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General Body Co.
General Body Co.,1932-1987; General Body Sales Corp.(1930s-40s); General Coach Corp.(1970s-1980s) Chicago, Illinois
Associated Builders


Although the General Body Company of Chicago is mainly remembered as the constructor of the original Oscar-Mayer Weinermobile, more significantly it introduced streamlining to the commercial body industry, which up until that time had been producing boxes on wheels.

Our subject was unrelated to similarly-named firms located in Defiance, Ohio; Bemidji, Minnesota; Kansas City, Missouri, Everett, Massachusetts and Detroit, Michigan.

General Body Co. was founded by Chicago native William R. Hoyerman (b. May 11, 1903 – d. 17 July 17, 1989) on November 11, 1932.

William R. Hoyerman was born on May 11, 1903 to William Fred (b.Oct 23, 1867-d. Mar 2, 1917) and Emma J. (Moeller) Hoyerman (b.Feb. 1875) His parents were married on November 26, 1894 in Chicago, his father’s profession at the time of his birth was insurance salesman. William R. Hoyerman’s grandparents (William Fred Hoyerman’s parents) were born in Germany, His grandparents William (b. 1837-d. Sep. 10, 1904), and Wilhelmine Fisher Hoyerman moving to Chicago in the 1860s where his grandfather ran a well-known tobacco shop.

William Fred and Emma J. (Moeller) Hoyerman had two children, our subject, William R. (b. May 11, 1903 and Andrew Orville Hoyerman (b.January 1899-d. April 22, 1948 – attend Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois). William Fred Hoyerman (b.Oct 23, 1867-d. Mar 2, 1917) died unexpectedly at the age of 49. His widow Emma J. Hoyerman (b.1874) remarried Oct 8, 1919 to Herman J. Krueger.

William R. Hoyerman’s son, William Henry Hoyerman was born on May 11, 1926 and passed away on Mar 21, 1987 at Sanibel Island, Florida at the age of 60, preceding his father in death by a little over two years, the senior William passing away on July 17, 1989 at 86 years old in Winnetka, Cook County, IL.

William F. Hoyerman's Insurance Agency was originally located inside the Chicago Loop on the fifth floor of the Marquette Building at 140 S. Dearborn. By 1915 he had relocated to an office located at 1005 S. Dearborn St. At the time of his father's unexpected passing at the age of 49 on March 2, 1917, the Hoyerman family resided at 2259 Chicago Ave., Chicago. William F.'s widow Emma J. Hoyerman (b.1874) remarried Oct. 8, 1919 to Herman J. Krueger.

Although evidence is lacking William R. Hoyerman's early education was likely in the public schools of Chicago after which he entered the body business as an apprentice in one of Chicago's commercial wagon shops, H. McFarlane & Co. being the most likely.

Hoyerman officially organized the General Body Co. on November 11, 1932, the firm starting out in the Chicago suburb of Avondale in a 9,150 sq. ft. garage located at 2838 N. Elston Ave., Chicago. (The structure exists and is currently the home of Capital Auto Body Elston runs parallel to the Kennedy Expressway (Interstate 90/94) as it passes through the northwest Chicago suburbs, approximately 20 miles northwest of the Chicago Loop.

Not only did they build the original Oscar Mayer Weinermobile, they also constructed aerodynamic delivery vans for the Chicago/Milwaukee-based meat packer. Other projects included a fleet of high-top delivery van bodies built on 1934 International chassis for Chicago's Marshall & Fields Department Store and are known to have built a number of streamlined bodies on Dodge, White and International chassis during the 30's and 40's

Pictured to the right is a streamlined delivery van constructed for Chicago's Olson Rug Co., 35 E Madison St. Chicago (At the Loop)

General Body was not the only Chicago firm building streamlined truck bodies, a 1934 issue of Power Wagon included pictures of a streamlined Coca-Cola delivery truck constructed by H. McFarlane & Company, another Chicago coachbuilder dating to just after the end of the Civil War.

The August 1935 issue of Autobody includes an article on streamlining that was accompanied by a picture of a body built by the firm for Sanders Tri-Chlor-Ethylene Cleaning, of Detroit, Mich:

"Front view of zephyr-type body built by General Body Co., Chicago, for quick pick-up and delivery of rugs.

"Zephyr-Type Commercial Body

"Streamlined Design Adapts Itself Admirably to Delivery Service Of Which This Vehicle Is the First Unit


"Now that streamlining has definitely proved its value from the standpoints of beauty and utility, without which the mode so notably modern is missing, there comes to the forefront in commercial body construction that factor so necessary at all times, namely, loading space.

