Muffler Men made prime time today when Dennis Hoppers “Giant Art Sculptures” were shipped from Anaheim, CA to Dodge City Kansas and the shipment was featured on A&E’s Shipping Wars. The pair were made from a mold cast from a LA muffler man back in 2000 and the next year they started traveling with Dennis Hoppers art show. They have been to many places in America and I have even seen pictures of one of them in Paris. They were made to resemble two iconic LA muffler men, the La Salsa m man in Malibu remodeled by Bob Wade and also a muffler man that was featured in a life magazine picture standing at a mobile gas station in the 60’s holding a poster for free 5 cent coupons. The Malibu muffler man still stands today but I’m not sure where the other ended up. It is possible he is still in the area repainted and unrecognizable from his 1960’s picture or he may be long gone. The Dennis Hopper giants, estimated at a whopping $100,000 each, have been in storage for a few years and were recently donated by the Dennis Hopper Art Trust to the Carnegie Center for the Art’s who notified me about their arrival in Dodge and gave us a heads up about tonights episode of shipping wars. They will be on display July 11th through 13th at the Western State Bank Expo Center. They are also currently working on a Multicultural park Design for their permanent home. It’s great to see these guys back out in view of the public and although not made by International Fiberglass in the 60’s they still certainly count as muffler men. The muffler man that the mold was cast from is known as Tony and he stands at a car repair business in east LA. He disappeared briefly in 2000 and Roadside America even got a few ransom notes as a joke until it was discovered he was being used to make a mold for Dennis Hoppers muffler men. Tony happens to be one of the rare muffler men with a bow tie and so thats how the La Salsa man copy ended up with one. The original that stands in Malibu is the standard version but Dennis Hoppers clearly boasts a black bow tie and that’s how you can tell which one you are looking at. The other Dennis Hopper muffler man known as the “Mobile Man” was altered with a normal neck line and it sits a bit higher up than it does on other muffler men. Tony still stands in east LA and was one of the earlier muffler men I visited when American Giants was just starting out. Needless to say we traveled out to Dodge City to check out the Dennis Hopper muffler men and get the scoop. Oh and interestingly enough these are not the first muffler men to call Dodge City their home.
This is Tony and he also has been around the LA area for a long time. He stands in front of Tony’s Transmissions and holds a beat up little red car. Actually the car isn’t that little but compared to Tony it is. The place was closed when I stopped by so I don’t know as much as I would like to about his history but I do know that this is a relatively new location for him. The business moved here in 2010 and he moved with it. He has a rare hat you don’t see often on M men although it is a close match to the one that used to sit on the head of the M Man in Handcock, MA. Interestingly Tony held the secrete to a mystery that took me some time to solve. Here it is…. in 2000 a picture was taken of a muffler man at an indoor art gallery in LA. In the picture you can see what clearly looks like the La Salsa M Man made by Bob Wade standing there holding his plate full of goodies and his original hat (the top part of the burger). The shoes are a dead match as well as the poncho over the shoulder although it is a bit longer now then it was then. Everything looked right except that there was a clearly a bow tie at the collar. Tony is one of the rare bow tie versions and the La Salsa M Man is clearly not, both today and in the pictures taken of him when he was Mr Frostie Freeze and shortly after Bob Wade turned him into a mexican there is no bow tie to be found. So what muffler man was in that picture? I came to the conclusion that it had to be Tony but why he stole La Salsa’s outfit puzzled me. Finally I learned that in 2000 Tony was loaned to the Dennis Hopper estate so they could make a few copies of him. In 2001 both copies appeared in a Dennis Hopper art gallery, one represented the La Salsa M Man and the other was a dead match to vintage picture taken of an M Man that stood in LA at a Mobile gas station in the 60’s. The two copied M Men can be found today in Dodge City KS after they were donated in early 2013 to the Kansas City Carnegie for the arts center. These days Tony has returned to his auto repair shop and stands with his simple white and blue holding his busted car and lives a much humbler life at the corner of City Terrace and Bonnie Beach.