They’ve been standing guard along back roads, in front of car dealerships, and atop restaurants for decades. They’ve been subjected to target practice, kidnapped by college students, and used as unofficial mile markers for military planes. They’ve been transformed into pirates, flag-waving patriots, and amusement-park bogeymen. One even foreshadowed the resurgence of Wonder Woman, 10 years before her Gal Gadot-led reboot raked in millions on the silver screen.
Nearly 75 years after the Muffler Men first rose, with a mighty squeak, from their International Fiberglass molds, they still serve as inspiration for travelers like me. And while the largest density of Muffler Men is in the South, the Northeast’s 30 roadside goliaths have arguably had more fun.
My romance with the fiberglass figures began early. As a child growing up in Rhode Island, I was smitten with an Alfred E. Neumann look-alike (this style was originally called “Mortimer Snerd” but now is sometimes referred to as a “Happy Halfwit”) who grinned down on the mini-golf course at Rocky Point amusement park. On most visits, I begged my parents to let me ride the Skyliner, a chair lift that glided over the park, just so I could gaze upon his freckled, jug-eared visage. I was sure his eyes, which seemed to follow me, returned my ardor.
According to Joel Baker, founder of American Giants, the Northeast’s large number of amusement parks (many of which are now defunct) is a primary reason why a cluster of Muffler Men ended up here. “Muffler Men, Vikings, A&W Root Beer families, a host of animals—horses and bears and giraffes and all kinds of big stuff—all gravitated to these amusement parks,” Baker says.
As the parks went dark one by one, their giants were auctioned off to other parks and private collectors. Such was the case, I suspect, for my beloved Halfwit, who was removed in 1988 to make way for a Freefall ride. Rocky Point shut down six years later, and his trail went cold.
Top hats and Texaco
Muffler Men began their run in the 1960s with large companies like Texaco. “The concentration seemed to be heavier in the Northeast, with ads running in the paper saying, ‘Hey, come to [our] Texaco station or Phillips 66 station this weekend. You’ll find a 20-foot-tall cowboy. And if you guess the weight of the cowboy, you’ll win a prize,’” Baker says.
When their heyday ended, some of these giants dispersed to other states. Others languished in overstuffed garages and storage units for decades. They’ve begun resurfacing recently, especially in Massachusetts, where, Baker believes, now-adult children and grandchildren clean out their family sheds and find a supersize surprise.
My close encounter of the Snerd kind ignited my search for other larger-than-life partners along the road—like Southern Man, a top-hatted Texaco Big Friend. Dressed in head-to-toe white, he once welcomed travelers off the Massachusetts Turnpike to the gratefully departed Plantation Inn in Chicopee. A Muffler Man of many talents, he’d previously been an Uncle Sam at a car dealership and a pie-slinging chef for a local pizzeria. Rumor has it that Air Force planes used him as a visual marker while landing at nearby Westover Reserve Air Base. This was all before he vanished, leaving me (and countless other New Englanders) forlorn, in the spring of 2017.
A stoic Native American Muffler Man once guarded the entrance to Benson’s Wild Animal Farm in Hudson, New Hampshire. When the park closed, he was relocated just over the border to Shirley, Massachusetts, where he held court over a nightclub and, later, a used-car dealership. In the 1990s, perhaps having given up on life in a sandy, weather-beaten parking lot, he toppled over. His arm was promptly pilfered by local high school students. (Pranks with the giants are especially common in the Northeast, according to Baker.) He eventually received a replacement arm, and a sturdier base.
When I moved to the upper Hudson Valley, on the border of the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts, I found a new hunka-hunka sunburned love. Known locally as “Big Man” or the “Green Valley Giant,” he stands outside a former farm-equipment store, on a rural road close to Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort, just 10 minutes from my home.
Christine Noble-Drosehn, a music teacher who has lived in the Berkshires her entire life, says she remembers Big Man vividly. Her father frequented the store for tractor parts, and she’d tag along to say hello to the giant. He was repainted by a local artist in 2017, but no longer holds the pitchfork that Noble-Drosehn remembers. “It looked more like a fork than a pitchfork,” she says.
Big Man might be stationary, but he’s not bored: He’s been used for target practice and was once spirited away in the night by college students. He’s even spent some time at a nudist camp up the road (Muffler Men come out of the mold fully clothed). Though the Whitmans have long since retired and closed up shop, Big Man—blue cap, red bowtie, silver belt, and all—still stares out at the Berkshire hills with an enigmatic smirk.
Lumberjacks and Vikings
In search of more tall, silent, and sometimes shiny men, I go to the place we all go in search of deep truths and interpersonal connection: the internet, where I’ve mapped out scores of Northeastern Muffler Men and their brethren, from lumberjacks to carpet-shilling Vikings and creatures of the night.
I make a special detour in the Catskills to stand between the patchwork-jeans-clad ankles of the tie-dyed, beanie-sporting Hippie, a strapping specimen imported from a rooftop in Albany. Originally styled as a Paul Bunyan, he likely spent time at Connecticut’s Danbury Fair, a combination carnival and agricultural exhibition, before getting in touch with his kumbaya side at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, near the site of the legendary Woodstock music festival.
This year, I’ve got a whole new Muffler Man agenda. I plan to visit Nitro Girl, a New Jersey Uniroyal Gal (Uniroyal Tires’ female answer to the Muffler Men). Though she’s always resided at Werbany Tire Town, she ditched her original bikini first for a Jackie O-style skirt set, and later for full-on superhero duds, including tall white boots and a sleek, flight-ready suit. She still retains her impeccably flipped brunette pageboy, now decorated with a star-studded headband.
I’m also planning to roadtrip to the Jolly Roger Amusement Park in Ocean City, Maryland, to see the Buccaneer. A fashion plate to rival Nitro Girl, he has changed costumes at least three times, and has been spotted with and without his favorite accessory, a curved-blade cutlass.
Stay a while
And then there are the monsters. I’m haunted by the disembodied head with yellow eyes and a widow’s peak who dares me to try the Dracula’s Domain haunted hayride in Jackson, New Jersey. Vickie Vinciguerra, whose parents, Mary Ann and Tony, run the attraction, says that her father admired the giants so much, he purchased multiples: three heads and a Snerd, whom they’ve dubbed Mamoo, or “big lug” in Italian.
Though provenance, as they say in the fine-art world, can be difficult to trace, Vinciguerra believes all four came from casino auctions on the Atlantic City boardwalk in the 1970s. “He just liked them,” she says of her father’s spontaneous purchase. “He didn’t have specific plans at first, but knew they could be used for something.”
My final stop will be Middletown, Delaware, to visit Frank, the bloody-ax-wielding “scream park” mascot of Frightland. Though he looks vintage, he’s actually new, lovingly recreated from historic photos. A “Frightland twist on an American icon,” according to marketing manager Kyle McMahon, Frank was built four years ago from carved foam blocks and covered in a special paint that dries to surfboard-level hardness. This flat-topped lady-killer donned a mask and a “Practice social distancing” sign during the COVID-19 pandemic, presumably to keep visitors alive long enough to have a whack at them.
New Muffler Men like Frank have increased in number over the past five years, according to Baker. “Now you have a lot of say over what it looks like, the hand positioning,” he says. “You can really tailor it to [fit] your business or attraction.”
New or old, the Muffler Men of the Northeast beckon travelers from the roadside, waiting to share their secrets. Now every time I pass Big Guy, I slow down, drawn to the quirk of his brow and knowing smile. “Come over,” he seems to say with one hand. “And stay awhile,” suggests the other.
How many Muffler Men still exist? ›
Today, the locations of only about 180 Muffler Men are known and it is unlikely that many more will ever be discovered, making these giants rare and highly sought after. It is an honor to be the home to such a unique and important part of roadside history.Where are the Muffler Men on Route 66? ›
The bridge predates Route 66 by three years, and was chosen to become part of its alignment when the Mother Road was created in 1926 as a safe way across the tracks. At the foot of the bridge, on the western side of the road (to your right if you are coming from Missouri), is the "Muffler Man".How many Muffler Men are there on Route 66? ›
At least four remain on U.S. Route 66, including Chicken Boy and Gemini Giant. Muffler Men have made appearances as characters in the comic strip "Zippy the Pinhead" by Bill Griffith, often in conversation with Zippy.Where is the Muffler Man statue? ›
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 Mad magazine's Alfred E. Neuman.What are the loudest mufflers? ›
- Magnaflow xMOD Series. ...
- Magnaflow NEO Series. ...
- Flowmaster Outlaw Exhaust System. ...
- Flowmaster American Thunder Series.
Typically, a car muffler will last 40,000 to 80,000 miles or around two to four years of average driving conditions. However, for vehicles driven in wet climates, such as along the coastline with salty air or in areas that get a lot of snow with salt on the roads, will see an even shorter muffler lifespan.Where does Route 66 still exist? ›
The highway winds from the shores of Lake Michigan across the agricultural fields of Illinois, to the rolling hills of the Missouri Ozarks, through the mining towns of Kansas, across Oklahoma where the woodlands of the East meet the open plains of the West, to the open ranch lands of Texas, the enchanted mesa lands of ...Is Route 66 still in business? ›
Although Route 66 no longer exists as a U.S. Highway, the efforts of the communities along "America's Main Street" have kept it alive. Many organizations and associations are dedicated to promoting Route 66 and preserving it, so that we can drive it today and in the future. Not exactly a dead end, but a second chance!How much of Route 66 is still driveable? ›
Nowadays, over 85% of the original alignments of U.S. Route 66 are still drivable. Many segments of the road are simple two-laned highways, so you should drive with care and pay attention to the road signs.What was the most popular stop on Route 66? ›
- 1 Tucumcari, New Mexico.
- 2 Delgadillo's Snow Cap Drive-In, Seligman, Arizona. ...
- 3 Pops 66 Soda Ranch, Arcadia, Oklahoma. ...
- 4 Tower Conoco Gas Station, Shamrock, Texas. ...
- 5 Elmer's Bottle Tree Ranch, Oro Grande, California. ...
- 6 The Blue Whale Of Catoosa, Catoosa, Oklahoma. ...
Is Route 66 still the longest road in America? ›
Route 66 was not America's oldest or longest road, surpassed by transcontinental highways like U.S. Highway 40 and the Lincoln Highway. But it was the shortest, year-round route between the Midwest and the Pacific Coast. Route 20 is the longest U.S. highway, spanning 3,365 miles..How long did it take to complete Route 66? ›
Like other highways in the system, the path of Route 66 was a cobbling together of existing local, State, and national road networks. Extending 2,400 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles, the new highway wound through eight States and was not completely paved until 12 years after its designation.Where is the giant man statue? ›
The Awakening (1980) is a 72-foot (22 m) statue by J. Seward Johnson, Jr. that depicts a giant embedded in the earth, struggling to free himself. It is located at National Harbor in Prince George's County, Maryland, United States, just outside the District of Columbia.Where is the giant Paul Bunyan statue? ›
Paul Bunyan Statue is a 31-foot-tall (9.4 m) concrete and metal sculpture of mythical logger Paul Bunyan in the Kenton neighborhood of Portland, Oregon, United States.What are the giant statues on Route 66? ›
These giants were a popular form of advertising in the 1960s. Many of them stood in front of service stations. They held car parts, such as mufflers. The collection of Route 66 giants became known as “Muffler Men.” Businesses hoped the strange statues would get travelers' attention.Which is the best sounding exhaust? ›
- Best Warranty. Borla ATAK Exhaust System. ...
- Best Exhaust Sound. Flowmaster American Thunder Exhaust System. ...
- Easiest Installation. Flowmaster Outlaw Exhaust System. ...
- MagnaFlow Axle-Back Performance Exhaust System. An exhaust system designed for quality and power.
Description. Flowmaster's Super 44 muffler uses the same Delta Flow technology found in our larger Super 40 mufflers. The Super 44 delivers a powerful rich tone and is the most aggressive, deepest sounding, highest performing four-inch case street muffler we've ever built!Which car has the highest exhaust sound? ›
- BMW M850i.
- Ford Mustang Mach 1.
- Ferrari F355.
