When I was very young, my parents bought a Little Tikes plastic picnic table for me and my siblings to use as a little co-working space for our coloring books and writing practice. Included in the box where the table came from was the toymaker’s product catalog. I remember browsing through it because it had lots of colorful pictures, which, for my four-year-old self, were just absolute eye candy.
In that catalog were various items that catered to the young gearhead in me. There was a toy fire truck that I eventually got for Christmas, and also a red sports car-inspired bed that I envisioned turning into a make-believe race car with a matching Little Tikes steering wheel. But none of these tugged at my little heart more than the coolest thing I saw in that brochure: the red-and-yellow Cozy Coupe.
At the time, I had no idea what a Porsche 959 or a Ferrari F40 was. My dad took us around in a gray Toyota Liteace, which I obviously couldn’t drive. But the Little Tikes Cozy Coupe was, to me, the best thing in the universe (and I could own and operate it). I imagined cruising our neighborhood in one, being the coolest kid on the block, and getting the girls to notice me. In my head, I pictured that it would be my gateway to freedom, my road to awesomeness and my ticket to motoring pleasure.
Unfortunately, I never got a Cozy Coupe. But I can see why even kids of today would beg their parents for one instead of an iPad. First introduced 40 years ago in 1979, the Cozy Coupe was styled by former Chrysler designer Jim Mariol. He created a toy that was good-looking, easy to use and very sturdy. It gave children their first car-ownership experience. Opening the door, jumping in and driving (or walking, to be precise) off in their own car was a source of pride for these young motorists.
Sales were so strong that the Cozy Coupe, at one point, became one of America’s best-selling “automobiles.” And if it could really be stacked up against its grown-up, gasoline-powered counterparts, the Cozy Coupe’s production numbers would’ve given real-world automakers something to worry about. By its 30th anniversary in 2009, over 10 million units of this cute runabout had been sold. And now, 40 years later, I’m pretty sure that kids in toy stores are still furiously pestering their parents for one.