Road Dog: The Story of the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile
Some vehicles achieve iconic status based on their power and performance. Others become famous simply because they look really fun to drive. The Oscar Mayer Weinermobile falls into the latter category. After all, who wouldn’t want to pilot a giant hot dog across the USA? Count me in if the job ever opens up. Cruising the Country Since 1936 There have been numerous versions of the Wienermobile since 1936, when Carl Mayer, Oscar’s nephew, oversaw the construction of the first such promotional vehicle. Gas rationing kept the vehicle off the road during WWII, but in the 1950s, the Wienermobile come roaring back to life in a number of versions, including models built on Dodge and Willy’s Jeep chassis.
1969 and 1976 both saw new Wienermobiles built on Chevy motorhome frames. In 1988, the Oscar Mayer Company launched a program in which recent college grads were hired to pilot its namesake vehicles on cross-country tours. A fleet of six new units were built to accommodate the half-a-dozen “hotdoggers” who were chosen to drive the machines.
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Over time, the various Wienermobile models have grown both in size and features. 1995 saw the release of one that was 11 feet high and 27 feet long. The 2004 version of the Wienermobile includes GPS navigation, a horn that plays 21 different takes on the company jingle and taillights from a Pontiac Firebird. In that same year, the company held a contest in which winners could drive the Wienermobile for a day. Public response was overwhelming.
Many people have driven the various incarnations of the Wienermobile over the years. But the most famous was George Molchan, a little person who operated it for two decades. Known as “Little Oscar,” Molchan was a beloved figure that visited hospitals, orphanages and other charitable institutions during his 20-year stint as driver and company representative.
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If you’re interested in a career as a Wienermobile driver, then you face stiff competition. To even apply, one must be a college student on the verge of graduating. The company narrows thousands of applicants down to a pool of 35, from which it chooses 12 lucky folks who travel in teams of two for one year. I wish I were one of them; does that qualify as wiener envy?