Dodgem

f.k.a. Dodgem Junior
Opened: 1925
Closed: 1965
Manufactured By: Dodgem Corporation – Lawrence, Massachusetts
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.

Early examples of Dodgem rides at the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum in New York. Photos: B. Miskin

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.

1950 Sanborn map showing the steel frame building housing the Dodgem Junior. The yellow circle in the top left is about where the Interactive Fountain is today.

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is dodgem1941brochure.jpg
From a 1939 Lagoon brochure.

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

View of the Dodgem building after the November 1953 fire, taken from the top of what was left of Roller Coaster’s lift hill. Photo courtesy of Deseret News
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is dodgem19531115-SLT-Lagoon_Fire-1024x395.jpg
The Dodgem building seen beyond the wreckage from the 1953 fire. Photo courtesy of Deseret News

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.

The Dodgem building in 2019. Photo: B. Miskin
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is sectionseparator-copy.png

NOTES

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is sectionseparator-copy.png

LINKS

Auto Skooter

Scamper

Boomerang

SOURCES

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.

An ongoing exploration of Lagoon's past

Copyrighted Image