To All the Muffler Men I’ve Loved Before
Where is the Gemini Giant?
The Gemini Giant is on Route 66 in Wilmington Illinois:
810 E Baltimore St, Wilmington, IL 60481
Muffler Man – A Roadside King
Muffler Men are the handsome superstars of the American roadside attraction universe. With their chiseled good looks and steadfast perseverance they are a welcome sight to many a roadtripper.
When traveling around the US, visiting muffler men is one of my go-to sightseeing stops. The fiberglass giants always put a smile on my face.
My awareness of and interest in muffler men is now spanning into plural decades. It started with an “oh, so that’s what they’re called!” after thumbing through a paperback copy of New Roadside America: The Modern Traveler’s Guide to the Wild and Wonderful World of America’s Tourist Attractions in the early aughts. It then spilled into tracking and visiting them via the Roadside America website, and iPhone app.
But before I knew that muffler men were indeed referred to as muffler men, I knew that they existed in a peripheral sense. You see, we have a muffler man Indian here on Long Island. I’d passed the Elmsford, NY Bunyan many times and mini-golfed with a halfwit in Seaside Heights, NJ.
Muffler men have long been a part of my universe. They were simply waiting for me to wake up to them.
Muffler Men – The Same But Different
Now, I’m sharp enough to know that some people think my level of interest and muffler man visitation is a waste of energy. The idea of traveling around and looking at big dumb fiberglass statues that “look the same” as all the other big dumb fiberglass statues I’ve seen before is ridiculous. But who needs that kind of negativity in their lives?
Yes, it’s true that they share the same basic DNA. And yet, these same-old-same-olds do have their own personalities, if you will. Each with little details that set them apart from one another that the uninformed might not be aware of. From accessories like hats, hamburgers, eyelashes and chest hair, the giants do have their own unique flair.
It has also occurred to me that each one is infused with the flavor of their locale. They take on the vibe of their surroundings as they become infused with the landscape, neighborhood, or the personality of the owner.
You hear it all the time, “people are the same everywhere.” Hell, I’ve said it myself and meant it. But that sentiment is both true and false depending on the parameters and nuance you wrap around it. The same is true for big fiberglass people. They’re all the same, but different.
Take a moment to consider the thought process of the person charged with repainting the Uniontown, Pa. muffler man. They looked at his face, squinted their eyes and said “something is missing…”
A few thousand bush strokes later, and with a triumphant voila! our boy was befitted with bedroom eyes.
And then someone somewhere else looked at the Lake George, NY Around the World mini-golf muffler man and said, “Yeah! Him, too! …but only on the right eye.”
Tales of Muffler Men Resurrection
When cruising around if I know a muffler man is close by, even if I’ve previously visited, I will typically stop to see what’s doing.
Over time the overall condition of the giants will change due to wind, sun, storms,… people hitting them with their cars. When you pull up to find one repaired or in better condition then when you last saw it, I’m not gonna lie – it’s kind of exciting. It’s heartwarming when someone loves what you love.
Having passed by the Hancock, Massachusetts giant a few times over the years, I got to witness his resurrection. He’d been suffering from a terrible case of the peels and it was great to see him freshly painted again.
Check out his blue bowtie – now red, nails on fleek, and sporting a fresh baseball cap.
Just look at those beautifully manicured nails!
Elmsford, New York
Another case of a giant who needed some TLC was the Elmsford, New York Bunyan. He stood armless for years. This spring (2021) when I stopped by, I was glad to see he’s got at least one ticket to the gun show again.
Sadly, the green-eyed giant is now starting to peel.
The first time that I pulled up to the House of Doors in Cheshire, Connecticut years ago I was surprised to find nothing more than a pair of muffler pants. Doh!
Saved! The muff was returned to flag holding service!
Riverhead, New York
When superstorm Sandy crushed the east coast, Long Island’s Muffler Man Indian, also featured on the Sopranos, was sheered across the middle.
He too was little more than a pair of muffler pants for a while.
Thankfully, Long Island’s beloved giant was repaired and is back to waving at the traffic in the town of Riverhead, NY.
Muffler Men on the Move
As well-loved as muffler men are, it isn’t surprising that enthusiasts and collectors buy and move the giants from their long-term locations to new locales. Sometimes they move clear across the country.
And then sometimes, they just up and disappear altogether.
