The best vintage bumper cars include the models made during the heyday of bumpering during the early 1930s. The earliest bumper cars looked like a child's toy wagons with room for adults, but by the 1930s, the designs quickly matured into auto-like rides that actually bumped with force. Bumper cars of the 1920s included low sides and metal contacts on the base and ceiling. A rubber bumper wrapped around the lower edge of the meal car. It was a pioneer effort in bumpering. From this basic model, the new cars quickly adapted to meet the demands of riders wanting more adventure in higher speeds and maneuverability.
- Space Bumper Cars. Out of the world bumper cars take the top bumper slot, although Disneyland claimed its flying saucer cars were not designed to be used to bump others on the air field. This no-bump concept was totally foreign to young riders who identified the large rubber strip that encircled the flying cars. Why in the world would a rubber strip be added if bumping was not the overall intention? A good whack or two was possible before getting ejected from the ride. An accidental bump could be excused if the rider looked sufficiently shocked at the "accident." Outright manic attack might mean ejection not only from the ride, but from the park. The hovercraft ride opened in the early 1960s and was in operation only a few years, many of those inoperable. The top bumper car ranking rests in the air field surface with large vent openings in the ride floor that produced air for the cars to travel. Steering was done by placing the hands on hand rests on either side of the car. Leaning from side to side or to the front propelled the bumper car. The space bumpers from Disneyland's Tomorrowland take the best vintage bumper car title.
- Modern Lusse Cars. The Cadillac of bumper cars is the post-World War II bumper car manufactured by the Lusse brothers of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. When the switch went on to charge the ride, the headlights of each car sparked with light. The bumpers were not hard plastic, but air-filled pillows that pushed the bumper attacking car back when it hit the bumpee. The 1960s model actually traveled as fast in reverse as in the forward direction. This added a new dimension to bumping. Modern Lusse cars are certainly classified as one of the best vintage bumper cars.
- Early Lusse Cars. The American-made Lusse Auto Skooter of the 1930s were constructed to resemble automobiles, complete with steering wheels and full-front grills. It is the premiere vintage bumper car experience. The hood of the car was a mini auto front, complete with hood ornament. The bumper portion on these cars included a rubber segment with a metal strip that extended from the lowest part of the car. The Lusse brothers, Joseph C. and Robert J., focused on building a car that steered like a automobile and offered the option of actually choosing a target to ram. Bumpering consisted of hitting metal strips and bouncing from the impact. The rider was set back from the front so it was less likely the driver would be ejected. The Lusse cars turned in a small radius and built up speed so that bumping was possible within a short space. Both the bumpee and bumper could do a 180 degree spin with a good shot to the side of the car.
- The Dodgems. The last of the great vintage bumper cars were the Dodgems manufactured by Harold and Max Stoehrer of Methuen, Massachusetts and tested in the early 1920s. The rear-driven Dodgem improved the basic flat platform design by adding a low enclosure to keep the riders from tumbling onto the performance area. The cars were basic, but were an amazing innovation to the carnival experience for riders. While not a top-ranking best vintage bumper car, the Dodgem was a pioneer and deserves a special space in bumper car lovers' hearts.