Chief Bagnell Restoration Update 2

Week 2 has been a busy one and we are happy with the progress we are making. Although not completely done sanding, we are nearing the end of that process. This week saw the completion of sanding the front side of the indian. It was a bit of a challenge pulling him apart and getting him flipped over but everything went well. The pants were almost completely sanded during the week and more then half of the giants back was finished. The end of the week saw us starting to repair cracks and body damage and work on paint colors. Our graphics department kicked it into high gear sketching out the indian so we can plug in any color we want to test out different color schemes. Hope you enjoy our second update of the  Chief Bagnell Restoration!

Chief Bagnell Restoration Update 1

American Giants is happy to release the first video update of our current restoration of the Lake of the Ozarks Indian Muffler Man. We are one week in on this restoration, and already have a large portion of the indian sanded down to the first layer of paint and gel coat. Next weeks video update will feature the completion of the sanding process, and also the disassembling of the Indian. We want to thank everyone for your support and encourage you to follow us on Instagram and Facebook for more updates as we help restore a piece of Missouri and American history! – Joel

Lake of the Ozarks Indian Restoration

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Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 3.44.13 PMFor 5 years now, American Giants has been tracking down Muffler Men, and bringing you their history. We started out with the website, and then the youtube episodes, depicting our adventures. Last year, after completing the Mortons Gap Restoration, we decided to continue doing restorations, to help keep roadside americana alive and well. We thought it fitting, that our first project of the year turned out to be the Indian that has stood for almost 50 years in Lake of the Ozarks, MO.

IMG_4720Chief Bagnell or Injun Joe, is one of many fiberglass giants made by the International Fiberglass Company from 1964-1972. Today these giants are known as Muffler Men, and almost 200 still stand across America today. The International Fiberglass Company started out making the Classic Paul Bunyan version in 1964, and over time they started modifying the mold to make Indians, Pirates, Cowboys and a goofy country bumpkin looking character, that we now call a half wit. The Indian version came in two different versions, a indian brave with a feather or two, and the war chief that had a full head dress. Many of the first Indians made were purchased by Pontiac dealerships across the country. The giants were shipped out on trailers and set up at the various dealerships to promote the new cars and promotions.

SnerdAround the mid 60s, DogPatch found out about International Fiberglass and ordered one of their half wit versions to stand in front, and advertise the mini golf. He was a unique half wit because he was ordered special with a unique arm position. Most muffler men have both arms down and are designed to hold an axe or some other tool. The DogPatch halfwit had one standard arm that held a golf club but the other arm was raised to greet the visitors. He is the only half wit known to exist with this unique arm configuration. Shortly after his arrival the owners of Two Bit Town decided they also needed a giant and opted for the Indian version. He was a good match because he also had a raised right arm, and he was placed directly across the street from the half wit.

IMG_1117The two Muffler Men stood for the next 40 some years greeting residents and visitors, until the half wit was taken down in 2013 because the internal support structure was coming apart and a wind storm might bring the giant down. Chief Banell managed to hang on a few more years until recently purchased by the Iguana Group and taken down for restoration in early 2016. American Giants got involved shortly after and we are super excited to be working with Iguana Group on this project. Not only is the chief an original Muffler Man, but he is also a special and historic icon of Lake of the Ozarks, and nothing could make us happier then to see this giant restored and set back up for visitors to enjoy once more.

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 3.55.00 PMThe Indian arrived at American Giants Restorations in March and we have moved him into our shop for sanding and disassemble. As soon as he got off the truck we realized we needed to take his right arm off in order to fit him in the door. Thankfully the bolts were not entirely rusted and we were able to send one of our guys up his leg and into the torso area to unbolt the arm from the inside. Now that we have him safe inside, work will begin. We have broken this project down into 10 stages that include, sanding, fiberglass repair, painting, airbrush and art work as well as an internal structure that will support the Indian so he can free stand at his new location.

IMG_1143We hope to upload videos each week marking our progress and adventures as we restore this roadside attraction, and we are just as excited as all of you, to see what the final product looks like! Keep an eye on this website, Facebook and Instagram feeds, for the latest news and pictures.

Muffler Men Migration

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 9.36.41 PMIt seems that Muffler Men have been on the move recently, and sometimes its hard to keep track of them as they migrate around America. Some Muffler Men have remained virtually unmoved since being shipped 50 years ago from International Fiberglass, while others have been moved so many times, no one knows for sure where they started out. It seems 2015 and early 2016, saw more movement then normal and at least 10 muffler men were either sold or moved.

