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Training & Education

Cars for kids

By Julie Sammarco

A South African company uses steel wire to build toy cars for kids

August 2012 - Fabricating cars is not just for adults in garages. Kids can do it, too. Hand crafting wire toy cars, popular a pastime for children in South Africa, is building momentum in the United States and across the world.

“Building these wire cars not only increases a child’s interest in automobiles, it allows them to see and take pride in work they make with their own hands,” says to Beate Dreyer, representative at Africars for Keeps, Bothaville, South Africa. The company has shipped products to customers in the United States, India and South America, among others.

With less interest in manufacturing among younger generations in the United States today, these toys might serve an interesting purpose in attracting kids to the trades. Additionally, the toys serve other developmental purposes, according to Dreyer.

“Our wire cars ensure to keep children from computer and television games and is good healthy outdoor fun,” says Dreyer. “They are strong and even schools buy regularly from us to use instead of tricycles.  The wire cars improve educational skills such as laterality, middle-line crossing, sense of left and right and basic road worthiness.”

All cars made by Africars for Keeps are manufactured with material from South Africa. The company also only employs South Africans.  

The Dreyer family, owners of Africars, began the company on a farm in 1991 to address an unemployment problem in the heart of South Africa. The existing traditional car constructed of wire, which most of the young rural men could make, was modernized and introduced to the public. The company grew into a profitable business that provided jobs to many young men, according to the company’s website.

In May, the Dreyers sold the company to new owners, who renamed the company Africars for Keeps.

Although kids can make these wire cars by bending and wrapping scrap wire and attaching anything spherical as wheels, Africars for Keeps is taking this traditional pastime, improving it and distributing a more-advanced product to the global market.

Improved products
Africars for Keeps manufactures wire cars from hard-drawn steel wire. Models, which can range from cars and trucks to jeeps, trailers, four-by-fours and custom-made vehicles, are then powder coated in lead-free paint.

Instead of wrapping and bending parts together, the company welds the wire pieces together with a hand-held CO2 welder. Each vehicle comes with a steering rod. Used as a steering wheel, children “run along with the car by steering it from behind,” says Dreyer.

As an added feature, many vehicles come with doors that open and close, upgraded wheels and cloth overlays for added detail.

“Some choose to design their own vehicles as well,” Dreyer says. Customers send drawings, colors and sizes, and the company creates the vehicle and ships it out.

Cement trucks, semi trailers and vehicles with one wheel have been made in the past. For an additional price, cars can be made with steel panels that fit around the wire frame for a more realistic look.

“The full cars are welded as well. They require more work because more material and time is needed to make them. But the wire cars without the steel panels are far more popular anyway,” says Dreyer.

In addition to ordering the wire cars fully made, customers also can order kits to assemble cars at home, a feature that is expected to be added to the company’s new website. Kits are meant to be used to build cars the traditional way—without the help of a welder. Kids can use the wire provided to shape any car they can imagine  and attach wheels. The website’s launch date has yet to be finalized. FFJ

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