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Weird California
Weird California - By Joe Parzanese

Muffler Men

Map The Indian Warrior
4310 Alfred Harrell Highway, Bakersfield, California 93308

Map Golf Guy
19800 S. Main Street, Carson, California 90745
(Can be seen from 405)

Map 505 South Crane Avenue, Compton, California 90221

Map Edwin
2710 Santa Anita Avenue, El Monte, California 91733

Map Joor Muffler
302 East Valley Parkway, Escondido, California 92025

Map 11820 River Road, Forestville, California 95436

Map Hat Creek Muffler Man
Highway 89 and Gatewood, Hat Creek, California 96040
(Formerly in Dunsmuir)

Map Big Mike
2020 National Ave, Hayward, California 94541
(formerly 22314 Mission Blvd)

Map 560 Gallardo Street, Los Angeles, California 90033

Map Chicken Boy
5558 North Figueroa Street, Los Angeles, California 90042

Map Tony's Transmissions
3900 City Terrace Drive, Los Angeles, California 90022

Map El Salsero
22800 West Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, California 90265

Map Muffler Man and Other Giants
Garnet Avenue and Mill Creek Road, Mentone, California 92359

Map 4498 E Hyway 140, Merced, California 95340

Map Hubcap Lady
Pearson Road, Pearsonville, California 93527

Map Babe the Muffler Man
808 The Alameda, San Jose, California 95126

Map 11110 Ridge Road, Sutter Creek, California 95642

Map 15237 Sherman Way, Van Nuys, California 91405

Map 390 E Commercial St, Willits, California 95490

The Joor Muffler Man in Escondido
The Joor Muffler Man in Escondido

Large giants standing 18 to 25 feet tall litter the highways of America, several scattered throughout California. In the 1960s and 1970s a fiberglass company called International Fiberglass created these roadside giants. In 1962, a man called Bob Prewitt who at the time owned Prewitt Fiberglass created the very first Muffler Man, a Paul Bunyan style giant for PB Cafe on Route 66 in Flagstaff, Arizona. In 1963, Steve Dashew purchased the business from him and until 1975, Muffler Men were churned out by the company, now called International Fiberglass, and appeared on roadways throughout the United States.

Tony of Tony's Transmissions holds up a car in Los Angeles
Tony of Tony's Transmissions holds up a car in Los Angeles

The term Muffler Man was coined by Roadside America probably sometime around the mid to late nineties, long after the last Muffler Man was built. Muffler Men are made entirely of fiberglass, hollow, usually portraying a rugged individual with broad shoulders and his left palm face down while the right palm is face up in order to hold an axe, golf club, muffler, tire, etc. They came in a few different variations. All of the below can be found in California with the exception of the Happy Half Wit, which will soon be present here as well.

Originally Muffler Men were mostly found outside auto shops, restaurants, and later miniature golf courses, but now can be found almost anywhere. Muffler Men in the sixties and seventies cost anywhere from $1000 to $2800 each, depending on quantity ordered and accessories installed on each fiberglass statues. Now a days it is not surprising to see them go for $20,000! Probably, one of the more famous Muffler Men can be seen in the opening credits of the HBO series "The Sopranos". This is an actual Muffler Man from NJ.

There are currently rumored to be 21 unique Muffler Men in California spread amongst 19 different sites. One location in Hayward currently has three different Muffler Men with a fourth on the way! We have gathered pictures of 11 of those 21 Muffler Men!

Bakersfield Indian
Bakersfield Indian

Bakersfield Giant Indian
The only Indian style Muffler Man in California is in Bakersfield. Originally purchased by Ken Barnes in 1965 for the sum of about $1400, it was used to advertise Ken's tire shop, promoting Mohawk brand tires. There it resided in the middle of a roundabout, Garces Traffic Circle, before the tire shop was sold. Afterwards, it then was on display at a local school as the mascot for the Warriors. Eventually it ended up being taken down and stored in a back yard where it wasn't kept up and suffered from vandalism. Now the big Indian resides outside The Corral Café, far across town from its original location at Ken's tire shop. He now resides on Alfred Harrell Highway, a road named after Alfred Harrell, former owner of the Bakersfield Californian Newspaper. It is said that before he was put up at the Corral Café, he underwent somewhere around a $7000 to $8000 restoration to bring the Muffler Man back to the proud Indian he is today.

Carson
The Golf Guy is a converted Muffler Man made to look like a golfer. He holds a giant golf club and stands in view of the 405 Freeway near the 110 interchange. He use to stand on the edge of a golf course, but the golf course has apparently closed and is now gone, yet still the Golf Guy has remained standing in his place. Catch him while you still can, as the fate or final destination of the Muffler Man is currently unknown.

