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Front Page » October 28, 2003 » Local News » Hotdogging is just part of a great job for Wisconsin native
Published 3,991 days ago

Hotdogging is just part of a great job for Wisconsin native


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By RICHARD SHAW
Staff reporter


Chris Szwiec is the official "Hotdogger" that drives the Wienermobile around the western United States.

His business card tells it like it is. Chris Szwiec is an official hotdogger.

No he isn't a ski bum or someone who works in a roadside stand dispensing the famous sausage like food. Instead he drives a 27 foot long fiberglass and steel, yellow and red, well known vehicle. The Oscar Meyer Wienermobile.

The famous vehicle, one of the most recognizable figures on the roads of America, was in Price on Monday, a layover on the long trip from Salt Lake to Denver, where Szwiec, his partner and the mobile were to attend an event.

Parked behind a local motel the machine drew a lot of interest, largely because it is so hard to miss. Statistics on the vehicle are all colored with hot dog terms.

The machine is 11 feet high (24 hot dogs), 27 feet in length (60 hot dogs) and is eight feet wide (18 hot dogs). It weighs the same as one million wieners, or 10,000 lbs.

The body is described as a grilled fiberglass hot dog laying on a lightly toasted fiberglass bun.

Szwiec says the machine he is driving handles most of the events from Denver to the west coast. All are registered in Wisconsin (where the company's headquarters are located) and all have personalized plates. Szwiec's machine's plate says "YUMMY."

The chassis of the Weinermobile is a 1995 Chevrolet with dual rear wheels and a 350 engine that runs on high octane mustard. It was designed by Harry Bradley.

Inside the decor is complete with various kinds of hot dog symbols and paraphernalia. The dashboard is hotdog shaped, and the walkway down the middle of the motor home like interior is done in condiment splattered carpet. The seats all have hotdog outlines on the fabric and the color of the fabric is relish. The gauges are mounted in hotdog shaped vessels as well.

There are six Wienermobiles on the road in the United States and Canada.

There is a lot of storage, described officially as enough room for 10,000 Wiener Whistles, a small plastic toy the operators give to those who visit.

The whistles were first introduced in 1951 and were first put in grocery stores in 1958. At the 1964 New York Worlds Fair the whistles sold in giant vending machines for two cents a piece.

Szwiec's job is to spread the lore of hotdogs across the land. The machine visits fairs, festivals, charity gatherings and events around the west. A native of Milwaukee, and having gone to school in Madison (at the University of Wisconsin) he has been around the lore of hotdogs for a very long time.

"I meet a lot of great people," he stated as he stood under the gull wing door that provides access to the inside of the Wienermobile. "There are kids and adults when they first come up to the machine and then they all turn into kids when they see it and start to look around."

The first Wienermobile was built in the mid-1930's and cruised the streets of Chicago. Today there are six of the machines cruising the United States and Canada, putting on an average of 1000 miles a week each. The machines are also tooling around such diverse places as Japan, Puerto Rico, Spain, Mexico and even Germany, where the hotdog was invented.

Whether you like hotdogs or not it is hard not to smile at this machine. In fact it is billed as getting 30 smiles to the gallon and also sports a front grill that has a big grin.

The Weinermobile is part of American advertising lore and a sight to behold driving down the road. It's the ultimate custom truck/car.

And when asked how it drives Szwiec puts it simply.

"It's just like driving any other 27 foot long hotdog down the road," he says.


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