f.k.a. Dodgem Junior
Opened: 1925
Closed: 1965
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.

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).

Detail from a May 1959 Lagoon newspaper ad

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.

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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
The Dodgem hall escaped damages in the 1953 fire. Photo: The Salt Lake Tribune

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. Later, in 1977, the building became the home of the Scamper bumper cars for kids. A new full size bumper car ride was added to the north end of the Midway that same year. The former Dodgem / Auto Skooter / Scamper building was completely destroyed in a fire in December 2021.²

The Dodgem building in 2019. Photo: B. Miskin
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1. A Victorian-style facade was added to the building in the early 1980s, but when Carousel Candy was built you could go inside and see the bowstring trusses and evidence of the original curved roofline.

2. Read more about the fire on the Scamper page.

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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., accessed 12 Jul 2017.

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