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Salsa Muffler Man.

Salsa Muffler Man

Field review by the editors.

Malibu, California

Type: Classic, modified (21 ft. tall)

Arm position: Both Palms Up

Accessories: Mexican food platter, sombrero, serape, sandals

Nicknames: La Salsa Man, El Salsero

La Salsa Man is a caricature of a mustachioed Mexican bandit -- one who prefers to serve a spicy platter of grilled delicacies from south of the border. He stands on a platform facing the Santa Monica Mountains, only a hundred feet from the Pacific Ocean.

This fiberglass giant started in the late 1960s as a classic hamburger-clutching Muffler Man in white pants and short sleeve shirt. Steve Dashew, owner of International Fiberglass, regarded this Muffler Man as a rare placement in a "high rent district." The figure was outfitted as a soda jerk of sorts, atop the Malibu Fosters Freeze.

Artist Bob "Daddy O" Wade executed the subsequent conversion and restyling of the figure in 1988, transforming the original soda jerk into La Salsa Man. Bob made ingenious use of existing pieces. "He's wearing the hamburger!" Bob told us, still pleased about it. "We sliced the burger bun, turned the top half into the sombrero, and the bottom into the tray. And we recycled the top of the guy's skull into the bowl of chips."

The original hamburger man, renovated in 1988.
The original hamburger man being retooled in 1988.

Bob used real tires to turn the soda jerk's work shoes into Huarache sandals. He wanted to tint the Muffler Man "the perfect brown," so he walked around Old Town Pasadena until he found a Mexican man selling serapes; Bob pulled out a paint swatch book, matched the man's skin tone, then bought the serapes, shellacked them, and added them to the statue.

By an odd coincidence, film star Dennis Hopper copied La Salsa Man -- not realizing that his friend Bob Wade had created it -- and turned it into a piece of pop art that toured Europe and wound up in Hopper's home town of Dodge City, Kansas. "Dennis had no idea that La Salsa Man was a recent makeover by a contemporary artist," said Bob. "Of all the Muffler Men in the LA area, he just liked my piece. I would have liked some credit, but I'm flattered that he chose mine."

Also see: Roadside Art of Daddy-O

Salsa Muffler Man

22800 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, CA
On the ocean side of Hwy 1/Pacific Coast Hwy, 5.5 miles west of its intersection with Hwy 27/S. Topanga Canyon Blvd.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

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In the region:
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