IMG_4758One of the most sought after Muffler Men is the rare Uniroyal Gal made for the Uniroyal Tire Company in 1966. Over 20 of these giant ladies made rounds across the country that year, advertising at auto repair shops and tire centers. Today around 13 remain and it isn’t very often that one comes up for sale. 2015 saw not one but two Uniroyal Gals up for sale. Roadside America mentioned that one stood in Chinqoteague VA Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 7.04.29 PMback in the 90s but no one was every able to verify the tip. Thats because some farmers from Kingsville Maryland who were trying to buy the viking in town and bought her instead. She has been secretly living in Kingsville Maryland for the last 20 years off the charts. Her owners found our website this year and posted that they were interested in selling and she was IMG_6850sold within a day or two. She is currently undergoing a full restoration and will appear this spring in Illinois. The other sale of a Uniroyal Gal was to Bruce Kennedy in Hayward CA. He purchased the Uniroyal in Mt Vernon IL that had stood at Stan the Tire Man’s since the late 60s. American Giants was actually able to help take her down and prepare her for shipping to California.

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A bunch of the male Muffler Men were also sold in 2015 and our website was responsible for a handful of those sales. We always try to post Muffler Men when they come up for sale. That part of our website has been helpful to those IMG_8622looking to purchase one of their own. Our for sale page was responsible for the El Monte, CA Muffler Man finding a new home at Four Way Muffler in Gallatin TN as well as a long lost Muffler Man being rescued from the woods of South Carolina and being moved to Grove, OK.

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Other Muffler Men sold and moved in 2015 include the Havre De Grace MD army guy. We don’t know who bought him or where he is headed but we do know that he was taken down on Dec 2 and hauled away on a trailer. BigGeorge who used to stand in Warrenton TX at the Sterling McCall Old Car Museum until he fell over in 2010, was also sold recently to VintageRoadside of Portland OR, and has just arrived there after the long haul from Texas. Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 9.42.53 PMVintage Roadside also purchased a bunyan Muffler Man head earlier in the year from a seller in Brimfield, NJ. Lake of the Ozarks MO also saw some big changes recently when the Indian was taken down. Thankfully he wasn’t moved far and his new owners plan to have him restored and set back up nearby. The halfwit that once stood across the street is also being restored and will be set up again hopefully sometime in 2016. The half wit was purchased before the indian and stood at Dogpatch in front of Mortimer Snerd Golf.

IMG_0065American Giants was also happy to be of help to Kevin Cummings, president of Cummings Plumbing Heating and Cooling, by advertising the auction of the Muffler Man in Rapid City South Dakota. He won the auction for the miner/cowboy and waisted no time in moving him to his business in Tucson, AZ. Kevin first learned about Muffler Men by watching American Giants episodes on youtube and realized he really wanted to own one of the giants. He kept checking our for sale section until the auction popped up and won the bid a few months later. Although the Muffler Man looked almost brand new in the pictures, Kevin told us that he actually needed a full restoration to fix the many cracks and paint job. He was fully restored and set up dressed as Santa, just in time for Christmas alongside interstate 10 in Tucson. Kevin displays his cowboy with the University of Arizona logo on his hat, the Muffler Man is Arizonans biggest fan.

Special thanks to Kevin, Vintage Roadside and others, for the use of their pictures displayed here. 

 

American Giants returnes to Atlanta, IL

 

thumb_IMG_0208_1024thumb_IMG_0201_1024American Giants recently visited Atlanta, IL where Episode #3 was shot back in 2012. The Atlanta Library and Museum hosts a series of “Dinner Programs at the Palms Grill Cafe” from October 2015 though March 2016.  The Dinner Programs feature speakers who present a 60 minute program following dinner. This is the fifth year the Library and Museum has sponsoring the dinner program and American Giants was honored to speak for one of the evening events.

thumb_IMG_0254_1024Neto and I had a great trip back up to Atlanta and were able to visit Tall Paul once more.  I also gave a talk for the dinner evening program at the Palms Cafe. I covered Muffler Men and their history in detail and showed about 180 pictures throughout the talk. We had fun chatting with everyone afterwards and sharing some of our collection. In addition to some post cards and DVD’s we also brought along a Mr Bendo head and arm for people to check out up close. We were housed in the Colaw Rooming House for the night, a great experience I would highly recommend! It was also fun to meet some of our Instagram and website followers who attended the event.

If your interested in American Giants speaking for one of your events, please contact us at info@usagiants.com

 

Muffler Man Found in Salt Lake City

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Courtesy of RainbowSign.com

Since starting this interesting hobby of Muffler Man tracking, I feel that interest has grown in the giants. I often get emails and tips about possibly “undiscovered” Muffler Men, or memories of where they once stood. Roadside America does a great job of sharing the latest tips that people

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The American Giants Team discovers a muffler man in the woods.

send in, but for the most part, they are not new discoveries. So I was surprised last week, when they posted a picture of a Muffler Man, that has been in Salt Lake City since the 70s! It just goes to show, that even with all the spotters out there, there literally could be an undetected Muffler Man on main street of a town or city in America.