"Evidence of this trend is quite noticeable in the conservation of space in the cab. For instance, by enclosing the engine in the cab in one job, a body builder was able to increase the loading space by 28 inches. In bodies of this type the cab practically loses its identity, except that it still has windows and doors, but the doors are so cleverly designed and unitized with the body that the cab readily becomes identified not merely as a cab but as a part of the body. Then, too, with the cab designed into the body and forming more closely a unitized part of it than formerly, the streamlining takes place more naturally, and with this more complete unitization the fenders have disappeared, giving the entire width of the body to utilized loading space.

"That the individual body builder has contributed his share toward the promotion of individuality in design of present-day bodies, there can be little doubt. Perhaps necessity has had its part in the design also, for what specific loading and hauling problems in mind the concern with such a problem goes to the local body builder and outlines his problems. The local body builder, in the instance I have in mind, has its drafting department where designs are made up on paper, much in the same manner as an architect would design a building preliminary to its actual construction. With the details as to design worked out and OK'd, the body builder constructs the body in conformity with the specifications which are intended to meet a specific need. This requirement may be loading space or features inside the body. When the body is finished, it is put to work to do a specific job in an individualized way.

"There could doubtless be cited many examples, and here are two of them. First is a special type of body, deluxe panel, for the dying and cleaning industry, built by the General Body Co., Chicago, for the Sanders Tri-Chlor-Ethylene Cleaning, Detroit, Mich. This body has some of the features mentioned in this article.

"Built by General Body Co., Chicago, for Sanders Tri-Chlor- Ethylene Cleaning, Detroit. International chassis, 125" wheelbase. Overall length, 17'. Inside dimensions, length, 9' 3"; width, 67"; height, 56". Equipped with rods for hanging clothes."

Built by General Body Co. from a design created by Carl Gottfried Mayer (b. 1903), the very first Oscar Mayer Wienermobile hit the streets of Chicago on July 18th, 1936. The 13-ft. steel-paneled productmobile was constructed over a tube-steel framework welded to a 4-cylinder International light truck chassis.

The Oscar Mayer Company dates to 1883 when two German immigrants, Carl G. Mayers' father, Gottfried (b.1863) and uncle Oscar Ferdinand (b.1859), took over the Kolling Meat Market, a near northside Chicago butcher shop popular with the city's predominantly German population. They were joined by their brother Max O.(b.1860) in 1888 and the business grew and in 1904 their Edelweiss-brand sausages could be purchased throughout Chicago – Gottfried oversaw production, Max handled the books and Oscar oversaw sales and marketing. Numerous brand-names and slogans were experimented until the 'Oscar Mayer' moniker was decided upon.

After college Carl G. Mayer went to work for the firm, and in 1924 instituted the nationa's first self-serve bacon package, a move which took Oscar Mayer from a minor player in the bacon business to its top brand. A second marketing innovation debuted in 1929 when the firm began wrapping its wieners with a yellow paper band that included the company name and U.S. government inspection stamp. At a time when most wieners were sold in bulk the yellow band made Oscar Mayer Wieners instantly recognizable and assured consumers of consistent taste and quality.

Introduced to highlight the firm's distinctive yellow band, the $5,000 hotdog on wheels featured a center-mounted cockpit for the driver and a rear-mounted hatch in which "Little Oscar", the company's diminutive spokesman, could greet the waiting throngs of children on its mid-west promotional tours.

The vehicle garnered much publicity for the Chicago-based meat processor and various modifications were made to the vehicle over the next few years, one later photo shows a crudely-executed glass roof over the cockpit that protected the driver during inclement weather. A second Weinermobile is purported to have been constructed by General Body for Oscar-Mayer, but photographic evidence is lacking.

Introduced midway through 1937, International's new D-300 COE (cab-over-engine) chassis provided a great platform for aerodynamic coachwork. Pictured on this page is a beautiful late-30s Oscar-Mayer delivery van constructed by General Body using a D-300 chassis. Compare that to the homely looking COE unit constructed for the same firm just a few years previous.

Although they're no longer manufactured by General Body, Oscar Mayer continues to utilize a fleet of modern Weinermobiles for promotional purposes. Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney's vice-presidential running mate in the 2012 Presidential election, is just one of many famous persons who started their careers as a 'Hot-Dogger'.

