Saving a Canadian Muffler Man

Join our latest adventure as we head North to snow country to save a wrecked Muffler Man. Muffler Men don’t pop up very often and when they do, they normally don’t look like this. However we are in the business of saving these giants, and we have yet to find one that we think isn’t worth the effort. Take the trip with us in this latest update from American Giants.

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Howard Huge

 

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2017-08-02 10.10.23This is Howard Huge, until now Howard has been one of a handful, and growing number of Muffler Men, that exist, but are unknown by Muffler Men followers. During the 1960s and early 70s, International Fiberglass manufactured hundreds of these giants and now, 50 years later, around 200 are still known to exist. However, many unknown and undocumented survivors still lay in storage across American waiting for their owners to make their existence known, or a Muffler Man follower to find them.

Unknown New England BunyanInternational Fiberglass started out making the classic Paul Bunyan, and these soon proved to be wildly popular because of the revenue they generated for businesses. Today the Bunyans are still the most common of the giants, and 53 of them are still standing and visible to the public. The first Muffler Man was such a success that the company went on to modify that version, creating 5 other options, as well as offering to make custom giants as well.

Hundreds of Cowboy versions were made for Snerdbusinesses as well as the Phillips 66 Oil Company and 31 of these cowboys still exist and stand today. A Alfred Neuman character was made called a Snerd (known today also as a “half wit”) and 14 of this version can still be found. A standard service man version was made for gas stations, without the bunyan hat and boots, and 33 of this type are still around. The mold was heavily modified at one point to make American Indians. They made a chief and brave version that differed slightly, and 29 of these can still be found today. A unique raised arm Muffler Man was made to advertise a auto repair shops ability to bend and make mufflers, and these were called “Mr Bendo” and only 7 of these can still be found. International also made a 14 ft version of the giant which turned out to be a poor seller and was only sold in 1963 and 1964 but surprisingly 17 of these survive.

thumb_IMG_8749_1024If you look carefully at the Muffler Man survivors of today, you will notice that 6 of them have a bow tie instead of a standard collar. This seemed to have been an option that the DCIM100MEDIADJI_0015.JPGcompany offered, that a few customers opted for. About 12 of the giants in America are what we call custom or one of a kind giants made special to meet the customers exact needs. One such giant is known as Casey Jones and he was probably made for a railroad themed amusement park or museum in Boyne Falls, MI back in the late 60s or early 70s. Today he stands at the Ed Lowe foundation holding a giant oil can in Cassopolis Michigan. Ed Lowe purchased the giant at an auction in the mid 70s, and moved him to the foundations camp area, where Casey is surrounded by railroad cars. He is one of a kind with a unique style hat that we considered the only one of it’s kind until just recently.

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One of Rachael’s Muffler Man stops in Cheshire, CT – Photo fuzzygalore.com

People often share with me their memories of Muffler Men from the 70s and 80s and I keep records of all these memories, locations and sightings, even if the giants no longer exist in that spot. A few years ago I was contact by a Muffler Man follower from New York named Rachael. Rachael runs a blog called fuzzygalore.com and she has been riding motorcycles and visiting roadside attractions for over 20 years. She told me that her husband remembered seeing a blue and red Muffler Man in the small town of Oakland Maine at the corner of Fairfield and Kennedy many years ago. I made a note of the sighting and thought no more of it until August 2017 when I first saw pictures of Howard and started to piece his story together.

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A Muffler Man almost identical to Howard in Atlantic City 1965.

2017-10-13 11.02.18-1Howard’s early life is still unknown and we are still in the process of trying to piece it together and obtain early pictures of him. He one was probably manufactured sometime after 1966, and is one of the rare bow tie versions. He us unique in that he is also one of the custom jobs done by International Fiberglass and has a unique hat like the Muffler Man in Cassopolis. It is not known who ordered him originally but early reports say he stood at a Mobile gas station in Oakland Maine in the 70s and possibly late 60s.  2017-08-02 10.10.50He was purchased used sometime between 1976-1978 by Marden’s Surplus and Salvage Company and named “Howard Huge”. The giant was used outside a few different store fronts, primarily Waterville and Bangor in the 70s and 80s. When the company continued to grow and open more stores, the use of the giant was discontinued and he was put in storage sometime in the early 1990s. He has been stored indoors since that time and is in very good condition with just a few common scrapes and scuff marks that comes with moving and age. He also has as a few small cracks under his arms.

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Big guy (1)When we were contacted by Marden’s in August 2017 we quickly made the connection to Rachael’s husbands sighting, and for the first time, got to see pictures of the long lost giant. He is a rare and unique find, in great condition for his age and the best part is, the owners were willing to sell him. Although he had sentimental value and reminds them of their early days, the owners realize that they woulden’t ever display him again, and that he would be better off with someone who would. American Giants an auction for him that ended on December 10, 2017 and the giant is now headed to a much warmer climate!

 

The Dodge City Muffler Man

Dodge City Phillips 66 CowboyWith almost 200 original Muffler Man still standing across America, Canada and even a few in other countries, one can wonder how many were made new in the 60s and 70s. I think one thing that fascinates us about these giants is their history. They have a connection with the past, and they all hide stories that are hard to discover. I’m on a never ending quest to find out their stories and when I do, they never disappoint. The challenge is, most of the original owners of these giants have past away, and the history and stories with them. This makes it challenging, but not impossible to connect the dots on where these giants have been, and the secrets they are hiding.

IMG_3241Recently I have been going state by state on instagram, detailing each Muffler Man as we go and briefing us all on their individual history. In doing this I have answered questions I have had for years, by uncovering details that connected current locations with far away stories. One such mystery has been the Muffler Man of Dodge City, KS.

 

In 2013 the American Giants team traveled to IMG_9186Dodge City to see Dennis Hoppers Muffler Men. Dennis was born and raised in Dodge city and later in life he ran some traveling art shows. He was inspired by two Muffler Men and decided to pull a mold from one of the giants in LA and create near identical copies to the La Salsa Man and a vintage Muffler Man standing at a mobil gas station featured in Life Magazine. These giants toured California and the world before Dennis died and they were put in storage. Years later his firm donated the giants to his home town of Dodge City and so we showed up to see them and get some interviews for American Giants Episodes nine and ten.

photo 5-4While in town we discovered that Dodge City had it’s own Muffler Man, but no one seemed to know where it had ended up. I was told by some, that it was in storage, while others claimed he had been hauled off to the landfill. We were put in touch with a man named Larry who’s Uncle Dale Bushell had first owned the giant. Larry was just a teenager in the mid 60s but remembered the Muffler Man, how could you not? He agreed to meet with us at the Carnegie Art Center and show us some old pictures.

Screen Shot 2017-09-20 at 12.53.35 AMUncle Dale was a Phillips 66 jobber. A jobber was the guy who made sure all the local gas stations in his district were running and had fuel and product for the customers. Dale happened to own the four Phillips 66 stations in Dodge City in the 60s and would often drive down to Texas to pick up tank loads of fuel and keep his stations filled. He also serviced a few stations in the surrounding towns of Ford and Bucklin, known as satellite stations.

Dodge City Cowboy 3In 1966 Dale heard about the new Cowboy Giants used for promotions and to advertise new locations and he decided he needed one for his stations. Dale and his wife hopped in their pickup and drove the 1,279 miles to Venice California to pick one up. They arrived and picked up one of the cowboys, complete with a trailer and 6 shooter at his side, and hauled the giant back to Dodge City. Dale used the giant at all 4 of his stations in Dodge City and even hauled the giant to Ford and Bucklin a few times. Only a few pictures survive of the cowboy during this time and show the giant standing at the east side Phillips 66 station in Dodge City, where the Taylor Market is located today. Dodge City winds toppled the giant at one point and broke off one of his hands.

Big Matt 1In June 1971 when the Giant Cowboy program came to it’s end, Dale donated the 20ft giant to Boot Hill, the local old town tourist attraction. George Henrichs, executive director of the Front Street exhibition, was all to happy to accept the gift. In addition to fixing the broken hand, George also had long sleeves made for the cowboy since no real cowboy goes around in short sleeves. He also saw to it that he got a new sheriff vest  painted on and a 20ft rifle was ordered for the cowboy. At first it was made of wood but proved to be very heavy so a fiberglass one was made instead. The rifle didn’t arrive till March of 1972 and it took Allen Green and Denney Herman to lift the huge Model 66 Winchester into the giants hands, before the tourist rush in May. By June of 72 he was known as Big Matt and was in the prime of his life with hundreds of visitors enjoying his size, new paint job and rifle.

