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Joor Muffler Man, Escondido, California.
Joor Muffler Man, Escondido, California.

Origin of the Species: Introduction

They're big. They're sometines scary. And there are hundreds of them.

Origin of the Species.

But where did the Muffler Men come from?

If there was a single ancestral birthplace of these hulking highway giants, it has long been shrouded in murk. Today's owners, often five or six times removed from the original purchasers, have little or no information. Were some really seen in the 1940s, as chronicled in our Sightings Reports? Were they fashioned by "some company in California," or dozens of dead and defunct fiberglass makers? Tantalizing clues, and, to be honest, we at first didn't dig too deeply. It seemed better not to know....

But here's what we do know.

According to sculptor Richard Ellis, the first Muffler Man was made by Bobbie Lee "Bob" Prewitt (1919-2009), a rodeo cowboy in Lawndale, California. In 1958 he'd designed a horse trailer, and built a fiberglass horse to stand in it and help sell it. But more people wanted to buy the horse than the trailer, so Bob pivoted and went into the fiberglass animal business, selling cows and steers to dairies and steakhouses.

Lumberjack Bunyan, Flagstaff, Arizona.
Lumberjack Bunyan, Flagstaff, Arizona.

In 1962 Bob got a request for a giant-size fiberglass lumberjack from the Paul Bunyan Cafe in Flagstaff, Arizona. Unfamiliar with human giants, Bob paid artist Bill Swan (1917-1984) to design it (with a little help from Richard, who was at the time an art student). This Paul Bunyan, 21 feet tall, built to hold a giant ax, was the first Muffler Man, and he still stands in Flagstaff today.

Bob, who preferred real horses to those made of fiberglass, sold his business (including the Bunyan mold) to Steve Dashew in 1963. It was Steve who realized that only a limited number of businesses would want a lumberjack, and who had the idea to broaden the appeal of the giant statue by modifying it with different versions: the clean-shaven classic Muffler Man (who often held giant automobile mufflers, hence the name), the cowboy, the Indian, the astronaut.

Steve's company, International Fiberglass, turned out thousands of commercial statues in the 1960s and '70s, including hundreds of Muffler Men. International Fiberglass took a single statue mold created for a Cafe and parlayed it into a roadside industry.

Muffler Man, Magnolia, New Jersey.
Muffler Man, Magnolia, New Jersey.

Muffler Man spawning was just a short chapter in Dashew's interesting life. He's owned a successful boat-building business, has written several books on yachting, and retired in 2018. Along with his wife of 50 years, Linda, he has sailed over 200,000 miles, including a six-year circumnavigation with their two daughters.

Steve stumbled onto our website in 1999. He spoke with us about the primal fiberglass "Brand Man," answering many of our Biggest Questions. There are still cloudy patches in the chronology -- leaving lots of fertile ground for future research....


Origin of the Species: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Texaco's Big Friends

Also see: Muffler Men Home Page

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