A 1963 newspaper article quotes manager Robert Freed, who said the Dodgem cars cost $1,700 each, but when those cars were purchased isn’t clear.
The Dodgem was succeeded by the Auto Skooter in 1966. Today, the space is home to the Scamper bumper cars for kids. It opened in 1977, the same year the new Boomerang bumper car buliding was constructed at the north end of the Midway.
1. A Victorian-style facade was added to the building in the early 1980s, but if you look up toward the rafters inside Carousel Candy, you can still see the original curved roofline.
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Lagoon ready for big opening Saturday. Salt Lake Telegram, 26 May 1925.
Lagoon Chief Cites Improvements, Predicts ‘Most Promising Season’. Deseret News, 6 Apr 1963.
Gussow, Seth. A Short History of Bumper Cars. Automobile Magazine, Nov 1997.
Legend/History. LusseAutoScooters.com, accessed 12 Jul 2017.