The Evolution of the Wienermobile

the 2011 version of the wienermobile

The Wienermobile is an American icon, and it’s been around since 1936! You’ve probably seen it at some point. You may even have one of the “wiener whistles” that the drivers hand out. But as familiar as it is, it’s gone through some changes. Let’s take a look at the evolution of the classic—if odd—car.

1. The Original Wienermobile (1936)

the original 1936 wienermobile

Carl G. Mayer, Oscar Mayer’s nephew, had this custom vehicle built by the General Body Company of Chicago in the shape of a hot dog to promote the brand around the Chicago area. The driver just sort of poked out awkwardly from the middle of the car.

(image via Blogspot)

2. General Body Overhaul (1940s)

the 1940s gernal body overhaul wienermobile

In the following years, the Wienermobile was revamped. A glass enclosure now protected the driver of this scaled-down model. It expanded its travel radius to spread the good word about Oscar Meyer up and down the East and Midwest. World War II gas rationing put a stop to its use—but the Wienermobile would soon be back in action.

(image via PDXRetro)

3. Gerstenslager (1952)

the 1952 gerstenslager wienermobile

In 1952, a new Wienermobile hit the streets. Built by The Gerstenslager Company out of Wooster Ohio, the new vehicle was built on a Dodge truck chassis. The driver now sat in the front of the hot dog, surrounded by a cool-looking, visor-like array of windows. Some of these models still survive today—there’s one at the Henry Ford Museum.

(image via Kinja)

4. Brooks Stevens (1958)

the 1958 brooks stevens wienermobile

Brooks Stevens was having a Moment in the 1950s. He kicked off the craze of robins’-egg-blue appliances, as well as the 1949 Hydra-Glide Harley, the Jeep Wagoneer, and later the 1962 Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk. But one of his most popular designs was this Wienermobile, built on a Willys Jeep chassis and featuring a remarkable bubble nose that would be echoed elsewhere in pop culture—like the cars and helicopters of Batman.

(image via Kinja)

5. Built In-House (1969)

the 1969 built in-house wienermobile

The next Wienermobile model was built by Oscar Mayer’s own mechanics. They made a couple of these models, out of a Chevrolet motor home chassis, with the taillights from a Ford Thunderbird, all powered by a V6 engine. This was the first Wienermobile to travel overseas, a move perhaps enabled by its more economical size.

(image via Kinja)

6. Plastics Products (1975)

the 1975 plastics products wienermobile

Not a terrifically inspired company name, and not a terrifically inspired Wienermobile. In 1975 Plastics Products ran with what was essentially an authorized replica of the Wienermobile that came before it, made out of fiberglass and styrofoam.

(image via Truck Trend)

7. Stevens Automotive Corporation (1988)

the 1988 stevens automotive corporation wienermobile

During the ’80s, Oscar Mayer finally debuted a long-overdue upgrade, unveiling a fleet of ten Wienermobiles and a program to hire college students on summer break as “hotdoggers” to drive the cars around the country. They went back to Brooks Stevens, to design a new Wienermobile for a new era, this time through his Stevens Automotive Corporation. The new model sported a V6, powering a Chevy van chassis. Unchanged since 1969? The T-bird taillights.

(image via Kinja)

8. Harry Bentley Bradley (1995)

the 1995 harry bentley bradley wienermobile

It took less than a decade for us to get a new Wienermobile this time around. Harry Bradley brought his artistic vision to the car, and for the first time, CAD (computer-aided design) software was used to design a Wienermobile. This version of the classic car was custom-designed, but incorporated Grand Am headlights and Trans Am taillights, and was a whopping 27 feet long.

(image via Wikipedia)

9. Craftsmen Industries (2000)

the 2000 craftsmen industries wienermobile

After some mechanical problems, Oscar Meyer looked to build a more powerful, more stable vehicle. They shortened the wiener up a little, while also making it wider and taller. Ultimately they wound up with a powerful GM 5700 Vortec V8 powering a GMC W-series chassis.

(image via Blogspot)

10. Craftsmen Redesign (2001)

the 2001 craftsmen redesign wienermobile

Unfortunately, the W-series chassis had problems keeping the wiener aloft, and a massive number of suspension problems forced them to attempt numerous revisions. Just one year after the last redesign, Craftsman was back at it again, this time with a RAM 1500-series chassis with a flipped axle, cradling a 5.2L Magnum V8.

(image via Pomona Swap Meet)

11. Prototype Source (2004)

the 2004 prototype source wienermobile

Prototype Source brought back a lot of previous elements for their 2004 revamp. This is the Wienermobile as we know it today. a GMC W-series chassis with Pontiac Firebird taillights, holding a 6.0L, 300-hp 5700 Vortec V8. The modern version also has gullwing doors, a horn that plays the jingle in 21 different genres of music,  and a voice-activated GPS. There are currently six of these babies roaming the countryside.

(image via Winding Road)

12. The Mini (2008)

the 2008 Mini wienermobile

Of course, there are a lot of places you can’t go when you’re driving around a car with a 27-foot hot dog on top. To that end, Prototype Source developed this 15-foot Wienermobile out of this MINI Cooper S Hardtop with a 1.6L turbocharged I-4.

(image via Pinimg)

13. 75th Anniversary Food Truck (2011)

2011 75th anniversary food truck wienermobile

To celebrate the 75th anniversary of this American icon, Oscar Meyer sent a food truck incarnation of the Wienermobile across the country to 12 cities to actually serve hot dogs—something that the actual Wienermobile has never done. In addition to the 6 main models and the MINI, this food truck makes up the eighth and final Wienermobile in commission today.

(image via Toledo Blade)