An idea of the company founder's nephew, the first Wienermobile rolled out of General Body Company's factory in Chicago and hit the road on July 18, 1936, traveling the streets of Chicago promoting Oscar Mayer "German Style Wieners". The Wiener transported the company's first spokesperson, "Little Oscar". Since then, the Wienermobile has been redesigned six times. The original Wiener was built at a cost of $5000 - a small fortune during the Great Depression. Featuring all-metal construction it was rivaled as a masterwork of design that year only by Frank Lloyd Wright's "Falling Water" house. 1950 to 1954 brought five new versions of the Wienermobile, designed by Gerstenlager of Wooster, Ohio, built upon a Dodge chassis and featured innovations such as a high-fidelity sound system and a sunroof. Even more important, perhaps, was the addition of a bun.
A pristine 1952 Wienermobile is one of the most-photographed artifacts at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.
1958 a "jet age" model was built by the Gisholt Company of Madison, Wisconsin. This design, which was highly influential on the designs of future Wienermobiles, was the brainchild of Brooks Stevens, creator of the distinctive Excalibur automobile and featured a futuristic bubble-nose cockpit. Yet, the chassis was firmly grounded in down-to-earth technology, and was that of a Willys Jeep.
Two more Wienermobiles were designed in-house in 1969 by Oscar Meyer mechanics at the company headquarters in Madison, Wisconsin. This model sports a variety of vintage details, a Chevy van chassis with a V-6 engine, and Ford Thunderbird taillights. One of these vehicles currently travels the mainland United States, while the other does duty in Puerto Rico. This design was replicated in 1975 by Plastics Products of Milwaukee, which used the same mold to fabricate a fiberglass and styrofoam unit. This replica was built on a 1973 Chevy motor-home chassis, and was the first Wienermobile to tour a foreign country, promoting the Oscar Meyer brand in Spain.
In 1988, Al Unser, Jr. took the Wienermobile for a test lap at the Indy 500.
No fewer than ten vehicles joined the Wienermobile fleet in 1988. These vehicles, manufactured by the Stevens Automotive Corporation of Milwaukee, Wisconsin (founded by none other than Brooks Stevens) consisted of 23-foot long fiberglass hot dogs, built on converted 1988 Chevrolet van chassis powered by V-6 engines. Affectionately called "Lamborwienies" or "Wienebagos," they came equipped with features such as gull-wing doors, cellular phones, and stereo systems that play twenty-one versions of the popular "Oscar Meyer Wiener Jingle"
In 1995, world-renowned Californian automobile designer Harry Bradley developed a concept Wienermobile designed to drive the Oscar Meyer company into the twenty-first century. Constructed by Carlin Manufacturing of Fresno, California, this 27-foot long, 11-foot high, 10,500 pound Wienermobile features Grand Prix headlights and Trans Am tail lights, and a wealth of interior design perks –including state-of-the-art audio/visual equipment (including a big-screen video monitor), relish-colored seats, a computerized "condiment control panel", and a hot dog-shaped dashboard and glove compartment. Designed to run like a high-powered touring sedan, it sports a V-8, 180 horsepower engine and can perform in excess of 90 miles per hour. This futuristic conveyance is the first Weinermobile constructed using CAD (computer aided design) imaging tools and even underwent tests in the wind tunnel at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
In 2000 yet another new model of the Wienermobile was built. This vehicle, the creation of Craftsmen Industries, Inc., in St. Charles, Montana, includes previous features such as a "bun roof" for sunny days, condiment-flavoured interior upholstery, and the latest in audio/visual equipment. The new model, with a GMC W-series chassis and a 5700 VORTEC engine, will be the most powerful Wienermobile in the fleet. New for the 2000 model is a GPS (global positioning system) navigational device, which will help Oscar Meyer executives to guide the Wienermobile fleet by satellite wherever it might travel around the world; destinations planned for the Wienermobile in 2000 include Mexico, and perhaps appropriately, Germany.
The hot dog theme is apparent throughout the vehicle. It sports a hot dog shaped dashboard and relish-colored seats. Directly above the driver's head is a computerized "condiment control panel". While many vehicles come with a sunroof, the Wienermobile has a "bun roof". The Oscar Meyer Wienermobile weighs as much as 100,000 hotdogs. Packed in the back of the Wienermobile are boxes of Wienermobile whistles, Wienermobile Hot Wheels, Wienermobile-shaped Beanie Babies and a karaoke machine featuring the Oscar Mayer wiener and bologna jingles."
Driving their wieners, a team of talented and personable "Hotdoggers" have attended Hot Dog High in Madison, Wisconsin, where they learn about the company's products and history as well as receiving specialized driver training. After taking the Hotdogger Oath and graduating, new Hotdoggers travel the country for one year. At each Wienermobile appearance they take photos, give out Wiener Whistles and conduct promotional prize giveaways.
Today, the worldwide Wienermobile fleet stands at twelve vehicles, each of which travels about 1,000 miles per week or about 50,000 miles per year. Each has a customized license plate; over the years, some of these have read YUMMMY, WEENR, BIG BUN, HOT DOG, OUR DOG, OSCAR, HOTDOGN, BOLOGNA, ROLN DOG, THE WRKS. WNR MBLE, WEENER, WNR MOBILE, and I WSH I WR. Hotdoggers meet and greet people as the goodwill ambassadors for Oscar Mayer, execute promotional events, public appearances, and charity functions from coast to coast, and interact with the media. The Wienermobile has appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Late Show with David Letterman, and Love Connection. It has also been on MTV and CNN Headline News. In print, it has been covered by such diverse publications as Rolling Stone and The Wall Street Journal. It has appeared in two movies featuring some of the most beloved American comic actors: Ladybugs, starring Rodney Dangerfield, and Another You, with Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder.