The Secret Plot of the Muffler Men
Muffler Men. Stoic sentinels of another era? Or smoldering chimneys of unrest?
These colossi were originally created in the 1960s by a California fiberglass company for gas station chains in sizes ranging from 14 to 25 feet. M-Men once beckoned noisy and exhaust-weary vehicles to replace their mufflers. The statues' hands were molded to hold mufflers or tires. As establishments closed or changed owners, the lantern-jawed Muffler Men were transplanted to other locales.
While hundreds have been lost forever, many still stalk the shoulders of highways across the nation.
In Jersey City, New Jersey, a Muffler Man that spent time as a lumberjack now clutches a huge roll of carpet in front of Wilson's Carpet and Furniture. An auto repair shop in Havre de Grace, Maryland is guarded by a Desert Storm Muffler Man.
Some stand along the highway, visible from a distance, while others lurk in the trees. Exactly what are they up to?
Though many defy easy categorizing, there are several subspecies of the pure, muffler-holding creature.
The Classic Muffler Man features the trademark legs, torso and arms. The short-sleeved shirt often represents a service station uniform. The head is a strong American worker. He sometimes wears a service cap, but has also been seen in a king's golden crown. The Cowboy wears western duds and a Stetson, but is a close variant of the Classic, identifiable by lantern jaw, steely gaze, leg and arm position.
The popular lumberjack or big woodsman type is often identified as a Paul Bunyan, with bushy beard and wool cap, ax in hand.
The Noble Savage, an inscrutable, bare-chested Indian chief, often juts his right arm in greeting to station wagon-trains. Look for big Indians in Cherokee, North Carolina, and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. A big Indian Muffler Man proudly stands within the replica stockade (circa 1870) of the Fort Cody Trading Post in North Platte, Nebraska. Has he killed off the whole garrison?
The Happy Half-wit, a big-eared goofball, is the rarest of the M-Man lines. In Winslow, New Jersey, a statue known as "Mr. Bill" has the body and arm positioning of a classic Muffler Man, but with the head of Alfred E. Neuman.
Many Muffler Men are not so easily tagged and herded. Rare, seemingly one-of-a-kind versions crop up, such as the Gemini Giant that stands outside the Launching Pad Drive-in in Wilmington, Illinois, holding a rocket. His space helmet is lit from the inside at night. The short sleeved spacesuit is one clue that he may have started life as a regular muffler man.
Know the signs.
18 to 25 feet tall. Silent.
Right palm up. Left palm down.
Don't be fooled. Learn how to identify Muffler Men.
Some of our reports are never verified. Many M-Men are on the move, stealthily shifting from one sentry post to another, changing outfits -- and heads.
The M-Man in Towners, New York -- gone -- bought and whisked away by Diane Von Furstenburg! Mr. Bendo in San Angelo, Texas -- won in a divorce settlement! The Muffler Man in Cheshire, Connecticut -- zoned as a flagpole, and forced to hold an American flag!