“Wienermobile” is 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 fuel 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, Michigan. These Wienermobiles were piloted by “Little Oscar” (portrayed by George Molchan) 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 outside the United States. 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 currently eleven active Wienermobiles, six of which are the full-sized familiar models, each assigned to their own section of the United States; and five of which are the other versions: the food truck, WienerMini, WienerRover, WienerCycle, and the WienerDrone. The “hotdogger” position of driving the Wienermobile is open to US 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 2,000 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 in total are chosen. Currently there are about 300 hotdogger alumni.