International Fiberglass made two kinds of indians you could order. One was an indian brave with a bare chest and normally one or 2 feathers and a serious face. This version seems to be the more common today and was the indian chosen by the mohawk gas stations to be their mascot. The second indian was almost the same but actually had a different head mold with a fierce facial expression and a full indian headdress. Other then the head both versions are the same from the neck down. One of the more uncommon full headdress indians can be found in the small town o Montpelier, IN and he has lived here since January of 1984. Like many full headdress indians his life started out at a Pontiac dealership. I have heard this over and over now in my travels and when asking about the history of an indian the answer is often “oh we got him from a pontiac dealership”. Somewhere back in the day Pontiac must have decided that an Indian muffler man would make a good mascot and at least a dozen of these guys were ordered and stood at lots scattered across america. Both head versions were used at Pontiac lots and the idea seemed to die out and lots sold the indians mostly in the early 80’s. The name Pontiac was first used around 1893 by the Pontiac Buggy Company later becoming Spring and Wagon Works Company. The Pontiac Buggy Co. originated in Pontiac, MI and got it’s name from the location named after Indian Chief Pontiac. In 1906 the Oakland Motor Car Co. merged with them and in 1909 GM acquired both brands. Seventeen years later in 1926 GM marketed it’s first Pontiac car and it set an automobile industry record selling 76,000 cars the first year and priced under $900.
The Montpelier indian stood at a Pontiac lot in during the 70’s as many indian versions did. This one stood at Dave Waite Pontiac at 54th and Keystone and he even appeared in some International Fiberglass promotional material from 1969. After being taken down he was given to the city by Larry P. Godfroy who is the great grandson of Francois Godfroy, the last war Chief of the Miami indians who once lived in the area. Today the muffler man stands on the main intersection in Montpelier and still proudly wears his IF label on his leg.
Thanks to Terry Nelson for providing the vintage photograph of the indian during his days at Dave Waite Pontiac. (the old black and white picture had been reversed for advertising purposes)
Finally another Indian! This was my third indian sighting and after a bit of cunfusion when first arriving on campus we quickly found the brave overlooking the football field (kind of hard to miss). Today you can find him standing at McEachern high school in Powder Springs and he has been here for at least 35 years I was told by the coach. I’ve heard a few versions of his history and there are some conflicts between Buckhead and Marietta Georgia as his previous location but we do know that he stood at a Pontiac dealership at one of these towns from the late 60’s to the early 70’s before being purchased by the McEachern class of 1973. When they graduated they gave him to the school as a class gift and he as been standing on a tall pole behind the bleachers ever since.
I have studied indian muffler men carefully and they do vary slightly. I believe that International Fiberglass made a few adjustments to their mold as they went along and sometimes you can notice slight differences. Indians came in a few versions and you could get an Indian Brave or a Chief with a full head dress. The one here at Powder Springs sports a single feather and he also lacks the suspender buttons on his pants. As with all Indians his pant legs drop to the top of his shoes and as is common with these full legged pants he has the International Fiberglass logo on his leg above the right knee. Sometimes you have to look carefully for these logo’s because after 40 years and 10 layers of paint they can be hard to spot. Also Indians often have arms that clearly have break or mold points on them where two pieces were bolted together. You can see this on dozens of Indians across America unlike other standard muffler men who do not have a visible joint. Something I also noticed is that the eyes can vary on Indian muffler men. For example this one here in Powder Springs (top) has large big eyes while my #4 sighting in Plainfield, TN (bottom) had smaller eyes like he was half squinting.
One of the sadder Indian stories I have was what was to have been my #61 sighting at the Orange County Fairgrounds in NY (sadly my #61 sighting had to settle for the Elmsford M Man). This is the same Orange County that “Orange County Choppers” is from and a indian muffler man has stood on the fairground for years. I drove by Middletown on the 28th of July but decided I could to see him in a few days since it was getting late in the day. I arrived at the fairground on July 4 2012 only to discover that he had been torn down on the 2nd after standing at his post since the 70’s! I learned a hard and important lesson that day, always visit a muffler man when you have the chance, you never know when he will move on (or in this case, get trashed). It’s true he was in VERY rough shape and he had been patched and repaired so many times that only his head looked muffler man like. His name was Towaco and he stood in the Indian Village area of the fairgrounds. I spent a good part of the afternoon visiting each and every dumpster on the grounds trying to locate the pieces but he was gone. A call to the fairgrounds a few days later informed me that thankfully the head had been rescued from the dumpster and taken home by one of the men that helped take the giant down. I was happy to know that at least somewhere in Middletown an Indian head in very good condition probably graces someone’s garage or storage shed. Thanks to Debra Jane Seltzer for letting me use a picture she took of the Orange County Indian in 2010 before he was taken down. You can read more at http://agilitynut.com/giants/nymm.html