By Talia Avakian
April 26, 2019
Mariah Tyler

When you’re a child, hearing about a giant hot dog that tours the country on wheels makes your eyes light up, but some twenty years later, I found myself having the same reaction when the hot-dog-shaped ride pulled up to our office in New York City.

I had heard about the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile in my younger years, and although I had never seen it as a child, I instantly felt like a kid again when I recently had a chance to take a ride in the historic vehicle. 

The iconic Wienermobile has been delighting children and adults since it was first created back in 1936, appearing during the Great Depression and first touring parades, grocery stores, and hospitals in Chicago before expanding to tours across the country. 

The Wienermobile has undergone a range of design changes since its original inception in the 1930s, with a fleet of six 27-foot-long and 11-foot-high hot dogs on wheels currently touring the country. 

Inside, playful nods to the snack can be found throughout, from hot-dog-shaped dashboards and keys to floors painted with 'ketchup" and "mustard" swirls, plus a horn that can play the Wiener jingle in versions ranging from rap to Cajun. 

A “bun roof” (sun roof) is painted bright blue with floating clouds to signal that there’s “always blue skies in the Wienermobile,” while drawers are stocked with Wiener Whistles and memorabilia. 

Pictured here is the current fleet of Wienermobile vehicles touring the country. 
Mariah Tyler

Originally created as a 13-foot-hot-dog shaped vehicle that toured Chicago's streets and stores in the 1930s, the vehicle went in and out of service several times: once during World War II due to gas rationing and a focus on creating canned meat for soldiers and again in the 1970s when a shift to television advertisement occurred.  

The first Wienermobile created in 1936 featured open cockpits in the center and rear and a 13-foot metal hot dog. 
Courtesy of Oscar Mayer

But it wasn’t long before fans wanted to see it back on the streets of America. When the vehicle made a reappearance for its 50th birthday in the 1980s, so many people wrote letters to the the company asking for its return, that it was back in on the road by 1988. 

The 1958 version of the Wienermobile featured a bubble-nosed wienie. 
Courtesy of Oscar Mayer

Today, Wienermobiles have six plush ketchup and mustard-colored seats, two of which are for the Hotdoggers that are chosen each year to tour through two U.S. regions.

Hotdoggers drive the vehicle through different cities, taking part in radio and television appearances and entertaining crowds with photos and memorabilia — including the beloved Wiener Whistles — at popular events like the Arizona Hot Air Balloon Classic and Kraft Hockeyville

The opportunity to be a Hotdogger is competitive, with more people having been to space than have ever driven the Wienermobile itself, but landing the job comes with a range of perks. 

These include covered travel expenses for the year, apparel, vacation time during major holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, and the ability to select your own hotel in cities you visit.

While Hotdoggers typically get two days off each week, they also have time to explore the various stops they visit, which Hotdogger Cheyenne Pepper said can often be an eye-opener to discover new locations people want to move or travel to.

“We’re in a new city every week pretty much so it flies by,” Pepper told Travel + Leisure. “You’re kind of famous for a year, so it’s buns and buns of fun out here.” 

Hotdogger Cheyenne Pepper has been driving the Wienermobile as part of the program. 
Talia Avakian

Hot dog puns are not uncommon when riding in the Wienermobile. In fact, they’re so beloved that they’re even part of the application process and training Hotdoggers receive during a two-week training program at "Hot Dog High” in Wisconsin. 

Puns range from "miles of smiles" (a phrase Hotdoggers will commonly say through the Wienermobile's speakers) to "relishing" the experience and putting on your "meat belts".

Thanks to a good turning radius, the Wienermobile offers a smooth ride that feels just like being in a large car. It has the ability to drive on highways at speed limits, so its size doesn't limit how fast it can go, but it doesn't have any rearview mirror or window, which is why Hotdoggers often practice driving with vehicles wrapped in newspaper in the back to get used to this difference during their training. 

Mariah Tyler

For Pepper, the hardest thing about driving the Wienermobile is actually parking it. Most times, they'll park the giant hot dog in two spaces, but the Wienermobile is quite "aerodogmatic," as Pepper puts it, and has even driven through Alaska's terrain in the past. 

Hotdoggers also have the vehicle for the year and will often use it on their off days to head to the movies or a grocery store, getting excited reactions from onlookers no matter where they happen to be. 

And that reaction might just be the best part of being inside the vehicle itself. 

"Everyday feels like you're in a parade, you see jaws drop as people point and take pictures," Pepper said of touring the country in the hot-dog-shaped ride. 

I saw this for myself as we drove through New York City, spotting smiles emerge on onlookers' faces once the Wienermobile would turn the corner, while others would be in their cars hoking with joy. 

“It’s always surprising to see how open people are…you don’t even know them but because you’re driving the Wienermobile, they’ll come up to you and talk about their entire life story, and that’s a really cool part of it,” Pepper said.

Parents could often be seen snapping images of the vehicle during our ride, with a few approaching the vehicle as we departed to ask about the famous Wiener whistles, which Pepper could soon be seen handing out to cheerful folks who will cherish the memory in the same way I know I will. 

"You don't realize how many people you pass who go home and say 'guess what I saw today'," Pepper said. After all, as she put it, "it's not everyday you get to see a 27-foot-long hot dog on wheels." 

If you are interested in getting a chance to see the hot dog-shaped vehicle, keep an eye out for Oscar Mayer's next recruitment of Hotdoggers, or connect with the company either via email at wmrequest@kraftheinzcompany.com or on social networks to request the Wienermobile for your next event. 

Hotdoggers have hosted everything from wedding rides and family reunions to birthday rides for hot dog lovers, so you never know when you might spot it next. 

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