The Big White Guy of Massachusetts
This fella, previously referred to colloquially as “Plantation Man” as he stood outside of the Plantation Inn in Chicopee, Massachusetts – was sold at auction and then turned up in nearby Agawam, Mass. He stood there for a short time and is now MIA.
From Mecca to Joshua Tree, California
In 2016, I visited a muffler man who stood in the town of Mecca, California along the Salton Sea.
Fast forward to January 2020, and I visited that same muffler man, now sporting a new paint job and name. Meet Big Josh, of Joshua Tree, California.
AWOL – Desert Storm Muffler Man
I stopped to visit the Desert Storm muffler man in Havre de Grace, Maryland several times. As of 2015, he was taken down and moved to storage. Who knows where and when we’ll see him again?
Big Mike – Hayward, California Muffler Man
In 2014, we visited Big Mike in Hayward, California. He stood outside of a business that was boarded up. That’s typically a sign of uncertainty for the giants.
Thankfully Big Mike was purchased and moved across town to Bell Plastics to keep a host of other giants company. He was even thrown a 50th birthday party!
Uniroyal Gal – The Ladies of the Muffler Man World
Rare in the muffler man world, there are only about a dozen known Uniroyal Gals in the wild. Seeing one is a treat for any muffler man lover.
The Uniroyal Gal of Pearsonville, California – Hubcap Capital of the World
Nitro Girl – Uniroyal Gal Superhero
New Jersey is home to Nitro Girl, arguably the most badass of all the Uniroyal Gals. She’s my favorite of all the girls.
During my last stop to visit her, I was able to purchase a Nitro Girl bobblehead which stands proudly on my desk at work
Muffler Men Photos
If you too love muffler men keep scrolling for more photos of the big guys I’ve seen in my travels. Buckle up, there’s a lot to look at!
Say, hello to Stan from Birmingham, Alabama. He’s a gemini and like lifting invisible weights. Hiiiii Stannnnn.
When you visit the Skydome at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, you are treated to not one but two lumberjack Paul Bunyan muffler men! There is a suggestion that this guy here may be THE original muffler man. Royalty.
This fella is part of an incredible front yard menagerie in Phoenix, Arizona. He could benefit from a little TLC:
I’ll be honest – there is something a bit creepy about the dead black-eyed stare and drawn on mustache of the Planada, Calfornia muffler man. It’s a wee bit, I dunno,… murdery? I believe this guy may have been sold or moved.
The house where the Mentone, California muffler man stands has a yard full of… stuff including a giant chicken army fiberglass rooster! It’s quite something.
The Washington Georgia muffler man has a formidable set of nostrils.
The Gemini Giant on Route 66 in Wilmington, Illinois was my holy grail of muffler men. My favorite of all. I love this guy!
The shrimpy Harley-Davidson muffler man stands outside of the Pink Elephant Antique Mall which is chock full of interesting roadsidey goodness. Definitely worth a stop and a look-see.
You may recognize this muffler man from the opening credits of The Sopranos. He hangs out underneath the Pulaski Skyway.
This rooftop cowboy on Route 66 in Gallup, New Mexico is sporting a six gun in his holster:
This muffler man is in the town of Stony Point close to where I grew up. He’s a little sentimental for me because I actually took my dad to see him before he left this world.
I believe that the Cherokee, North Carolina muffler man may be in storage.
I don’t know why but the face on this guy looked so amazed to me 🙂 And i love the sartorial choice of overalls!
If he just isn’t the most friendly muffler man!
The Rockwood, Pennsylvania muffler man is only available for viewing when the campground is open. I had to check in at a booth and get a pass to enter the grounds. It’s worth it. He’s awesome!
This burger-clutching muffler man stands on top of Pal’s Sudden Service in Kingsport, Tennessee.
A muffler man… with an actual muffler!
This kooky amalgamation is called The Paulverizer.
Learn More About Muffler Men
Hope you enjoyed this trip down road trip muffler man memory lane. If you’re interested in finding out about the history of, the latest news, and location maps for muffler men, these sites are excellent resources for more information:
Joel Baker Presentation: The Fall and Rise of the American Giant
If you were unable to attend the Society for Commercial Archeology Zoom event of Joel Baker’s The Fall and Rise of the American Giant, the recorded presentation is available for viewing on the org’s website. Follow along as Joel talks about how his passionate pursuit began, learn about the history of Muffler Men and some exciting news about a museum!