For 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.
Chief 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.
Around 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.
The 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.
The 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.
We 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.