Bender Body Co., York-Hoover Body Corp., Pierce-Arrow, Hayes Mfg. Corp. and General Body Corp. all manufactured travel trailers in the late 1930s. General Body's house coaches were marketed under the Stream-Lite brand, which was detailed in a 1938 8-page 'Stream-Lite House Coach' brochure. However, the General Body Corp. that built trailers was located in Detroit, Michigan, not Chicago, and was headed by H. Jay Hayes, the former president of the Hayes Body Corp., not William R. Hoyerman, president of the General Body Co. A 1937 issue of Automobile and Trailer Travel provides the details:

"Hayes Heads General Body Corporation Setup

"Plans of the newly organized General Body Corporation to manufacture and market new 'Stream-Lite' all-welded steel passenger trailers have been announced Trailers. Plans of the newly organized General Body Corporation to manufacture and market new 'Stream-Lite' all-welded steel passenger trailers are announced by Mr. H. Jay Hayes, president.

"Mr. Hayes, formerly president of the Hayes Body Corporation and for 38 years engaged in the manufacture of steel motor car bodies, is now in charge of activities at the corporation's new plant at 11830 Charlevoix Avenue, Detroit. The plant is being renovated and equipped for production-line manufacture of the new trailer units. Three sizes of trailers are scheduled for manufacture although production will be centered at first upon a 17-foot trailer to sell at $1,195. Production is to get under way early in June and to be built up rapidly, Mr. Hayes said."

Constructed in a former Welded Steel Barrel Corp. plant, Hayes Stream-Lite trailers were described in greater detail in a concurrent issue of MoTor:


"The GENERAL BODY CORP., organized in April to manufacture Stream-Lite all-welded steel trailers in three sizes, is now turning out a 17-foot model at its Detroit factory, which has a daily capacity of 30 units. Nine stationary and five opening windows running around the front and rear with only 5 ½ feet of unbroken space in each side feature the streamlined design. Curved plate glass is used in eight windows. Water drain sumps are provided inside the wall under the windows.

"The body has a lacquered all-metal exterior with die-stamped roof and is mounted on a box and tubular type steel chassis frame designed for strength and light weight. Tires and axle are oversize and Bendix brakes are standard equipment. The price is $1195 f.o.b. Detroit. R. C. Reichel, sales manager, is planning distribution through distributors and dealers. A 13½ and 19½ foot model will be brought out later."

To confuse matters further, the manufacture of Stream-Lite trailers was subsequently transferred to a Chicago, Illinois plant, a March 7, 1942 advertisement for the Chicago Stream-Lite Corp., mfr. of trailers and trailer homes, gives 5001 South Cottage Grove Ave., Chicago, Ill. as their address. The trailer plant was located in south Chicago, and remained unconnected with the General Body Co.

Back in Chicago, General Body Co.'s streamlined creations were bringing in so much new work that they moved their manufacturing operations into a 32,000 sq. foot factory and garage located at 3067 N. Elston Ave. (The structure still exists and is currently shared by two businesses, M. Handelsman screen printers, and Lincoln Auto Repair, Body & Towing). They continued to use their original location, which was reorganized as General Body Sales Corp.

Although the firm's main line of work was constructing standard-looking bodies for Chicago businesses, a handful of streamlined vehicles continued to be turned out by the firm into the 1940s. Although the 'Miss Shippy' van constructed for Custom Furniture Manufacturers of Chicago was clearly built on a tight budget, its aerodynamic appearance made it stand out on the streets of Chicago, giving its owner an edge over the competition.

General Body's listings in the 1947 Chicago Business Directory follows:

"General Body Co., 3067 N. Elston Ave. Chicago; Wm. R. Hoyerman pres.

"General Body Sales Corp, 2838 Elston Ave, Chicago; Wm. R. Hoyerman pres."

The 1948 Chicago Business Directory reveals the firm had recently consolidated operations into a new factory located in the Chicago suburb of North Park at 5838 N. Pulaski St., Chicago. (Although the main structure has been razed the factory was located just north of Bethel Cemetery, across the street from Peterson Park.

General Body constructed numerous special vehicles for its customers, one notable creation being the 'Museumobile' a mobile museum delivered to the Illinois State Museum in September of 1948. Modeled along the same lines as a bookmobile, the 21 exhibits lining its interior walls could be easily viewed from a central corridor running along the vehicle's interior.

The firm continued to construct an occasional aerodynamic body into the 1950s, and is known to have constructed a few rescue squad bodies for regional fired departments between 1951 and 1961, pictured to the right is an attractive example built using a 1954 Autocar chassis.

As time went on more and more of their business involved the fitting of bodies manufactured by third parties, and in 1964 the firm constructed a new $80,000 warehouse, Realty & Building magazine provided the following details:

"WAREHOUSE $80,000 Chicago, 5838 N. Pulaski Rd. General contract awarded: D. J. Velo & Co., 20 N. Wacker Dr. Work started. Owner, General Body Co., W. H. Hoyerman (pres), 5838 N. Pulaski Rd. Architect, Busche & Markson, Inc."

