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Muffler Man of Metal (And Neon)

Illinois State Fair Tribute to Muffler Men

When the permanent “Route 66 Experience” opened on the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield in July 2023, one of its attractions was a Muffler Man unlike any seen before.

Conceived and built by Springfield’s Ace Sign Co., the metal Goliath holds an American flag like the nearby Lauterbach Muffler Man, but the flag is made of neon tubes and the Man is built of rings of steel.

Scott Bringuet, co-owner of the Ace Sign Co., told us that while the Route 66 Experience otherwise reproduces old signs and sights along the Mother Road, his company didn’t want to make another fiberglass Muffler Man, or even a composite of various Men (which would have assuredly looked strange). “Our thought was to create something artistic that represented them, something that was not literal,” he said.

How to do that? The goal seemed out of reach until someone at Ace remembered the giant neon-lit stacked-ring soda bottle outside of Pops on Oklahoma Route 66 — not a traditional art form, but a style that seemed appropriate. “Metal bars and neon,” said Scott, “are things that we work with every day.”

Illinois State Fair Tribute to Muffler Men

The Man, 25 feet tall, stands behind 11 small plaques that pay tribute to various colossi that are along (or pretty close to) Illinois Route 66. “A lot of people think this is real weird, and I get why,” said Scott. “And there were people who said, ‘Just get an old one and restore it.’ But we said no. There are museums for that.”

Another bone of contention for some traditionalists was that, unlike other Route 66 titans such as Buck Atom and the Gemini Giant, this one has no name. “I got a lot of pressure to name it,” Scott said, “but it’s gotta be nameless. It’s a big picture representation. A symbol.”

All hail you Nameless Man of Steel, Mother Road leviathan!

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