 

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Courtesy of RainbowSign.com

The giant is owned by Vince Coley, owner of the Rainbow Neon Sign Company. He has had the statue since the mid 80s, when a customer brought the giant in for repair and never picked it up. Vince repaired the Muffler Man, and then set him up on the roof of his business. Shortly after, Vince decided to use the Muffler Man in parades

 

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Courtesy of RainbowSign.com

and dress the giant up for different holidays and events. The statue has been in many parades in Salt Lake City, and Vince always dresses him as something different. To date how long he has been doing this, he told me that the giant was once made to look like Gorbachev, when the Berlin wall came down in 1989.

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Courtesy of RainbowSign.com

Over the years the giant has posed as many different people and characters, although he never seems to be in one piece. Vince has kept all the pieces of the giant, and normally displays the torso and head, although he has displayed the legs as well. Vince says the Muffler Man was originally one of the rare Mobil Gas Station versions and he still has the hat to prove it!

 

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An early picture of a Mobil Man with the distinct hat

IMG_2887Today you will find the giant made to look like Spock, in honor of Leonard Nimoy who passed in February, 2015. Vince was aware of this website and others like it, but seemed unaware that the majority of Muffler Men followers knew nothing of his giant.

Special thanks to Vince for letting me use his pictures. RainbowSign.com Also Terry Nelson for the use of his 1960s Mobil Man picture. 

Mortons Gap Project Complete!

Front CompareThe Mortons Gap Project is finished! After more then a year of restoration work, we have completed the restoration and taken the Muffler Man back to his home in Kentucky. I want to thank everyone who supported this project with pledges, as well as those who donated their time and skills. Although the project was way more work then I ever dreamed it would be, the final result was also better then much better then I expected.

MMNWS PROGRESS 9-26 American Giant4.jpgI first visited the giant in August 2011, after seeing him listed on Roadside America. It was during a second visit, the following year, that I first had the idea to restore the giant. In the summer of 2013, I started shooting emails back and forth with Mark Cline and he said he could make me the missing body parts. After that conversation, I think I realized that this really could happen and planning began in earnest. Our first Kickstarter was launched in May of 2014, and although it ended in failure a month later, we did manage to raise $1,296. By this time, Neto and I had already picked up the head and arms from Mark Cline, so failure was not an option. After Mortons Gap MM new openadjusting the rewards a bit and updating our graphics and video, we launched the Kickstarter again in early September. We decided that we were going to do this no matter what the outcome, and figured visitors to the kickstarter should be able to see our commitment, so we picked up the giant in Mortons gap the same week we launched. Things went much better the second time around and Kickstarter even made us project of the day!

photo 1-15Over the next year we worked on the project whenever we had a chance. Some weeks found us working on him every evening while others, he wasn’t even touched. His restoration was juggled around on our busy work schedule, looking back on it, I am amazing at how many hours the guys donated to getting this done. Despite all the donated labor, the cost of fiberglass, resin and countless supplies was daunting. None of us had ever tackled anything like this before and we were constantly buying tools and supplies needed to pull off the job.

IMG_9084By the spring of 2015, we had completed repairs on the huge cracks and holes that were scattered across the giant. The next step was sanding the giant down, and it felt like it took us years to get that done. Even a week before delivery, we were still sanding bits and pieces of the giant, to try to get the smoothest surface possible. As I mentioned before, none of us had done anything like this before, and since the start of the project we were concerned about painting the guy. We had some estimates done on him, and were floored at how high the cost was. In the end we decided to paint him ourselves and I’m glad we did. From June until October, we didn’t touch the giant because of our busy work load. So the last two weeks have been an all out push to get the giant done and back to Kentucky.

Side CompareWe returned the giant to the hillside on November 15, 2015, and the owners were blown away at the giant’s transformation. We had a nice thumb_IMG_9267_1024turnout of supporters and family members that showed up to watch the giant go back up. From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank all of you who watched this project unfold and supported us with likes on
instagram, and encouraging comments. I want to thank all the supporters, and for your patience. I also want to thank Mark Cline for his help and support, as well as the guys at Roadside thumb_IMG_9321_1024America, for letting their viewers know about the project. Debra Jane Seltzer of Roadside Architecture, has also been a huge help, and I have found her knowledge of these giants invaluable during research and restoration. I want to thank the Loven family for letting me take their giant for a year, and for their support of the project, as well as all the pledgers, and those of you who came out to watch the giant go up. Last but not least I am so thankful for my crew, Michael Younkin, Will Worf and Ademar Neto, for the long hours they have sunk into this project, we have all found this to be very rewarding!