One Beefy Birthday: Oscar Mayer’s Wienermobile Turns 75

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Courtesy Oscar Mayer

Like any hot dog on a sizzling grill, the classic Wienermobile has plumped up a bit through the ages. But its hot dog evangelizing mission has remained the same since 1936.

And nothing has changed with its iconic orange and yellow shell, either (trust us – they just didn’t have color film back in the ‘30s!). The Wienermobile continues to roll on as a piece of classic Americana. And today, it dons a party hat in celebration of its 75th birthday.

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Throughout its history, the Wienermobile has crisscrossed the nation, spreading the hot dog love. But it began as a strictly local affair. The original 1936 version of the Wienermobile was a small, metal wiener-shaped shell that stretched 13 feet long, often seen cruising through Chicago’s streets to promote Oscar Mayer’s wieners. Carl Mayer, Oscar’s nephew, hatched the idea, and then became the lucky man tasked with driving the machine.

As the company boomed – in no small part because they had a giant hot dog on wheels as their de facto mascot – children of all ages knew to look out for the Wienermobile when it came through their town. Even as the Oscar Mayer expanded their product line to include B-O-L-O-G-N-A, bratwurst, bacon and, um, Lunchables, the Wienermobile rolled on as the traveling symbol of the company.

Diane Bondareff / AP Images for Oscar Mayer

The current Wienermobile model is now more than double its original length, stretching 27 feet long (or 60 hot dogs long, as the company notes in their preferred measurement units), and has spawned five sausage-shaped siblings. But the fleet of six vehicles is rarely together, as each bubble-nosed wiener on wheels is assigned to a different part of the nation.

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As the jingle goes, “I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener,” but that job is reserved for a select few. No, they don’t actually become hot dogs, but each year, 12 lucky college grads are tasked with piloting the six iterations of the Wienermobile around the nation. Called “hotdoggers,” the elite crew hauls the Weinermobile to the nation’s biggest events like the Super Bowl and Kentucky Derby to promote the company. Now that’s a job to relish.

But today, the celebration is around the Wienermobile itself. And with 75 years down so far, it’s a milestone that really cuts the mustard.

Nick Carbone is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @nickcarbone. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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