Compton
The Compton Muffler Man is a classic style Muffler Man found on the corner of Myrrh and Crane. He is behind a fence and doesn't carry anything in his hands.

El Monte Muffler Man
El Monte Muffler Man

El Monte
El Monte plays host to a classic Muffler Man complete with a hard hat and a golf club in his hands. He goes by the name of Edwin and is located within the fenced in area of the business to which he belongs.

The Joor Muffler Man
The Joor Muffler Man

Escondido
The Joor Muffler Man lives in Escondido and he has been standing outside the business, The Joor Muffler Service since the 1960s. Unlike a lot of other Muffler Men now a days, the Joor Muffler Man is actually holding a muffler. He also has been known to dress up for both Christmas (in a Santa suit) and Halloween (in a large orange pumpkin). Rumor also has it that he owns a Hawaiian shirt for the hot summer days.

Forestville
Located at River Bend Campground in Forestville, CA (east of Guerneville) is a Paul Bunyan style Muffler Man. He carries what is either a spade or a canoe paddle. And at one time he had a speaker attached to him that use to tell the story of Paul Bunyan.

Hat Creek
In Hat Creek along Highway 89 stands a Cowboy version of the Muffler Men. He stands on the premises of an actual working cattle ranch. He was formerly in Dunsmuir, CA where he stood as a mechanic, but was relocated and transformed into the Cowboy he is today.

Big Mike
Original Location of Big Mike - photo by Paul Velez

Hayward
In Hayward, the Paul Bunyan style Muffler Man known as Big Mike protects the business, Bell Plastics. Starting around 1966, he was originally located on Mission Boulevard outside first Morris Car Wash, and later Tyre Treds, Big Mike during this phase of his life, carried a scrub brush. He eventually sadly suffered from vandalism, but was luckily rescued by Bruce Kennedy. Bruce purchased Big Mike in 2011. He was taken down for restorations, and returned in new condition in early 2013 on National Avenue in the parking lot of Bell Plastics.

By the summer of 2013 Big Mike acquired a friend, a fellow Muffler Man, this one a Cowboy version. The Cowboy had sat in storage in Missouri for over ten years, before Bruce Kennedy, the owner of Big Mike, acquired him too, had him transported across the country, fixed up, and repainted.

But Bruce wasn't finished yet! In November 2013, he acquired another Paul Bunyan Muffler Man! This one was hidden away in storage down in Paramount, California. Bruce, also acquired a 12 foot tall Santa Claus to go along with his Muffler Men, although when we visited, Santa was not out and available to be seen. Granted it was February and not Christmas, so maybe he stays inside during the "warm" months.

In addition to the three Muffler Men on display and the rumors of the 12 foot tall Santa, Bruce Kennedy has also recently acquired a Happy Half Wit version of the Muffler Men, and should have it onsite sometime soon! The Happy Half Wit started its career in Kansas City before moving to Flint, Michigan in the late nineties. Now it joins Bruce's collection in the East Bay of California.

Big Mike also has a large axe that was anonymously left for him on site, but it was sadly the wrong size for the Muffler Man's hands. The base of real wood axe handle has the letters "BM" carved into it. The giant axe is on display inside the office foyer.

Hayward Muffler Men
The Cowboy is one of the Hayward Muffler Men
Bunyan Muffler Men in Hayward
Two Bunyan Muffler Men in Hayward
Big Mike
Big Mike has resided in Hayward for decades.
Second Paul Bunyan
The second Paul Bunyan Muffler Man in Hayward

Chickenboy
Chicken Boy!

Los Angeles Chickenboy
Many Muffler Men have been customized over the years, morphing from the rugged large men that they were into other tall giants advertising new and different businesses. One such modified Muffler Man is Chicken Boy in the Los Angeles area. Chicken Boy has the head of a chicken and holds a large bucket. Chicken Boy originally stood over Los Angeles advertising for a chicken restaurant. In 1984 the mutant Muffler Man was taken down shortly after the restaurant closed. It was saved by Amy Inouye who for over two decades has been holding on to Chicken Boy trying to get him restored somewhere. Finally in late 2007, early 2008, Chicken Boy was placed back up in Los Angeles. A few groups in the area refer to him as the "Statue of Liberty of Los Angeles".

Tony
Tony the Muffler Man

Los Angeles
Besides Chickenboy, Los Angeles also has Tony of Tony's Transmissions. Tony is a classic style Muffler Man with a slightly darker complexion making him look Hispanic. He sports a bowtie, pencil thin mustache, and is holding up a car.

