There's three important questions when it comes to picking the right car for use as a baby/kid hauler: Is it engaging to drive? Is it reasonably capable of hauling my kid and related kid crap? And, finally, is it shaped like a colossal sausage? I finally found the car that meets these criteria: the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile.
Those of you cross-shopping cars shaped like giant hot dogs are probably already familiar with the Wienermobile, seeing as how it's the market leader in the segment, being even more popular than Hebrew National's Frankenwagen, largely because I just now made that one up.
There's six Wienermobiles in operation right now, roaming the US, fighting crime with little plastic whistles and righting wrongs, and I was lucky enough to get Wienermobile #13, run by team #Autobuhn, to come by my house for a full toddler-test. Because the scale of the Wienermobile is so much greater than what I usually have, I enlisted the help of a back-up toddler, the delightful Sebastian, whose parents make up the musical duo The Endless. There's your plug.
Before I go into the details of how the Wienermobile deals with an afternoon of normal toddlerhood, let's go over the specs on this impressive beast. It's based on a cabover Chevy W4 truck chassis, with a 6.0L V8 making somewhere between 255 HP - 330 HP, with a custom fiberglass body. Taillights appear to be from a Firebird. It seats 6 in independent captain-style chairs with embroidered Wienermobiles on the backs, has plenty of storage in many in-floor storage lockers, a trunk at the rear, and a good-sized "closet" making up the rear 1/5 of the wiener.
There's also a full-sized LCD TV mounted on one of the interior walls, a full loudspeaker system, and GPS with the special added bonus of Oscar Mayer HQ keeping track of where you are.
So what's it like as a baby/kid car? Let's start with the plusses:
First, the look. Every kid loves the Wienermobile. Even if a kid is raised in the most joyless, vegan, anti-consumerism household, all those noble ideas go out the window when this brightly colored example of happy commercial meat comes pulling up. It's a giant hot dog, and that's a good time no matter what. A kid who gets driven around in the Wienermobile is King Toddler the Damppants, first of his/her name, of anywhere they show up.
If you have a kid who sees the Wienermobile and doesn't crack a smile, send that little future Hitler to some island crazy kid containment center, because there's no good to come out of that one. Trust me.
The interior is as good as the outside, with plenty of bright condiment colors, lots of room to store things and run around in, and huge domed windows to gaze upon the adoring masses. It's impossible not to be happy in or around the Wienermobile.
That said, there's some nontrivial flaws as well. For something that's essentially a little-kid magnet, it's weird that the seats do not have any provision for LATCH system kid-seat mounting. Perhaps it's because it's a custom-bodied limited production car never designed to be a family car, but still.
Luckily, baby seats can be locked in via the seatbelts, and I'm used to doing it this way on my old Beetle, so it's not a huge issue. The more surprising issue was that the jogger won't quite fit in the rear trunk. Again, it's not a huge problem since it fits just fine in the interior closet, but getting it in and out would be easier in the external bun trunk.
Entry and exit isn't too big an issue, though the single side-mounted aircraft-style door does take a bit of getting used to. Opening is a two step procedure involving a latch and a kick, so it's tricky to do with an armload of crazy toddler. There's some head whacking issues on entry and exit, but once inside getting a squirming kid into the car seat couldn't be easier, since you're effectively in a sausage-shaped room. And it's the first Will It Baby car to allow for two simultaneous toddler-strappings with two dads at once. Impressive.
It's a large vehicle, so parking's not great, though the friendly Weinermobile pilots, Spicy Mustard Mandy and Pigs In Blan-Kate (what are the odds of the women driving this having hot dog-related names? Astronomical.) say it'll fit in a normal parking spot, though there is significant bun-and-wiener overhang. Gas mileage is said to be about that of a large SUV, so figure 12 MPG or so for city driving, I'd bet.
There's a few issues pretty unique to the Wienermobile as well: it has a curfew of 10:30 pm, so it's not a great choice as your only car, especially if you have an emergency late-night hospital visit or something, and, technically, only the Oscar Mayer-approved drivers are allowed to drive it. So, unless you want to provide room and board for some friendly, collegiate-aged go-getters, it may not be the car for you. Though for some this could be the part that decides it.
There's also one big issue that may be a plus or a minus: the Wienermobile forces a certain morality on its drivers and passengers. Because wherever you go you'll be spotted and mobbed by delighted people, taking pictures, demanding hot dogs, you'll lose all anonymity.
So, if you were used to putting the baby in the car and then heading over to your favorite meth dealer's trailer or a quick stop at the Erotic Toys Factory Closeout store, you may start having to rethink your life decisions. You can't be a jerk to people in the Wienermobile, and the car puts an obligation of friendliness and goodwill on all who inhabit it, and that may not be for everyone.
So, unless you're willing to set aside your vices that require transportation, the Wienermobile may not be for you.
All those caveats aside, an afternoon with the Wienermobile is pretty hard to beat. Otto and Sebastian had a fantastic time just being in the car, or pointing to it and yelling "IT SO BIG" over and over again. I'm pretty sure this has a good shot of becoming one of his early, confused memories. Perhaps one day in space college at Mars Polytechnic Otto will be telling his roommate about how he seems to remember that his family used to drive a giant hot dog. He's seen pictures. Could that be right?
I should thank team #Autobuhn and encourage everyone to visit their page there so they can get points for some intra-Wienermobile contest I didn't quite follow. Still, they were great. And so is the Wienermobile. Even with the peculiar set of restrictions, it makes a wonderful toddler car, and I encourage everyone with kids to visit an Oscar Mayer Wienermobile dealership post-haste.