Gear Head Tuesday – The Oscar Meyer Wienermobile

Gear Head

Weiner Mobile

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 6.02.55 PM

This past Sunday, I stopped at the Safeway on Waterman Boulevard just off of Interstate 80. The Oscar Meyer Wienermobile was there. I snapped a shot of it with my iPhone. The image quality isn’t great – the day was quite overcast. In any case, here’s a little history of the Wienermobile:

The Oscar Meyer company was a family-owned business until the late 1970s. After the retirement of
Oscar G. Mayer, the third family member to run the company, in 1977 at age 62. the company was sold to food giant, General Foods. Later, General Foods merged with Kraft Foods, forming Kraft General Foods. Kraft General Foods has further evolved (or devolved, depending on your point of view) since then, spinning off some of its businesses, but Oscar Meyer remains in the fold.

In an odd, yet amusing display of marketing genius, the nephew of Oscar Mayer Sr. devised an idea to create a rolling advertisement that would get people talking about their new hot dog company. Officially dubbed the Wienermobile, it’s been known worldwide as the staple of food-based automotive advertising and children’s smiles for the past 78 years.

1936 Wienermobile:
1936 Weinermobile

The nephew of Oscar Mayer, Karl G. Mayer, had a prolific idea in 1936 to help promote the company’s hot dogs. This was the first of a long history of Wienermobiles.

Wienermobile Specifications, 1936:
Builder: General Body Company of Chicago, Illinois
Cost: $5,000
Bells and Whistles: 13 feet of metal in the shape of an Oscar Mayer Wiener, open cockpits in center and rear of vehicle.

1940 Wienermobile:

1940 Weinermobile

The 1940’s Wienermobile was a bit smaller than the 1930’s model and featured a small pod on top for the driver as well as a hatch at the very rear for the ‘world’s tiniest chef’ to poke out of.

Wienermobile Specifications, 1940:
Builder: General Body Company of Chicago, Illinois
Cost: $5,000
Bells and Whistles: built in the shape of an Oscar Mayer Wiener, open cockpits in center and rear of vehicle.

1952 Wienermobile:

1952 Weinermobile

Wooster, Ohio based builder, Gerstenslagger, built five new Wienermobiles in 1952, one of which can be seen on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.

Wienermobile Specifications, 1952:
Build: Dodge chassis with major improvements from the first Wienermobile
Bells and Whistles: Hi-fidelity sound system, sun roof.

1958 Wienermobile:

1958 Weinermobile

Brooks Stevens, who did the 1962 Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk and several other Studebakers, and who was also the creator of the Studebaker-based Excalibur (a knock-off of the Mercedes SSK), designed the 1958 Wienermobile. It was a style that would transcend three future generations of Wienermobiles.

Wienermobile Specifications, 1958: Built on a Jeep Chassis. (Brooks Stevens also did design work for Jeep.)

Bells and Whistles: Signature bubble-nose.

1969 Wienermobile:

1969 Weinermobile

There were two 1969 Wienermobiles built, this time by Oscar Mayer’s own mechanics at the company’s headquarters in Madison, Wisconsin. This was the first Wienermobile to tour a foreign country.

Wienermobile Specifications, 1969:
Build: Chevy motor-home chassis with V-6 engine.

Bells and Whistles: Ford Thunderbird taillights.

1988 Wienermobile:

1988 Weinermobile

Brooks Stevens created yet another Wienermobile, this time under the supervision of his company, Stevens Automotive Corporation of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This iteration was built as a ten-wiener fleet in order to build brand recognition throughout the country.

Wienermobile Specifications, 1988:
Build: Converted 1988 Chevy van chassis powered by V-6 engines.

1995 Weinermobile

1995 Weinermobile

The 1995 Harry Bradley designed Wienermobile was the first to utilize CAD, ushering in a new era for the ‘big wiener that could.’

Wienermobile Specifications, 1995:
Builder: Carlin Manufacturing of Fresno, CA
Bells and Whistles: Pontiac Grand Prix headlights, Pontiac Trans Am tail lights, state-of-the-art audio/visual equipment, relish-colored seats, computerized “condiment control panel,” hot dog shaped dashboard, it measured 27 ft. long, 11 ft. high, and weighed 10,500 pounds!

2000 Weinermobile

2000 Weinermobile

The 2000 Wienermobile was the most powerful to ever enter the fleet, with a GM-sourced 5700 Vortec V8 engine sitting in a GMC W-series chassis.

Wienermobile Specifications, 2000:
Builder: Craftsmen Industries, Inc., of St. Charles, MO
Bells and Whistles: Bun roof, relish-colored seats, ketchup-colored walkway, carpet designed with “everything on it,” state-of-the-art audio/visual equipment to play the famous “Oscar Mayer Wiener Jingle.”

2004 Weinermobile

2004 Weinermobile

The 2004 Wienermobile carried on with its GMC W4 series chassis, with the same 300 horsepower Vortec 5700 V8 engine, gull wing doors and GPS navigation.

Wienermobile Specifications, 2004:
Builder: Prototype Source in Santa Barbara, CA
Bells and Whistles: Gull-wing door with automatic retractable step, voice-activated GPS Navigational System, mustard-splattered walkway, audio center complete with wireless microphone, blue sky ceiling art, mustard and ketchup colored seats, official “Oscar Mayer Wiener Jingle” horn.

2008 Weinermobile

2008 Weintermobile

For 2008, the Wienermobile was downsized though the fun was not. Built atop a MINI Cooper S chassis, the new ‘Mini Wiener’ proves that size really doesn’t matter.

Wienermobile Specifications, 2008
Builder: Prototype Source in Santa Barbara, CA
Bells and Whistles: Voice-activated GPS Navigational System, blue sky ceiling, mustard and ketchup colored seats, official “Oscar Mayer Jingle” Horn.

The current Wienermobile is back to a much larger size than the Mini-based one of 2008 but I haven’t found any information on who built it or what powertrain it has.

In closing, here’s the Oscar Mayer Weiner Song in an ad from 1965.


Add yours →

  1. Funny, as long as they have been around and the # of miles, I don’t think I ever saw one in the ‘wild’. The 1952 model looks like the one in the ‘Henry Ford’. That one was the only one that ever met me personally. (smile)

    Some good ideas hold on, others just seem like ‘good ideas’.


  2. When I was a little child living in Chicago, the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile use to come by my neighborhood.
    They use to give out hot dogs for us then later the little whistle.
    About 3 years ago I was stopping for some takeout and there parked in the parking lot was the Wienermobile.
    I took some photos but it is on my other phone and I don’t know how to get them off now.
    Plus late one night it pass my on the road. What a hoot !
    I think people just don’t get it anymore it is such fun, happy advertisement.

    cheers, parsnip


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