Happy 80th Birthday, Oscar Mayer Wienermobile!
Break out the diamond and pearl-encrusted sausages: it’s time to celebrate the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile’s 80th anniversary!
That’s right, today marks the eighth decade of existence for the famous frankfurter on wheels, which was first conceived in 1936 by Oscar Mayer’s nephew, Karl G. Mayer. The original model cost just $5,000, and was merely 13 feet in length. Today’s Wienermobiles are more than twice as long, stretching out to 27 feet (or 60 hot dogs, which is the preferred unit of measurement, in much the same way that horses are correctly measured in “hands”).
During World War II, the Wienermobile was sidelined due to gas rationing, but new models were built on Dodge and Jeep Willys chassis’ in the 1950s (the “German Wieners” label now conspicuously absent from the vehicle). These postwar versions were driven by brand spokesman “Little Oscar,” a little person who made public appearances in the Wienermobile for twenty years, often handing out plastic “wiener whistles” at these events.
Today, the six active Wienermobiles are driven by a select group of graduating college seniors, who are known as “hotdoggers.”
There are not many famous hotdogger alumni, although Speaker Paul Ryan did reportedly once get behind the wheel of an Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, back when he worked as a Kraft sales rep one summer.
Comedian Jon Stewart also once piloted the iconic vehicle for his MTV show, but repurposed the footage for a lewd joke that nearly cost a hotdogger his job.
Last December, Oscar Mayer released a limited edition number of remote control Wienermobiles, just in time for the holiday season. Hardcore fans can also download the Wienermobile app, which allows users to see exactly where the various Wienermobiles are located at any given moment.
No word yet on how the sausage company will be celebrating today’s milestone, but we expect they have something planned. Their social media presence is pretty good:
— Oscar Mayer (@oscarmayer) October 5, 2015
Patrick Grieve was born in Southwestern Ohio and has lived there all of his life, with the exception of a few years spent getting a Creative Writing degree in Southeastern Ohio. He loves to take road trips, sometimes to places as distant as Northeastern or even Northwestern Ohio. Patrick also enjoys old movies, shopping at thrift stores, going to ballgames, writing about those things, and watching Law & Order reruns. He just watches the original series, though, none of the spin-offs. And also only the ones they made before Jerry Orbach died. Season five was really the peak, in his opinion. See more articles by Patrick.