How to Identify Muffler Men
Still numbering in the hundreds, the big fiberglass figures known as Muffler Men were mostly created from 1962-1974, spreading far and wide, and still on the move. Some are lost, out for repairs, sold, or seasonally moved. And some are misidentified. Avoid the social embarrassment of incorrectly categorizing a muffler man sighting by studying his simple features and variations.
Note: Muffler Men are NOT the 4-6 ft. tall welded sculptures made of discarded car parts at repair shops! See Muffler Art Men
- Material: Fiberglass. Knock on a leg to see if it's hollow. The fiberglass pieces generally include a head, arms, torso, and trunk/legs.
- Height: From bottom of shoe to top of head or hat, between 18-25 ft. tall (a shorter model Bunyan, less prevalent, tops out at about 16 ft.)
- Head: Well-chiseled facial bones, prominent brow and squarish "lantern" jaw. Crack a beer bottle over this guy's noggin and he wouldn't be fazed. Eyes may appear to stare blankly into the middle distance, or may be painted to leer down at visitors. Exceptions: Halfwits and Indians
- Torso: Broad-shoulders, and familiar design of fake shirt folds. Pockets, suspenders, shirt patterns sometimes painted on. Exceptions: Indian models often barechested.
- Arms: Short-sleeved shirt, well-articulated veins bulge on forearms. Bent at elbow, left palm faces down, right palm faces up -- with an open grasp to hold an ax, muffler, golf club, etc.
- Shoes and legs: Big, blocky shoes measure about 4-ft. from heel to toe. Pants exhibit familiar pattern of folds and creases.
- Accessories: Muffler Men were originally sold with a variety of optional accessories -- axes, pirate swords, golf clubs -- but many businesses who own them today create their own.
Gas Station Attendant, Golfer, Hamburger Man
Configured with all the basic characteristics, standing 21-22 ft. tall. While shipped clean-shaven, may be customized with a painted mustache or even a beard -- sometimes in the style of the Bunyan model.
In many ways identical to the molds of the classic, the Cowboy's most prominent feature is his big Stetson, which can be removed (or blown off in high winds). Cowboy Muffler Men usually play the role of brawny frontiersmen or gunfighters, brandishing rifles, six-shooters or branding irons. More Cowboy
Configured with most of the basic characteristics, standing 20 ft. tall. The Bunyan probably existed before the Classic. Distinguishing features include a head with a molded wool cap, and a heavy beard. Bunyans are frequently sighted brandishing single or double-sided axes. Shirt may be painted in a red plaid pattern. There is somewhat shorter variation of the Bunyan that wears a hard hat or miner's helmet.
Noble Savage, the Big Chief, or the Brave
Shoes and legs are often the same, but other characteristics of the Indian are further removed from purebred M-Man lineage. The head and arm configuration differ, except in cases where May don a single "Brave" feather or full "Chief" headdress. This category is confused by instances of Classics that have been modified to appear as Indians.
Mortimer Snerd, Alfred E. Neumann, S.F.B., Country Bumpkin
The gap-toothed, jug-eared Happy Halfwit is comic relief among otherwise stern looking M-Men types. This strain shares the M-Man's molded torso/arms and legs/shoes. Sports a straw hat or baseball cap. Original Halfwits were sold in heights as tall as 21 ft. Many of today's survivors are a shorter, neckless variety, closer to 15-18 ft.
See the Gallery of Happy Halfwits
Swashbuckler, Captain Hook
The seafaring buccaneer version of a Muffler Man probably had the most plentiful collection of accessories -- pegleg, eyepatch, scabbard, earrings, hook hand. Perhaps that made him more expensive, and with narrower shoreland appeal, we've only found a few, on the East Coast.
Related Members of the Muffler Man Family
The rare lady Muffler Man (or at least, his soul mate). Another product of International Fiberglass, Inc., the shapely Uniroyal Gal is shorter than her M-Man counterpart. She can be stripped down to a bikini, though more conservative communities tend to keep her blouse and skirt in place. One Texas owner actually modified the Uniroyal Gal's skirt to a more demure length.
See Big Women
The Viking figure shares fewer characteristics with Muffler Men, except his height and fiberglass composition. These are popular as school mascots, and have a business affiliation with carpet stores. The Viking landscape is complicated by the presence of other mass produced, shorter Vikings, and a number of one-of-a-kind Vikings.
Variations on the M-Man physique are found with the standard hand configuration, but often everything else is horribly wrong. See Mutant Hybrids
A grinning, towering colossus of a grocery store clerk, beefy arms bowed outward to accommodate giant bags of groceries. Manufactured by a company in Missouri and primarily deployed in Illinois. So none of the original M-Men molds, and made by a different company. But still, we consider him part of the extended family. See Big John
The penultimate highway giant, created by International Fiberglass in 1966 numbering some 300 (with thousands more planned) as part of a nationwide marketing plan for an oil company. Rumored destroyed by a big corporation in a post-ad campaign pogrom. A few remain. See Service Station Men
Not Muffler Men, But Still Appreciated
While not classified as Muffler Men, other roadside fiberglass humanoids merit a swerve off the road:
- Carpeteria Genie
- Wagon Ho Pioneers
- A&W Root Beer Family
- Big Boy
- Happy Chef
- Surfer Dude