Hobo Day icon to get a facelift

Jason Mann

Jason Mann

After the 2007 Hobo Day parade, the Bummobile will not be spending much time in Brookings.

In October, the University Program Council will send the Bummobile to an auto body shop in Rolla, Mo., where the SDSU icon will undergo a year-long restoration.

The Bummobile is a 1912 Ford Model T donated to SDSU in 1939 by Frank Weigel, a farmer from Flandreau. It has been both the first and last entry in every Hobo Day parade since 1939. At the beginning of the parade, the Bummobile carries Weary Wil and Dirty Lil, and it transports the Grand Pooba at the end.

“It has been pulled and pushed, but the Bummobile has always been in the parade,” said Nick Wendell, program advisor for UPC.

2007 Grand Pooba Kelsey Wuttke said that the 2006 Grand Pooba, Sarah French, started the process to renovate the Bummobile. Wuttke said that over the past few years, the car has had several problems during the parade.

“The Bummobile has started on fire, a tire has fallen off and the brakes are not good,” Wuttke said.

During the summer of 2007, Wuttke, Wendell, UPC Advisory and Union maintenance workers Ed Bain and Paul Disse drove to Kansas and Missouri in search of a reputable auto repair shop. Wendell said they chose the shop in Rolla because it has a diverse background. He said that when the group visited the shop, the crew was working on cars “from all eras, from all across the globe”.

The restoration is expected to take a full year of work and both Wendell and Wuttke said that there is a chance the Bummobile will not be finished in time for Hobo Day 2008, depending on when the event is held.

“This has the potential to be a $40,000 to $50,000 project,” said Ryan Howlett, a development director with the SDSU Foundation. “Since this is the Bummobile, we want to make sure we restore it the right way.”

Howlett, who is in charge of the Bummobile fundraising campaign, said that the plan is to bring the car back to its original condition. He said that the vehicle will get new guts-engine, axels, brakes-“Whatever needs to be fixed will be.” Howlett said the cost is projected in a range because with a car as old as the Bummobile, it is hard to know the extent of what needs fixing until the mechanics start working on it.

Wendell said the restoration needs to be done now in order to ensure the safety of students who drive it and to maintain the integrity of the Bummobile. UPC wants to be sure the Bummobile will be able to continue serving its purpose as a working automobile rather than as a relic that rides on a trailer.

Howlett said the fundraising campaign has not officially started, but alumni have already donated over $700 through a link on the SDSU Foundation’s Web site.