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Driving Mr. Peanut’s Nutmobile

January 2016, by Amy Winter-Hercher - Also by this author

The West Coast team (Christine, Gabi, Matt) next to the Nutmobile. Photo by Amy Winter-Hercher.
The West Coast team (Christine, Gabi, Matt) next to the Nutmobile. Photo by Amy Winter-Hercher.

When I saw a large nut-shaped vehicle parked near my office, I had to go check it. I met Peanutters Matthew Marzzacco, Gabi Solis and Christine Brown, who are currently driving one of Kraft Foods’ Nutmobiles for Mr. Peanut’s Nutmobile Tour.

One of three nutmobiles on the road, they represent the West Coast team.

“We are covering 11 states during this year-long tour in honor of Mr. Peanut’s 100th birthday,” says Marzzacco. “It’s great how much attention we get on the road, especially all the photos that drivers take while sitting in LA traffic.”

On the road since June, the three Peanutters visit a new city every Monday. While in a city, they drive the nutmobile to various scheduled events, including as car shows, golf tournaments, retail events and marathons. “We hand out free peanuts and other Planters’ merchandise including stickers and coupons,” says Marzzacco.

In addition to the three Peanutters, there is someone else on board with them: a costumed 6-foot-tall Mr. Peanut. “While driving, we sometimes put him through the sunroof,” says Solis.

Vehicle Features

The Nutmobile's fiberglass shell sits on an Isuzu two-ton cab and chassis. Photo by Amy Winter-Hercher
The Nutmobile's fiberglass shell sits on an Isuzu two-ton cab and chassis. Photo by Amy Winter-Hercher

The 26-foot-long peanut is built on an Isuzu Series NPR two-ton cab and chassis.

Turtle Transit, a marketing agency that specializes in mobile marketing vehicles, created the fiberglass shell. According to Marzzacco, the ridges were created by using swimming pool noodles.

The first nutmobile was on the road in 2013, and two more nutmobiles joined the team in 2014. Each mobile covers a different territory: West Coast, East Coast and central.

The nutmobile also contains eco-friendly features including reused glass for the side windows and windshields, recycled steel for the windshield frame, interior lighting powered by low-energy LEDs and a wind turbine (built into the roof above the cab) and roof-top solar panels to charge internal batteries, which power tour events.

Additionally, the vehicle’s wood flooring is from a 1840s barn in Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County.

The interior features a storage area in the back, a wood floor and blue-colored seats. Photo by Amy Winter-Hercher.
The interior features a storage area in the back, a wood floor and blue-colored seats. Photo by Amy Winter-Hercher.

The back of the mobile contains space to store luggage, peanuts and other supplies for events, such as a table tent and sandwich board.

The engine is able to run on biodiesel, but according to Marzzacco, they fill the vehicle with premium gasoline fuel. “It gets about 10 to 12 miles per gallon, so we usually have to fill the tank every few days.”

When it comes to maintenance, Kraft works with Penske. Once a month, the Peanutters schedule a maintenance check-up with a local Penske shop. A contact at Kraft headquarters in Wisconsin calls us each week to check in and see how the vehicle is running, says Marzzacco.

What about washing a 26-foot-long peanut on wheels? Since it doesn’t fit in a regular car wash, the Peanutters call local fire stations to use their longer brushes.

“Firefighters hook up a hose for us and let us use their supplies, including the longer brushes used to wash the fire engines,” says Marzzacco.

On the Road

While touring Los Angeles, Mr. Peanut went for a ride by the Hollywood sign. Photo via @PlantersNUTmobile.
While touring Los Angeles, Mr. Peanut went for a ride by the Hollywood sign. Photo via @PlantersNUTmobile.

Because the nutmobile is oddly shaped, making it harder to see out the windows, each Peanutter goes through a two-week peanut prep course to learn more about the products and complete a two-day driving course —with a driving test at the end.

So far, Brown says there haven’t been any accidents, but they are careful drivers. “We have a back-up camera and always have a spotter help guide the vehicle when backing up. The large side mirrors also help.” The three Peanutters take turns driving.

“We are enjoying meeting new people,” says Marzzacco. “At the events, it’s fun to hear stories about Mr. Peanut and see old Mr. Peanut merchandise that people bring.”

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