An item in a 1970 issue of the same publication revealed the firm's N. Pulaski Rd property had been leased up until that time:

“William R. Hoyerman, president, General Body Sales Corp., has purchased the coal yard at 5838-48 N. Pulaski Rd., from the Heitman Trust Co., trustee, for $55000, according to a deed filed in the county recorder's office. The buyer has started construction of a factory building, with plans by B.J. Bruns, architect.”

During the 1970s Hoyerman organized a separate sales division, General Coach Corp., to handle the firm's growing school bus sales. In addition to its core line of dump, platform, dry and refrigerated van, lumber, refuse and roll-off bodies the firm also manufactured cabin & commissary hi-lift food trucks for the regional airline industry, its listing in the 1979 Chicago & Cook County, Illinois Industrial Directory:

"General Body Co. & General Coach Corp.; Ch. Of. Bd. - Wm. R. Hoyerman Pres. Wm. H. Hoyerman; V. Pres. & Sls. Mgr., Joe White; Sec. & Treas., D. Rees. Mfg. dump truck bodies, van & special bodies. Exporter Rtg. over $1,000,000."

William H. Hoyerman was very active in the Illinois Republican party and counted then-President Ronald Reagan as a personal friend. He launched a personal crusade against the Federal Reserve in 1981 maintaining that their inflation-fighting policies were hurting his business. United Press International ran the following story on their wire service on September 24, 1981:

"CHICAGO (UPI) - There was a time when protesters burned the flag. Bill Hoyerman just wants to lower it to half staff. Hoyerman, owner of a truck body manufacturing firm, is fed up with high interest rates he says have cut his orders from $4 million to less than $3 million a year and forced him to cut his work force in half. The fault, he said, lies with the tight money policies of the Federal Reserve Board and its chairman, Paul Volcker.

"'It's time somebody shakes up Paul Volker before he ruins this country,' Hoyerman said. 'The Federal Reserve ... may stop inflation but they may throw us into a serious depression at the same time.'

"Hoyerman's way of shaking things up is to drop the flag outside the General Body Co. plant to half staff and leave it there until rates drop. He's writing suppliers and customers and asking them to do the same thing.

"'We're going to fly the flag at half mast in mourning for International Harvester and White Motors and other fine companies who are getting killed by these inflation rates,' he said. 'My suggestion is anyone affected by high interest rates lower their flags until interest rates; come down to a reasonable level, between 10 and 12 percent.'

"Hoyerman, who spent 25 years as a General Body employee and executive before buying the firm two years ago, says he's not a natural activist. But he's angry with the lack of answers from Washington.”

General Body's president, William H. Hoyerman, passed away on March 23, 1987, his obituary appearing in the April 2, 1987 Chicago Tribune:

“A memorial service for William H. Hoyerman, 60, former president of General Body Co., which designs truck bodies, will be held at 2 p.m. April 25 in St. Gregory Episcopal Church, Deerfield and Wilmot Roads, Deerfield. Mr. Hoyerman, of Deerfield, died March 23 at his winter home in Sanibel Island, Fla. He was a past president of the National Truck Equipment Association and former board member of Trinity House, a counseling organization for priests and other members of the clergy. He served on the Lake County Sheriff`s Merit Commission from 1964 to 1976 and had served as commission president. Survivors include his wife, Janice; three daughters, Janice Fried, Kristin Nuttle and Pamela Kemper; a son, William R.; a grandchild; his parents, William R. and Edna; a brother; and a sister.”

William R. Hoyerman survived his son, passing away in Winnetka, Cook County, Illinois on July 17, 1989 at the age of 86. His wife, Edna P. Hoyerman, born May 23, 1903, passed away on April 24, 1992, aged 88.

Following the death of the firm's two principals, the Hoyerman family sold of the firm's assets and exited the truck body business. A large portion of the firm's N. Pulaski St. factory has been razed, although the rear warehouse located adjacent to the railroad tracks remains and currently houses a self-storage business.

©2012 Mark Theobald -







James Hale - The Wonderful Wacky World of Marketingmobiles, pub. 2005

George W. Green - Special Use Vehicles, pub. 2003

Donald Wood – Delivery Trucks, pub. 1999

Kiron K. Skinner, Annelise & Martin Anderson, Ronald Reagan - Reagan: A Life In Letters, pub. 2004

John W. Leonard & Albert Nelson Marquis - Who's Who in Chicago & Illinois, Vol. 6, pub. 1936

J. Madeleine Nash; Alexander L. Taylor III,  Sara White - Hard Times on Main Street, Time Magazine, October 26, 1981 issue

Beverly Rae Kimes & Henry Austin Clark - Standard Catalog of American Cars: 1805-1942

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