The Zippo Car
Inventor of the Zippo lighter and founder of Zippo Manufacturing Company, George G. Blaisdell, loved automobiles as much as he loved his world-famous windproof lighter. As a young man, Mr. Blaisdell was impressed by a parade of "productmobiles" - incredible vehicles that resembled the products they represented. After the incredible success of Zippo after WWII, he set out to create his own "productmobile" in the image of the iconic Zippo lighter.
On June 16, 1947, Zippo purchased a 1947 Chrysler Saratoga for $2,048. Blaisdell envisioned a car that looked like a Zippo lighter. He hired Gardner Display of Pittsburgh to design the vehicle, a 1947 Chrysler Saratoga with larger-than-life lighters stretching above the roof line, complete with removable neon flames. The lids of the lighters snapped shut for travel. The word Zippo was painted on the side in 24-karat gold. The total cost to transform the vehicle into two towering windproof lighters was $25,000. Through the late ‘40s and early ‘50s, the Zippo Car traveled to all 48 contiguous states, participating in special events, trade expos, fairs and leading parades. Unfortunately, due to the weight of the modified chassis, the Zippo Car experienced frequent tire blow outs. The car was sent in to a dealership in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for repairs, but due to the projected cost of resolving the issues, the project was put on hold indefinitely. The car remained at the dealership, awaiting its fate.
In the early 1970s, Mr. Blaisdell went back to Pittsburgh to retrieve the car, only to find that the dealership had gone out of business, leaving no trace of the Zippo Car. To this day, the fate of the original Zippo Car remains a mystery.
In 1996, Zippo purchased a grey 1947 Chrysler New Yorker and began restoration of another Zippo Car to mirror the original with additional features. Eighteen months later, the task was completed with a price tag around $250,000. By 1998, the Zippo Car was back in action once again traveling the country. The Zippo Car now participates in parades, corporate sponsored events, tradeshows, and much more.
The Zippo Car continues to drive home the classic message of style, quality, and dependability while traveling the United States coast to coast. When not on the road, the Zippo Car can be found at the Zippo/Case Museum in Bradford, Pennsylvania.
- The "new" Zippo Car was delivered on May 10, 1998 and debuted at the Zippo/Case International Swap Meet on July 16.
- The car had approximately 180,000 miles under its hood when purchased in 1996.
- There have been 11 Zippo Car drivers.
- The Zippo Car has visited numerous famous landmarks including: Mount Rushmore, St. Louis Arch, The Alamo, The Grand Canyon, Hover Dam, Las Vegas Strip, Niagara Falls, the Hollywood Sign, and Bourbon Street in New Orleans.
Features of the Zippo Car:
- Twin 5 foot removable fiber glass flames
- 17 inch flint wheel
- 5 foot by 6 foot custom-made steel cab
- Electric windows
- Manual spring assisted lids
- 250 horsepower, 350 cubic inch Chevrolet small block V8 engine
- 12-volt electric system
- 24 karat gold-plated lettering
- Keyless entry doors
- Heavy duty suspension system
- Re-chromed grill and bumpers
- Length: 17ft. 11in.
- Weight: 4,920 lbs.
- Height: Lighters closed - 8 ft. | Lighters Open: 12 ft.
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