Los Angeles
Sergio in Los Angeles is a Paul Bunyan style Muffler Man wearing a checker board pattern shirt. He carries nothing in his hands and stands at the corner of Gallardo Street and Mission Road, before a business named Automobile Alley.

El Salsero
El Salsero
(Photo by Catherine Mangan)

Malibu
The Malibu Muffler Man is another example of a converted Muffler Man. Standing along the Pacific Coast Highway at a Mexican restaurant called La Salsa, he wears a sombrero, sports a mustache, and carries a large platter (formerly filled with food; food which was sadly stolen in 2006). The location was a burger joint back in the seventies. The Muffler Man, previously referred to as the Malibu Frosty Freeze Man, use to carry a large burger, one of the accessories a Muffler Man could be ordered with back in the sixties. The bottom half of the bun is now the platter and the top half of the burger is his hat. He is often called "El Salsero" or "La Salsa Man". The restaurant changed from a burger joint to La Salsa in 1987.

The conversion of the Muffler Man from burger holding soda jerk to La Salsa Man was performed by artist Bob "Daddy O" Wade in 1988. In addition to the aforementioned use of the burger, the Muffler Man's shoes were turned into sandles using tires, and a serape was purchased for the big guy. Bob Wade is also responsible for several large roadside attractions in Texas as well as a Frog Mariachi Band in Tennessee. His Texas art installations include: a giant six shooter (somehow appropriate for Texas), a seventy foot tall saxophone in Houston, and the World's Largest Cowboy Boots in San Antonio.

To see pictures of the Muffler Man before and after go to Experiencing LA.

Mentone
In Mentone, there is a Paul Bunyan style Muffler Man. He stands along with the head of the Statue of Liberty and a giant chicken! There are other statues and giants there as well.

Merced
The Merced Muffler Man is a classic Muffler Man who isn't holding anything. He stands near the Ag Museum and Frontier Town.

Uniroyal Girl
Pearsonville Uniroyal Girl

Pearsonville Uniroyal Gal
International Fiberglass also made several other types of fiberglass statues including the hard to find Uniroyal Girls. The Uniroyal Girl is the female equivalent of the Muffler Man and looks a lot like Jackie Kennedy. Her left arm is held up in the air and her right hand is on her hip. It is believed that at one point she might have carried something like a tire or an oil can. It is also believed that she was built for Uniroyal Tire in order to advertise their stores. She usually came in a dress, although there appear to be many that have probably been modified with her now sporting a two piece bathing suit. There is one Uniroyal Girl in California that we are aware of. She can be found in Pearsonville along highway 395 and is known as the Hubcab Lady named after a former resident, Lucy Pearson, who once collected over 80,000 hubcaps. The town of Pearsonville and the 80,000 hubcabs are now all long gone, but The Hubcab Lady still stands watch over Highway 395, although faded and sun weathered.

Babe the Muffler Man
Babe the Muffler Man in San Jose

San Jose
Known as Babe the Muffler Man, he stands over on Alameda holding an actual muffler, not a giant muffler like so many other Muffler Men. He also sports a "Babe" name patch on his shirt and has, rumor has it, been in town since the sixties.

Sutter Creek
The Sutter Creek Muffler Man stands in a parking lot where Ridge Road meets Highway 88. He has a hard hat and isn't carrying anything.

Van Nuys
Kevin, the Van Nuys Muffler Man, is a Bunyan style muffler man and stands outside Tune-Up Masters. He holds nothing in his hands and is believed to have been there for at least twenty years.

Willits
The Willits Muffler Man is a Cowboy version who stands at the Willits Rodeo Grounds. He carries a branding iron with a "W" on the end and sports a belt buckle depicting the race horse Seabiscuit, who retired to Ridgewood Ranch near Willits.

So far, we've found eleven of the many Muffler Men out there, and we'd love to have your help finding other Muffler Men. Although we obviously only concentrate on California, we'll also be very appreciative for anyone sending us pictures of Muffler Men out of this state as well. Additionally, many of the Muffler Men out there have moved or changed over the years. Older pictures of them that we could post here, would also be very appreciated! Happy hunting!

Bakersfield Indian
Bakersfield Indian - More Pictures
El Monte
El Monte - More Pictures
Escondido
Escondido - More Pictures
Hayward
Hayward - More Pictures
Chicken Boy
Chicken Boy - More Pictures
Los Angeles
Los Angeles - More Pictures
El Salsero
El Salsero - More Pictures
(Photos by Catherine Mangan)
Pearsonville
Pearsonville - More Pictures
San Jose
San Jose - More Pictures

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Last Edited: 2014-02-21


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