- Automobile History
Frankly My Dear, It's a Wienermobile
In 1936, Oscar Mayer’s nephew, Karl, conceived a promotional gimmick to advertise their company's products. A 13 foot long hot dog on wheels, which at a cost of $5,000, soon became known as the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. Shortly thereafter it was cruising the streets of Chicago, promoting Oscar Mayer's "German Style Wieners."
During the WW11 era in the 1950s, the car was kept off the road due to gas rationing. Oscar Mayer and the Gerstenslager Company also created several new vehicles about this time using a Dodge chassis or a Willys Jeep chassis. One of these is currently on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI. These Wienermobiles visited stores, schools, orphanages and children's hospitals. They also took part in various parades and other events.
Since those early days, the vehicle has undergone numerous changes and upgrades reflecting technology of the times. There are seven Wienermobiles currently in existence, each with a two member team called “hotdoggers” which are assigned a different part of the country or territory to tour.
Today’s Wienermobile vans’ interior is drenched in yellow, with little Wienermobile designs on the seat backs. The carpet has a squirted mustard pattern on it and it has six bucket seats, a hot dog-contoured glove box, cruise control and a GPS unit. It even has a sunroof.
In 1969, newer Wienermobiles were built using a Chevrolet motor home chassis sporting Ford Thunderbird tail lights. This was the first Wienermobile model to travel abroad. And in 1976 Plastic Products, inc. integrated a fiberglass and Styrofoam version, using the same Chevrolet motor home chassis.
In 1988, the company introduced its Hotdogger program. This program hires recent college graduates to drive throughout the United States and abroad. A fleet of six new Wienermobiles were made using a converted Chevrolet van chassis for the new team of Hotdoggers.
The Wienermobile grew to 27-feet long and 11-feet high in 1995. The most recent model, built in 2004, includes voice activated GPS navigation equipment, an audio center with wireless microphone and a horn that plays the Wiener Jingle in 21 different styles of music.
However, driving the novel vehicle hasn’t been without incident. In June, 2007, an alert Arizona Department of Public Safety officer pulled over a Wienermobile with the Wisconsin license plate “YUMMY” for having an allegedly stolen license plate. The officer had checked the license plate to determine if the vehicle was street legal. The license plate was reported as being stolen out of Columbia, Missouri. Oscar Mayer had not notified authorities they had obtained a replacement plate for a previously stolen one. The Wienermobile was released soon after the error was discovered.
In February, 2008, a Wienermobile slid off U.S. Route 15 in Pennsylvania due to icy conditions, along with several other vehicles. Fortunately there were no injuries and the Wienermobile received only minor damage.
On July 17, 2009, a Wienermobile in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin, was attempting to turn around in a residential driveway. The driver accidentally hit the gas pedal instead of the brake, lodging the Wienermobile under the house and destroying a deck.
On March 5, 2010, a Wienermobile was damaged when a car crashed into its side and took off the bumper. A car crashed into the side of a Wienermobile in March, 2010 taking off a bumper and causing minor injury to a 7 year old standing up in the vehicle.
During a rain storm on June 28, 2010, a Wienermobile rear-ended a car in Diboll, TX. Although no tickets were issued, both vehicles sustained minor damage in the accident.
And Texas State Troopers have also stopped a Weinermobile twice in the past two decades for speeding through the small east Texas town of Henderson.
The popularity of the Wienermobile is evident by the crowds they draw at exhibitions and the gawks and stares they receive where ever they go. Many toys and smaller versions of the Wienermobile have been made since its inception in 1936. For example the makers of “Hot Wheels” have issued to die cast versions of the car.
The "hotdogger" driver position is open to only college seniors who are about to graduate and are U.S. citizens. The job lasts from the first of June until the following first of June. Candidates are screened from an average of 2000 applicants and every March thirty final-round candidates are brought to Kraft and Oscar Mayer headquarters in Madison, Wisconsin, for interviews. Each vehicle is assigned two hotdoggers, therefore twelve people are chosen. These chosen few must be prepared to live out of hotel rooms during their year long road trip.
But before new hires are allowed to drive a Wienermobile they must complete a rigid driving program conducted by police officers in Madison, Wisconsin. There have been about 300 past hotdoggers.