In the late 90’s Roadside America started appealing to it’s website visitors to help find more uncharted muffler men. The tips poured in from across the states and the real scope and reach of muffler men started to be realized and seen as Roadside America built their online map. Among the reports were a few out of country sightings that also made it on to a special page. When I started my hobby I discovered this and made a mental note of the few muffler men who dared cross our border. There are a small handful of muffler men that have migrated to Canada and Mexico and then one in Panama, Italy and Puerto Rico. The one in Panama has been photographed so I knew that sighting was good but the other two tips did not include pictures which often means it can be a case of mistaken identity. For a long time there was a report of a muffler man in Nashiville TN but after I visited the location I discovered it was a man made out of mufflers that had once lived at the location. I figured this was the case in Puerto Rico but decided to investigate on one of my business trips to the country in February of 2012.
In 1999 a report had come in to Roadside America stating that one was in Caguas. It reported the giant to be a service man version and stood on the back lot of a auto body shop. I arrived in the city early in the morning and started showing locals a picture on my cell of the muffler man in Washington, GA that I figured would most closely resemble the one reported in Puerto Rico. Sure enough the locals started nodding their heads and pointing (because I don’t speak a lick of spanish) and thats when I knew we might have something here. Following the directions given led me right to the shop mentioned in 1999 and when I pulled in I saw the muffler man standing at the back of the lot well off the street. I quick talk with a worker gave me his history and also that of it’s owner.
It appears a man named Rafael Ramirez Aponte owned a gas station in Caguas in the 60’s and during that time visited a trade show in California. That is where he met International Fiberglass and their big men. He purchased a service man version of the muffler man and had him shipped on a freighter to Puerto Rico. Once the giant arrived he was trucked to the inland city of Caguas and set up at the owners gas station where it stood for many years. Most adults in the area who grew up in the 60’s and 70’s remember the giant standing in front of what I think was a texaco station. Sometime in the 80’s the giant was moved to the owners auto shop and set up on the back part of the property where he still stands today. He has been painted many times and like many things in Puerto Rico has darks water stains on him from the almost daily rain showers. He is one of the earlier muffler men produced by IF judging from the way his arms fit into the sleeves. Also interesting to note is that his legs are bunyan with the suspender buttons and pant legs tucked into the top of the boots. The locals seemed to be suprised to learn there are hundreds of them in America since they were under the impression they owned the only one and that his faced was modeled after the owner Rafael who passed away in late 2011.