Boot Hill KS Big Matt

Matt 2Happy times for Matt were short lived when on October 30 he was discovered missing. Harry Rice, a worker at Boot Hill, found him laying across the railroad tracks a short distance away. His back was broken along with his cowboy hat and rifle. A little investigation showed that he had been pulled over with a ski rope tied to a car. Rice was perturbed when he found Matt all busted up, “We got the statue as a gift” he told the paper, “We worked all winter on him. It’s a sad deal when we can’t have something up that people enjoy, because others had to tear it down.”

Matt wasn’t the only Muffler Man in America suffering because of teenagers out to have a good time. I’ve heard of at least 20 other Muffler Men during the 70s and 80s being pulled over and hauled off by vandals. Just a few years ago one of the Indian Muffler Men in Irving, NY was pulled down by local teens trying to prove something. Matt was able to lick his wounds, and thankfully Boot Hill was able to repair all the damage and get him standing again for the next tourist season in 1973.

Matt 3In April of 1975 Matt lost his head in a windstorm and that left him standing headless as the staff scrambled to get him presentable again for the tourist season. Sadly the head was pretty damaged after falling off Matts shoulders and rolling some distance away so the giant was taken down and put in storage. In 1982 Boot Hill did some spring cleaning and decided it was time for Matt to go, so he was hauled off to the auction lot. Don Trigg of Arizona won the auction and hauled Big Matt all the way down to Yuma.

He decided Matt’s head was to far gone so he made a new head for the Muffler Man that could swivel and had a motor so the head could turn. We don’t know if Don fiberglassed over the top of the original head or simply made a new one but the replacement head looked nothing like the original. At the time the motor and turning head seemed like a great idea but after the giant was set up, this feature was never actually used. Don set the giant up at Westward Village RV Park and eventually sold the business in 1998 with the now old and tattered Matt, still standing there.

The new owners decided the giant could stay, and in 2006 his sad looking head got a makeover. It still left much to be desired, but was an improvement over the last one. He still stands in Yuma today and somehow has kept a firm grip on that giant rifle, although he has lost his pistol and gun belt somewhere along the way. Today he goes by the name of Big Wes and very few people know his story.

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Photo Credit Wayne Stadler

Many of these roadside giants have stories like Matt’s, they just need to be dug up and shared. Maybe one day Matt will get a real Muffler Man head again, maybe one day he may be able to go back home to Dodge City and Boot Hill, maybe his story is not over….maybe.

Special thanks to Larry Leonard and his extended family for provided history and family photos of Big Matt in 1966. Also thanks to Wayne Stadler for letting us use his picture of the Muffler man where he stands today. Also a big thank you to Roadside America for the info found on their site and linking the Yuma Muffler Man to Dodge City. 

Muffler Men For Sale

IMG_4716Screen Shot 2014-02-07 at 2.51.11 PMSince the first day a Muffler Man was made back around 1961, they have been popular. Bob Prewitt made the first one that stands today in Flagstaff AZ,  and shortly after ,sold the mold to International Fiberglass. They started selling the giants around 1962, and boy did they sell! So much so that in just 10 short years, we guess a few hundred, of just the Bunyan version alone, stood at various businesses across the country. International Fiberglass went on to make other versions and broaden their market, so today, you can still visit, bunyans, cowboys, snerds (half wits), golfers, pirates and Indians after more than 50 years on the roadside.

bunyan-2Interestingly the most visited page of this website is the “for sale” page, and the question I am asked the most is, “how much is a Muffler Man worth?” This is a loaded question and to answer it properly, we should look at a little bit of history. In 1969 a standard 20ft Bunyan would have cost you $2,830 doll hairs, and additions would go up from there. The larger giants and Indian versions would run you a bit more. Great price right!? To put that into perspective, thats about $18,818 in todays money.

