Skip

The Zippo Car
April 12, 2011 4:49 PM   Subscribe

In 1947 Zippo founder George G. Blaisdell celebrated his lighter's success by commisioning the Zippo Car.

Except, that isn't the original one. "Zippo II" was built by Joe Griffin working from just a few old photographs and a zippo lighter.

Blaisdell always loved "productmobiles" and with the national success of his lighter following its use by the military in WWII, he decided to build the Zippo Car. In its first few years, the Zippo Car led parades and other celebrations around the country, visiting all 48 states. It soon needed hefty maintenance, and sometime after 1952 the car was sent to Toohey Motors in Pittsburgh. The price of all the required work came to $40,000, and the necessary repairs were going to make the car 6 inches taller than legally allowed, so the project was put on hold and the car left at the shop. By the time Blaisdell thought about his car again in the 1970's, Toohey Motors was out of business and the Zippo Car was gone.

Zippo wanted to find and refurbish the car in 1982, for the company's 50th anniversary. They launched several public searches, including 1995 campaign running ads with pictures of the Zippo Car and the tagline "Have You Seen This Car?". Finally, in 1996, Zippo relented and purchased a 1947 Chrystler Saratoga-New Yorker. Joe Griffin's shop turned it into Zippo Car II, with beautiful results. Car and Driver compares it with some other "productmobiles" (but there are plenty more ).
You can get a fuller history on page 54 of this pdf and the Zippo Car's schedule at its official website.

yes there is a commemorative lighter
posted by milestogo (21 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
ps - couldn't find a copy of the "Have You Seen This Car?" ad anywhere, but it'd be cool to see it. Supposedly it ran in Car and Driver in 1995.
posted by milestogo at 4:50 PM on April 12, 2011


From the official site, there's are pictures of the new Zippo Car on tour, which look wonderfully dated for being some 15 years old.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:02 PM on April 12, 2011


Does it constantly run out of fuel?
posted by tumid dahlia at 5:03 PM on April 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


Ford would revisit the concept a quarter-century later with the Pinto.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:12 PM on April 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


I saw this car IRL on 6th street in Austin a few years ago.

I searched using my feeble skills but I couldn't find a story I'm sure I saw on MeFi about a WWII vet who, 50 years later, was searching through his old war memorabilia. He had been a demolitions expert and was issued a GI Zippo lighter. He found his old Zippo which he had wrapped in tape in the 40's to protect it from dampness. He took off the tape and the Zippo fired up at the first flick after more than 50 years. Does anyone else remember this story?
posted by Daddy-O at 5:21 PM on April 12, 2011


That car will make a nice lighter for the inevitable giant alien from outer space that eventually comes to visit earth. I hope they have some good giant cigarettes to go with it, cos I don't really want to see a giant space alien have a nicotine fit, do you?

Anyhow, nice car. LOVE ZIPPOS. Just about one of the most perfect and pleasing things ever made. They make a nice CHING! When you flip them open and the smell of the lighter fluid is pretty awesome as well.
posted by Skygazer at 5:25 PM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ford would revisit the concept a quarter-century later with the Pinto.

That car was a blast.
posted by Skygazer at 5:29 PM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Does it constantly run out of fuel?

And it's a pain to flip over to get to that felt thingie on the bottom.
posted by tommasz at 5:35 PM on April 12, 2011


I've lost the engine flint again! Everyone help me look for it or we're not going anywhere!
posted by tumid dahlia at 5:36 PM on April 12, 2011


Anyone who has owned a Zippo lighter will swear to the lighters rarely not working after the first try, to spark a flame. the zippo lighter was improved during "world war two" as g.i.'s tried to light their cigarettes in the battle fields, with tough conditions placed on the lighter, as per wind, heavy
moisture on war ships and a lot of banging around in nap-sacks. Why do we place so much praise on a tool that lit cigarettes, which in turn was the worst health habit ever discovered by modern man.
posted by taxpayer at 8:19 PM on April 12, 2011


taxpayer writes "Why do we place so much praise on a tool that lit cigarettes, which in turn was the worst health habit ever discovered by modern man."

Because it is unusual for tools, even quality tools, more complicated than a hammer to work as intended after years of neglect and abuse.
posted by Mitheral at 8:38 PM on April 12, 2011


I bought a Zippo a couple of years ago, and what an awful piece of shit it was. Constant, constant fiddling with the stupid thing to keep it working. The wick burns up after just a few uses, and has to be pulled out and trimmed, the fuel runs out in no time, the flint gets out of adjustment -- just a horrible thing.

I don't understand why people still buy them.

Neat car, though. Very clever.
posted by Malor at 9:05 PM on April 12, 2011


I don't understand why people still buy them.

Because lighting up with a plastic lighter is just a light, but lighting up with a Zippo, well that's a Goddamn smoke.
posted by Skygazer at 9:49 PM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can still hear the heavy click of my father's Zippo opening, and smell the lighter fluid... hear the quick grate of the flint wheel and a quiet whoosh as it lit and he took a deep drag on an unfiltered Lucky Strike. The thing closed with a clank like a tank hatch and the truck would fill with the first acrid sweet smell of tobacco.

I never paid much attention to it, but I can still remember every moment of the ritual. I both hated and loved that first whiff of lighter fluid and smoke. Pungent and aromatic for a moment, before it just became cigarette smoke.

We spent many hours, driving through the West Texas desert with no air conditioning. In those days the trucks had delta windows, and you'd open them all the way to force hot dry air onto you. If it was really hot, and it often was, you'd pour water on your neck and chest - and you'd be dry again in five minutes.
posted by Xoebe at 11:20 PM on April 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Extra points if the doors make that signature Zippo metallic clink.
posted by scruss at 4:26 AM on April 13, 2011


I have to wonder if it ever met up with the Weinermobile.

And, surely, what the Zippo people should have done is commission a rigid dirigible emblazoned with their branding. Yes, a Zippolin.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:56 AM on April 13, 2011


And, surely, what the Zippo people should have done is commission a rigid dirigible emblazoned with their branding. Yes, a Zippolin.

Oh, the publicity!
posted by Sys Rq at 7:27 AM on April 13, 2011


The wick burns up after just a few uses, and has to be pulled out and trimmed, the fuel runs out in no time, the flint gets out of adjustment -- just a horrible thing.

You are buying the genuine article and not the cheap knock offs, right? I own multiple Zippos and I fill whichever one I'm using once every couple weeks, replace the flint once every other month and trim the wick maybe once a year.
posted by JaredSeth at 7:29 AM on April 13, 2011


@JaredSeth - I was going to ask the same question about whether the poster was buying knockoffs. I'd never heard of a real Zippo having that problem. A knockoff Zippo is almost as bad as smoking generic cigarettes. {grin}

I used a Zippo for about 20 years and kept it for quite awhile, even after I quit. (Nineteen years smoke-free as of last month.) When I put it in the knicknack box at a yard sale, someone snapped it up in a second - even with my initials engraved on it.
posted by Man with Lantern at 9:19 AM on April 13, 2011


even with my initials engraved on it.

Maybe it was a John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt coincidence.
posted by Mitheral at 9:49 AM on April 13, 2011


Zippo wanted to find and refurbish the car in 1982, for the company's 50th anniversary. They launched several public searches, including 1995 campaign running ads with pictures of the Zippo Car and the tagline "Have You Seen This Car?".

Did they check Jay Leno's garage?
posted by -->NMN.80.418 at 12:15 PM on April 13, 2011


« Older We're going back... to the current immediate...   |   Enhance, Rotate, Zoom in. Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post