The Monopoly car is one of the most popular Monopoly tokens and one that many players find themselves fighting over. But what kind of car is the Monopoly car?
Classic car experts have several theories as to the make and model of the Monopoly car. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at four car models that are claimed to be the inspiration behind the Monopoly car token.
The history of the Monopoly car token
The race car token was not one of the original six Monopoly pieces created in 1935. The car was actually the seventh token which was added later that same year.
In 1940, the Monopoly race car was replaced with a ‘car with driver’ token. However, in 1950, this token was removed and replaced with the original driverless race car piece.
Other Monopoly car tokens have appeared in special editions of Monopoly, such as the red plastic car in Monopoly Electronic Banking and a Toyota Prius in Monopoly Here and Now.
This article is concerned with the original Monopoly car which still exists in Classic Monopoly today. Because nobody liked those other car tokens anyway.
Possible models of the Monopoly car
Over the years, several car experts have claimed that they know the model of the Monopoly car. One even claims to possess the original car that inspired the playing piece!
So, let’s take a look at the reasoning behind the various Monopoly car model explanations…
1. 1928 Harley JDH Midget Car
The Wheels Through Time museum in North Carolina claims to have the original, real Monopoly car.
This unique car was built for and owned by Otto Kahn, a well-known and wealthy investment banker some believe was the inspiration behind the Monopoly Man, Rich Uncle Pennybags.
It’s claimed that the similarity between this car and the Monopoly race car, as well as the similarities in the appearance of Kahn and Mr. Monopoly, are too much to be purely coincidental.
Take a look at this video of the car which is claimed to be the real Monopoly car…
However, former Parker Brothers VP Phil Orbaines claimed that Mr. Monopoly was actually inspired by businessman J.P. Morgan, not Otto Kahn. If this is true, the custom-made original Monopoly car could be a red herring.
2. Roger Wolfe Kahn’s Custom-Made Roadster
Otton Kahn died in March 1934 – before the first Monopoly board was sold in 1935. He did not drive, although he did have many full-time chauffeurs.
However, Otto Kahn’s son, Roger Wolfe Kahn, had numerous vehicles including a custom-made roadster. Given the timing Roger would have has more connection with the Monopoly car than his late father.
Roger’s roadster was well-documented at the time and according to the book The Khans of Fifth Avenue, at least one copy was privately manufactured.
You can see a photo this car (or one very similar to it) here.
3. 1930s Roadster
According to a statement from Hasbro in 2002, the Monopoly car was a 1930s roadster…
“In 1937 Parker Brothers, determined to preserve the game’s tradition, decided to produce die-cast metal tokens that were reminiscent of objects found in households across America. This decision marked the introduction of the flatiron, purse, lantern, car, thimble, shoe, top hat, and the rocking horse. The top hat was modeled after the chapeau of the game’s Chairman of the Board, Mr. Monopoly, and the car, his 1930s roadster.”Hasbro
However, upon closer inspection, it’s clear that the Monopoly car looks nothing like a 1930s roadster. These iconic cars were much larger than the Monopoly car, with headlights, a bumper, and space for a passenger.
Perhaps the Hasbro public relations department was mistaken when they released this statement.
4. 1940s Kurtis Kraft Midget Racer
Going off its appearance, the Monopoly car looks virtually identical to a 1940s midget race car. Midget cars are a class of racing cars with a very high power-to-weight ratio. They originated in the United States in the 1930s.
According to the experts at car website Jalopnik.com, the Monopoly car is modeled on a 1940s-era Kurtis Kraft Midget race car. It has the same rounded hood, vertical-slat grille, open wheels, tapered headrest, and rounded rear end.
However, one glaring flaw with this claim is that the Monopoly race car token was introduced in 1935, several years before the Kurtis Kraft company was founded.
5. 1934 Mercedes Grand Prix W25
Another theory is that the Monopoly car is a Mercedes Grand Prix W25. This particular race car was designed for the 1934 Grand Prix season.
This would certainly fit in with the timing of the Monopoly car token being introduced a year later in 1935.
The Mercedes Grand Prix W25 also bears a striking resemblance to the Monopoly car, with identical side vents, raised headrest, and curved body.
So, what model is the Monopoly car?
Nobody knows for sure what model of car the Monopoly car was based on. The car looks most similar to a 1934 Mercedes Grand Prix W25, although others have claimed that it is a 1928 Harley JDH Midget Car or a 1940s Kurtis Kraft Midget Car.
Of course, it’s entirely possible that the token design wasn’t an exact copy of any particular car. It could have just been based on the general appearance of the race cars of that era.