IMG_0196In 1972 IF stopped making Muffler Men, because the demand had dropped and shipping costs had sky rocketed. They continued to use outside contractors to fill orders for the giants, until the last two Muffler Men were made in 1974. That was the end of new Muffler Men, and the molds were destroyed. By the late 70s and early 80s the giants left standing across IMG_3063America were starting to look a bit haggard, and they were considered eye sores, and you could hardly give them away. I have heard of many being thrown out, buried, given away or sold for $30 or $40 bucks. That sentiment started to change in the early 90s, when they were becoming vintage and in the mid to late 90s the guys at Roadside America, started noticing them and brought attention to them after discovering their origins. People started writing in tips about current locations and they started to develop a following that is still growing today.

IMG_4806Smithsonian did an article about the long lost giants in 2000, and this raised interest and popularity even more. Over the next 10 years, more and more travelers would go out of their way to see a Muffler Man, and this was noticed by business owners. Because they had not been made in over 20 years, would be buyers, found them hard to obtain. Many owners were reluctant to part with the giants, because they were often passed down from an uncle or father, and had sentimental value. Also, the communities in small cities and towns were often (and still are) up in arms when learning, that the long time local landmark might be leaving. So the challenge of obtaining an original Muffler Man was born and the value of these aging giants was no longer $40.

DSCN5600By the time I came on the scene, and started researching these gentle giants in 2011, the going rate was around $5,000 and we would gawk, when we heard of one selling for more. Those who had purchased a giant in the 80s or 90s for a few bucks, were feeling pretty good about their purchase, and those who had done the selling were in shock. Muffler Men continued to remain hard to find, and it seems that to this day, only a handful will come up for sale each year, if any at all. It was kind of like winning the lottery, and if you happened to find one before all the other collectors had noticed you might get a good deal!

IMG_0105I sometimes wonder if my videos and research on these giants has contributed to the increased interest and value. As more people become aware of these unique giants from the 60’s, they continue to attract more visitors each year, which in turn makes them more desirable by business owners and collectors. Condition has always been a factor in value, and now that many of these giants have turned 50, it seems harder and harder to find ones in good condition. And lets not forget the mysterious pull these giant’s have, they are old, unique to the 60s and remind of us a different time and seem to bring adventure and joy to all who seek them out.

screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-1-38-36-pmIn the last few years we have seen Muffler Men in good condition, once again reach the same value they had when sold new back in the 60s. There is no set value on a Muffler Men but some of the most recently sold Muffler Men have fetched higher numbers, which are very close to the $18,818 they sold for in the 60’s, if you adjust for inflation. Now that doesn’t always mean that grandpas Muffler Man, you’ve still got laying out in the back 40 rotting away is going to get you 20K! Remember that condition plays a big part of the sale price, because once a buyer purchases your giant, he IMG_20130110_113320has to restore it, and he doesn’t want to end up with more into the giant then he could possibly get back out. I’d say most original Muffler Men today, are valued around 3-11K, but one in decent condition could fetch much more. Also another factor is how rare they are, if you have an original 14 ft version, Uniroyal Gal or one of 5 existing Texaco Big Friends, the value goes way up regardless of condition. Bottom line, Muffler Men are worth what the collector is willing to give, and sometimes that figure may surprise you and other times disappoint.

For current Muffler Men for sale keep a regular eye on our “For Sale” page. Currently there is an original 14 ft version for sale in AZ as well as a standard Bunyan head, you can check them out by clicking here

 

 

Watch the Eclipse with a Muffler Man

IMG_2602As we all know, an eclipse is comping up next week and America is counting the days. Today as I was looking at the map and lamenting the fact that I am 2 hours from the totality path, I noticed some muffler men aren’t. In fact, 15 Muffler Men, 2 Big Johns and a handful of A&W family’s are going to get a great view!

