Weird California
Weird California
Weird California - By Joe Parzanese

Muffler Men

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

Map Porsche Man
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 Bell Plastics
2020 National Ave, Hayward, California 94541
(formerly 22314 Mission Blvd)

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

Map Sergio
560 Gallardo Street, Los Angeles, California 90033

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

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

Map 93243 California 111, Mecca, California 92254

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 ax, 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.

In addition to Muffler Men and Uni Royal Girls, International Fiberglass made a variety of other fiberglass statues including:

International Fiberglass also made Giant Chickens!
International Fiberglass also made Giant Chickens!

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 23 unique Muffler Men in California spread amongst 20 different sites. One location in Hayward currently has four different Muffler Men including a cowboy, a Happy Half Wit and two Paul Bunyans! We have gathered pictures of 15 of those 23 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.

The Porche Man stands along Highway 405 in Carson
The Porche Man stands along Highway 405 in Carson

Carson
The Muffler Man in Carson was originally known as the Golf Guy and originally looked like a golfer, holding a giant golf club while he stood 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 closed sometime around 2013. The location was purchased for the upcoming Porsche Experience Center and the Golf Guy has been transformed into the Porsche Man, complete with a new paint job, new outfit, and a black and white checkered flag instead of his original golf club. His race track driver's outfit is an actual outfit, complete with Velcro and zippers.

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
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.

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.

Compton Muffler Man
Compton Muffler Man
El Monte Muffler Man
El Monte Muffler Man
The Joor Muffler Man
The Joor Muffler Man
Hat Creek Muffler Man - photo courtesy of Colean Lundsten
Hat Creek Muffler Man - photo courtesy of Colean Lundsten

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 in 2009 was relocated and transformed into the Cowboy he is today.

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

Hayward
The highest concentration of Muffler Men in California is Bell Plastics where since 2011 Bruce Kennedy has been acquiring Muffler Men and giant fiberglass statues in general. Bruce's first purchase was a Hayward native known as Big Mike, a Paul Bunyan Muffler Man originally over on Mission Boulevard. He started his career outside Morris Car Wash, then later Tyre Treds, before being acquired by Bruce.

Since then Bruce Kennedy has acquired the following Muffler Men: a Cowboy last from Missouri, another Paul Bunyan found in storage down in Paramount, and a Happy Half Wit last from Flint, Michigan known as "Hollywood" since he had a cameo in a 2008 movie. In addition to these Muffler Men, he has also purchased and erected in Bell Plastics driveway a Santa Claus, two Doggie Diner Heads, a Gas Giant, an unpainted Bob's Big Boy, and a few dinosaurs.

And he's not done yet! He just recently purchased a Uniroyal Girl in June of 2015 from Illinois and it's on its way to join its fellow Muffler Men in Hayward. This will make the second Uniroyal Girl in California, with the other down in Pearsonville

Bell Plastics also makes Bobble Heads of Big Mike and Cowboy Don. Bruce Kennedy intends to make a line of six different Bobble Heads.

For more info on the Hayward Muffler Men and the collection of other fiberglass statues, see the entry on Bell Plastics

The Cowboy is one of the Hayward Muffler Men
The Cowboy is one of the Hayward Muffler Men
Two Bunyan Muffler Men in Hayward
Two Bunyan Muffler Men in Hayward
Big Mike has resided in Hayward for decades.
Big Mike has resided in Hayward for decades.
Hollywood, the Happy Half Wit
Hollywood, the Happy Half Wit
Chicken Boy Restaurant formerly on S. Broadway - photo courtesy of  <a href='http://photos.lapl.org/carlweb/jsp/photosearch_pageADV.jsp'>Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection</a>
Chicken Boy Restaurant formerly on S. Broadway - photo courtesy of Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection

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 at 450 S. Broadway advertising for a chicken restaurant also called Chicken Boy (it's where the giant chicken headed statue gets its name). 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 held onto Chicken Boy trying to get him restored somewhere. Finally on October 28 2007, Inouye's efforts paid off and Chicken Boy was placed back up in Los Angeles over in Highland Park on North Figueroa. He stands on top of Future Studios. A few groups in the area refer to him as the "Statue of Liberty of Los Angeles". Additionally his birthday is supposedly September 1st.

