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"Wienermobile" is the name for a series of automobiles shaped like a hot dog on a bun which are used to promote and advertise Oscar Mayer products in the United States. The first version was created in 1936 by Oscar Mayer's nephew, Carl G. Mayer, and variants are still used by the Oscar Mayer company today. Drivers of the Wienermobiles are known as Hotdoggers and often hand out toy whistles shaped as replicas of the Wienermobile, known as Wienerwhistles.
The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile has evolved from Carl Mayer's original 1936 vehicle to the vehicles seen on the road today. Although gas rationing kept the Wienermobile off the road during World War II, in the 1950s Oscar Mayer and the Gerstenslager Company created several new vehicles using a Dodge chassis or a Willys Jeep chassis. One of these models is on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI. These Wienermobiles were piloted by "Little Oscar" who would visit stores, schools, orphanages, and children's hospitals and participate in parades and festivals.
In 1969, new Wienermobiles were built on a Chevrolet motor home chassis and featured Ford Thunderbird taillights. The 1969 vehicle was the first Wienermobile to travel to foreign countries. In 1976 Plastic Products, Inc., built a fiberglass and styrofoam model, again on a Chevrolet motor home chassis.
In 1988, Oscar Mayer launched its Hotdogger program, where recent college graduates were hired to drive the Wienermobile through various parts of the nation and abroad. Using a converted Chevrolet van chassis, Stevens Automotive Corporation and noted industrial designer Brooks Stevens built a fleet of six Wienermobiles for the new team of Hotdoggers.
With the 1995 version, the Wienermobile grew in size to 27 feet long and 11 feet high. The 2004 version of the Wienermobile includes a voice-activated GPS navigation device, an audio center with a wireless microphone, a horn that plays the Wiener Jingle in 21 different genres from Cajun to Rap to Bossa Nova, according to American Eats, and sports fourth generation Pontiac Firebird taillights.
Following mechanical problems with the Isuzu Elf, Oscar Mayer decided to adopt a larger chassis in order to accommodate an increase in size of the signature wiener running through the middle. While the Wienermobile was not as long as the 1995 version, it was considerably wider and taller. Craftsmen Industries went through numerous overhauls of the truck including a flipped axle and a leveling kit. This version held a record for numerous suspension problems, most leading to the chassis not being able to hold the large weight of the Oscar Mayer Wiener.
In 2004, Oscar Mayer announced a contest whereby customers could win the right to use the Wienermobile for a day. Within a month, the contest had generated over 15,000 entries.
There are eight Wienermobiles in existence.
|1936||General Body Company – Chicago, Illinois||Purpose-built chassis||N/A|
|1952||Gerstenslager – Wooster, Ohio||Dodge chassis||N/A|
|1958||Brooks Stevens||Willys Jeep chassis||N/A|
|1969||Oscar Mayer – Madison, Wisconsin||Chevrolet chassis with Ford Thunderbird taillights||V6 engine|
|1975||Plastics Products – Milwaukee, Wisconsin||fibreglass/styrofoam replica of 1969||V6 engine|
|1988||Stevens Automotive Corporation – Milwaukee, Wisconsin||Chevrolet van chassis with Ford Thunderbird taillights||V6 engine|
|1995||Harry Bentley Bradley for Carlin Manufacturing – Fresno, California||Purpose-built chassis with Pontiac Grand Am headlights, Pontiac Trans Am taillights||N/A|
|2000||Craftsmen Industries – St. Charles, Missouri||GMC W-series chassis||5700 Vortec V8|
|2001||Craftsmen Industries - San Antonio, Texas||RAM 1500-series chassis, flipped axle||5.2L Magnum V8|
|2004||Prototype Source – Santa Barbara, California||GMC W-series chassis with Pontiac Firebird taillights||6.0L 300–5700 Vortec V8|
|2008||Prototype Source – Santa Barbara, California||MINI Cooper S Hardtop||1.6L Supercharged I-4|
Source: Oscar Mayer
There are currently eight active Wienermobiles, six of which are the full-sized familiar models (the other two are the Mini and the food truck versions) with each assigned a part of the country. The "hotdogger" position of driving the Wienermobile is open to U.S. citizens, and the job lasts from the first of June until the following first of June. Only college seniors who are about to graduate are eligible. Both current hotdoggers and Oscar Mayer recruiters visit college campuses across the country in search of the next round of hotdoggers. Candidates are screened from an average of 2000 applicants. Every March, a pool of thirty final-round candidates are brought to Kraft Foods and Oscar Mayer headquarters in Madison, Wisconsin, for interviews. Each vehicle can hold two hotdoggers, and twelve people are chosen. Currently there are about 300 hotdogger alumni. U.S. Congressman Paul Ryan was not a hotdogger, but reportedly drove the Wienermobile one time as a guest during a summer job as a Kraft sales representative.
Toys and smaller versions of the Wienermobile have been made over the years. Hot Wheels and Match Box has issued diecast versions of the car.
The following are vanity license plates that have been used for the Wienermobile:
In 1997, an Oscar Mayer Wienermobile promotional vehicle came to a stop inbound on Storrow Drive in Boston, Massachusetts, during rush-hour traffic. The wiener driver feared the he would not be able to fit under a 10-foot pedestrian bridge crossing the busy road. In the photo, he is waiting for assistance (photo 9 in slideshow).
In December 2001, The Wienermobile had to be towed to an autoshop in Austin, Texas, after the engine overheated, due to a mishap with the engineering, numerous suspension cracks had formed alongside the truck. After a long overhaul, the Wienermobile was back on the road touring the South-West.
In June 2002, a Wienermobile crew was pulled over by police after driving on a road closed to commercial traffic near the Pentagon, just outside Washington, D.C. The drivers were questioned then directed to the nearest exit without a ticket.
In June, 2007, a Wienermobile with the Wisconsin license plate of YUMMY made headlines after being stopped by an Arizona Department of Public Safety officer for having an allegedly stolen license plate. Officer K. Lankow had observed the Wienermobile slowing traffic and checked the license plate to determine if the vehicle was street legal. The license plate came back as being stolen out of Columbia, Missouri, so the officer stopped the Wienermobile and detained the driver. Oscar Mayer had not notified police that they had obtained a replacement plate after the previous one had been stolen, and that it should be considered stolen only if not on a Wienermobile. The Wienermobile was released soon after the error was revealed.
On February 11, 2008, a Wienermobile slid off U.S. Route 15 outside of Mansfield, Pennsylvania, due to icy conditions following a winter storm, along with several other vehicles, drawing moderate local media attention. There were no injuries, and the Wienermobile suffered only minor damage.
On July 17, 2009, a Wienermobile on a cul-de-sac in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin, was attempting to turn around in a residential driveway. The driver accidentally hit the gas pedal instead of the brake, which lodged the Wienermobile under the house and destroyed a deck.
From June 28, 2009, to July 19, 2009, a Wienermobile visited Hawaii and was met with harsh criticism from the local Outdoor Circle, best known for pushing Hawaii's strict billboard ban through the 1927 legislature. A representative for the Oscar Mayer company insisted that the mobile hot-dog-on-a-bun did nothing wrong. There was no indication that an environmental impact statement will be demanded.
During a rain storm on June 28, 2010, a Wienermobile rear-ended a car in Diboll, Texas, on US 59 at Lumberjack Dr. Although no tickets were issued by Diboll PD, both vehicles sustained minor damage in the accident. No injuries were reported.
Texas State Trooper Corporal Shawn McGee and Corporal Jesse Stewart have stopped the Wienermobile twice in the past two decades for speeding through the small east Texas town of Henderson. [Full articles in Henderson Daily News]
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