IMG_8126The eclipse will start on the west coast and travel east. The first International Fiberglass figure to see it will be a teen burger boy in Albany, OR standing just south of the line of totality at Shirley May’s café. It’s ladies first after that, with the Uniroyal Gal in Blackfoot, ID who is just south of the totality path and will get an almost perfect view. Two A&W burger family’s follow her in Thermopolis, WY and also another in Casper, WY. Next is the “indian”, actually bow tie service man version in North Platte, NB who stands on the southern boundary of the eclipses path. Just south of the path stands the Lake of the Ozarks Indian we restored a year ago, he will get an almost perfect view and he’s even facing the right IMG_9638direction. The only Bunyan to have a raised right arm in a waving position is next, not far from St Louis, MO. He stands along interstate 70 on the south side near the town of Foristell and is on the northern boarder of the path. As the eclipse continues to move across MO it will pass another little known Muffler Man lying on his back in a junk yard who will watch it go by. Next is Illinois and the entire American Giants collection will get a great view of the eclipse. Two Big Johns will also enjoy the event, first the one in Eldorado, IL and almost immediately after, the recently restored giant in Metropolis. The honored Muffler Man of the day will be the Mortons Gap Muffler Man that we restored a few years back in KY. He stands just slightly south of the line of totality and thumb_IMG_9293_1024also happens to be within a few miles of the location of greatest Eclipse. Another almost direct hit will be the Indian in Cross Plains, TN. This would be a great spot to watch the eclipse go by. The former El Monte, CA Muffler Man moved all the way to Gallatin, TN just so he could get a good view and he will if he takes his hat off and looks up. Next is the former Chicago Mr Bendo who also seems to have moved for the same reason. He is now known as Mr Hobby and stand in Blue Ridge GA just on the southern boundary of the path of totality. Last but not least is the Muffler Man in Washington, GA who is just a few miles past the southern boundary of totality but still almost a perfect view.

IMG_3063IMG_1861After that the eclipse passes over the Muffler Man vacant state of South Carolina and out to sea. So if you have the chance pick one of these Muffler Men to watch the eclipse with and be sure and send us a picture on instagram #mufflermaneclipse

The Giant Event!

Screen Shot 2017-08-04 at 12.34.52 AMAs many of you know, Bruce Kennedy of Bell Plastics in Hayward, CA has been collecting Muffler Men for years. These days his collection has grown to epic proportions and includes much more than just Muffler Men. In addition to the doggie diner heads, Sinclair Dino’s and Big Boy statue, Bruce has a few creations of his own as well as a classic Uniroyal Gal right out of the restoration shop!

Bruce has decided to throw a birthday party for his first Muffler Man “Big Mike” and everyone is invited. Neto and I will be there from American Giants as well as some of the guys from Roadside America and Weird California. This is a great opportunity to see one of the largest collections of Muffler Men and International Fiberglass products as well as meet fellow enthusiasts.

We know many of you from Facebook and Instagram and hope to see as many of you there as possible. Admission is free and the event will be open from 10am to 5pm, Sunday August 27. If you have any questions about the event, please feel free to contact us or Bell Plastics. You can reach us info@usagiants.com See you there!

Treasure at the Clover Leaf

 

 

Ardmore Big Friend 3I’m often asked, what is it about Muffler Men that pulls you in? I’ve never claimed to have that answer, but I do know that there is something fascinating about these giants, and their story. It’s probably a combination of different factors, that make finding and tracking them so intriguing. It doesn’t take long to get the “bug”, and after that, your forever aware of the giants, and always seem to have an eye out for them.

IMG_8622We don’t know how many were made, but we do know that there are still close to 200 Muffler Men out there, and even more that are tucked away in storage, or rotting away out in the back 40. It seems the rare ones are the most interesting. Like the 14 half wits that are left, the 16 Uniroyal Gals or the 7 Mr Bendo’s. And let’s not forget the rarest of them all, the Texaco Big Friend!

Big Friends wating for deliverytexaco-big-friend-1The big question is, how is it that 300 of these colossal service men were made, and only four remain today. Many of us have seen the old picture from 1966 of all the Big Friends lined up at International Fiberglass ready for shipment to various Texaco stations across the country. The sheer size and number impress us, as they all stand grouped together, making the flatbed truck seem so small. It’s easy to look at that picture and think, “yep there they all are, 300 big friends”. Actually, if you count, there are only around 22 in that picture, a small fraction of the 300 that were made. One can only imagine what a picture would look like, that actually showed all 300 of them grouped together. It’s hard to comprehend how large that group would have been, and yet, only 4 of the giants remain today.