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. The entire area nearby him is filled with automobile window tinting places.

Chicken Boy!
Chicken Boy!
Tony the Muffler Man
Tony the Muffler Man
Sergio the Muffler Man
Sergio the Muffler Man
El Salsero - Photo by Catherine Mangan
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.

Mecca
Located outside a Mini Mart, this is a Cowboy Muffler Man with a full beard! He has a checkered past, as he lost his head in 2001, disappeared completely in 2007, but is now back as of 2014!

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

Merced Muffler Man
Merced Muffler Man

Merced
The Merced Muffler Man is a classic Muffler Man who isn't holding anything. He stands near the Merced Ag Museum and Frontier Town. He's standing on top of some wooden boxes for a few extra feet of height. Although he has seen better days and his paint job is pretty faded, he still looks pretty good with his thin mustache. Scattered around the front yard of the Ag Museum are assorted cars, pieces of stuff, and other junk. The Ag Museum was closed the day we visited, but it is suppose to have a small frontier town inside.

Pearsonville 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. She was originally built in the 1960s for Uniroyal Tire in order to advertise their stores. By 1970 she was available in the International Fiberglass catalog for $3,150 as "Miss America". This price had her arriving in simply a bikini, with the option for clothes costing more. The clothes option included a dress. Uniroyal Girls were 18 feet tall and weigh 230 pounds.

There is currently one Uniroyal Girl in California, although a second is currently on its way. 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.

A second Uniroyal girl was purchased by Bruce Kennedy of Hayward's Bell Plastics from Mount Vernon, Illinois in June of 2015. Like the one in Pearsonville, she also wears a dress.

Babe the Muffler Man in San Jose
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. He sometimes, during hockey season, holds a hockey stick in order to support the San Jose Sharks.

Babe, San Jose
Babe, San Jose
Babe holds a hockey stick to support the San Jose Sharks (photo by Lydia Black)
Babe holds a hockey stick to support the San Jose Sharks (photo by Lydia Black)
San Jose Muffler Man (photo by Tom Shulruff)
San Jose Muffler Man (photo by Tom Shulruff)

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
Van Nuys

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. His name is reportedly Kevin, and although he once sported a full beard, he now just wears a mustache. At one time he held tires in his hands, but that was when the building he stands outside was a tire shop.

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.

Other and Former California Muffler Men

Healdsburg - formerly located at the Giant Muffler Service on Healdsburg Avenue. On April 26, 1964 he rode a motor boat in a yacht parade in San Francisco Bay.

Livermore - a Cowboy style Muffler Man makes appearances often in June somewhere around Livermore, in order to promote the rodeo that takes place there.

San Diego - formerly located near Interstate 8 and Mission Gorge was a Uniroyal Girl! She stood over a bar and had several different outfits that she would wear including a Batgirl outfit!

Vista - this Muffler Man was a Bunyan style Muffler Man, but had his right arm going straight up in the saluting style of one of the Indian Muffler Man. He was formerly located at 2244 S. Santa Fe Avenue, but sometime in 2007 was moved to Rocky Point, North Carolina.

Whittier - Classic style of Muffler Man, outfitted with a crown and a muffler. He was at 15130 E Whittier, but now resides in Unger, West Virginia.



So far, we've found seventeen 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
Compton
Compton - More Pictures
El Monte
El Monte - More Pictures
Escondido
Escondido - More Pictures
Hayward
Hayward - More Pictures
Chicken Boy
Chicken Boy - More Pictures
Los Angeles - Tony
Tony - Los Angeles - More Pictures
Los Angeles - Sergio
Sergio - Los Angeles - More Pictures
El Salsero
El Salsero - More Pictures
(Photos by Catherine Mangan)
Merced
Merced - More Pictures
Pearsonville
Pearsonville - More Pictures
San Jose
San Jose - More Pictures
Van Nuys
Van Nuys - More Pictures

Comments:

Outside Links:

Outside References:

Last Edited: 2015-07-27