TBF4We don’t know many of the details of why the promotion was canceled so fast, or what the deposal method was for the giants, but it must have been a good one. Today Big Friends still stand (or lay) in Oregon, Idaho, Illinois and Arkansas. In addition to that a few parts and pieces have survived. There is a Texaco Big Friend head in Chicago, in a private collection, as well as a arm and hand holding a bird bath in a backyard somewhere out West and that’s it. Or is it? What are the odds that with 300 of the giants made, there’s more than just 4 left, I’d say very high, we just haven’t found them yet.

Screen shot 2013-07-24 at 4.46.18 PMSince the guys at Roadside America started bringing attention to the Muffler Men, back in the mid 90s, the knowledge and interest in them has steadily grown and continues today. The giants drawn more and more visitors each year and many tourist towns recognize this fact, and capitalize on their local giant, or desire to purchase one. Business owners also desire the giants, and we have watched their value steadily increase from 3 digits to 5! However, even with their growing popularity, it has been proved over and over again, that they can be in plain sight and still go unnoticed.

DSCN5600Muffler Men always sell when they come up for sale to the muffler man audience, there is a high demand for them. And yet, finding them is the challenge! Recently a Phillips66 Cowboy sat on craigslist for months before he was finally noticed and purchased. A Uniroyal Gal also sat on craigslist for months in Baltimore before her owner stumbled on this website and mentioned her, she was sold within hours with dozens of would be buyers lamenting the fact that she had been for sale for 6 months and they never noticed.

handThen there is the story of Tim Loyd. Tim lives in Denton Texas, and owns a candy store just off the town square, across from the courthouse. He enjoys collecting Americana to decorate his store, and in 2011 visited Burley Auction in New Braunsfels, TX. He noticed a large, well defined hand being sold and purchased it for his candy store. When he got home he hung it from the ceiling to join the other unique attractions. He had no idea what the big hand was from, but it seemed like the perfect fit. Years past and early this year someone mentioned to him that there was a large head out in front of an antique store in Ardmore, OK. This intrigued Tim and he decided to drive up to Ardmore to see if he could find this giant head. Upon IMG_9696arrival at the Clover Leaf antique store he immediately spotted the head just to the right of the entrance. It had been painted a pasty white and had a cap on its head, and was staring happily at the sky. The owner wanted more than Tim was willing to pay so he drove home. But there was just something about that head, and Tim started doing some research. He discovered this website and started reading the articles, and learned about the Texaco Big Friend. How 300 were made and only 4 were left today. As he looked at those pictures, he realized what he had just found in Ardmore. It wasn’t long before Tim was headed back to the Clover Leaf, and secured the purchase of a VERY rare Texaco Big Friend head, to join the Texaco Big Friend hand he already had in his store.

IMG_9835Tim wasted no time in getting to work on the head. He found that with effort, he was able to remove the white paint from the face, revealing the original paint underneath. It took him about 20 hours to remove all the paint and get things back to original. Although worn, the Big Friend head came to life all over again. The hat has a few holes and cracks in it but demonstrates how old these giants are, and validates their vintage.

 

Ardmore is just another town in America, I actually dated a girl from Ardmore back in my collage days and visited a few times. That Big Friend head arrived at the Clover Leaf possibly around 2012, after being purchased at the Round Top Texas annual flee market It IMG_9697sat just off the interstate exit, right smack in front of the store, outside, for years, without being spotted by anyone that knew what a Muffler Man was. It never showed up on Instagram, facebook or Roadside America. It just goes to show you that, there are more undiscovered giants out there, and they could very possibly be in plain sight. In fact, another piece of a Muffler Man still remains at the store, yards from where the Big Friend head was. You just never know what tomorrows discoveries might be. So on your next trip through Denton Texas, be sure and stop by the Atomic Candy Store, buy some candy and check out one of six known Texaco Big Friend heads….and a left hand.

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A big thank you to Tim Loyd for rescuing this Big Friend head and for letting us know about him and sharing with us us all the details of the story along with the pictures.