- Mercedes-AMG GT 4-door.
- Jaguar F-Type R.
- Lamborghini Aventador LP 780-4 Ultimae.
- Maserati Quattroporte GTS.
- Lexus LFA.
(1) For passenger cars: (a) When operated at a speed of thirty-five miles per hour or less, a maximum noise limit of seventy decibels; (b) When operated at a speed of more than thirty-five miles per hour, a maximum noise limit of seventy-nine decibels.Is replacing a muffler hard? ›
You can take your car to a muffler shop for a replacement, but installing a new muffler yourself is fairly easily and cost-efficient. To complete your muffler installation, you'll need a jack to lift up your car, a wrench, different sized ratchets, lubricant, and possibly a hacksaw.
How much does it cost to fix a broken muffler? ›
What is the Average Muffler Repair Cost? A muffler repair cost can be one of the most expensive repairs you experience. According to repairpal.com, you can expect to pay between $800-$834 if you take your vehicle to a professional place of work. This price doesn't include taxes and fees that might come with the repair.What is the most scenic part of Route 66? ›
Route 66 crosses eight states and three time zones. Some of the best-preserved sections include the stretch between Springfield, Missouri and Tulsa, Oklahoma; the road west of Seligman, Arizona; and the Oatman Highway through the Black Hills of Arizona.What's Route 66 called now? ›
Later, US 66 was advertised by the U.S. Highway 66 Association as "The Main Street of America". The title had also been claimed by supporters of US 40, but the US 66 group was more successful. In the John Steinbeck novel The Grapes of Wrath, the highway is called "The Mother Road", its prevailing title today.Are there any ghost towns on Route 66? ›
You will find several ghost towns in almost 4000 kilometers of Route 66. Some of them are actually abandoned ghost towns, others have very few inhabitants, and others have transformed themselves into tourist attractions.Why is Route 66 no longer a highway? ›
Virtually all roads, including Route 66, were functionally obsolete because of narrow pavements and antiquated structural features that reduced carrying capacity. Emergency road building measures developed during wartime left bridges and culverts woefully inadequate for postwar needs.What is the longest road in us? ›
U.S. Route 20 is the longest road, beginning in Boston at Route 2 and runs through to an intersection with US 101 in Newport, Ore. A dozen states make up U.S. Route 20, covering 3,365 miles of road.What ruined Route 66? ›
In 1956, President Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act, which established America's 47,800-mile Interstate Highway System and eventually led to Route 66 becoming obsolete.What time of year is best to drive Route 66? ›
The best time to take a Route 66 road trip is from late spring to early summer and in the early fall. The weather is usually temperate and roads are open, as are most Route 66 businesses.What is the coolest part of Route 66? ›
- 1 Cadillac Ranch (Amarillo, Texas) Cadillac Ranch. ...
- 2 The Painted Desert (Indian Wells, Arizona) The Painted Desert. ...
- 3 The Milk Bottle Grocery (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma) ...
- 4 St Louis and the Gateway Arch (St Louis, Missouri) ...
- 5 Route 66 Hall of Fame Museum (Pontiac, Illinois)
'Route 66' Written by Bobby Troup and performed by Nat King Cole, the song immortalized Route 66.
What is the best road trip in USA? ›
- Going to the Sun Road. Location: Montana, USA.
- Olympic Peninsula Loop. Location: Washington, USA. ...
- Nevada Route 50 (The Loneliest Road in America) Location: Nevada, USA. ...
- Avenue of the Giants (Redwoods) Location: California, USA. ...
- Kancamagus Highway. Location: New Hampshire, USA. ...
What are the speed limits along Route 66? Speed limits vary across the route from 35 to 65mph – but most commonly 55 miles per hour which is strictly enforced in the USA by the Police using many methods including aircraft, so be careful with your speed.How long does it take to drive from one end of Route 66 to the other? ›
Total time to drive the route, assuming no stops, is in the 32-38 hour range. But we would never recommend doing that. On some of our road trips across the USA, we drive 500 miles a day, or more. At that rate, we could drive the entire Route 66 in about 5 days.What state has the most Route 66? ›
Route 66 Oklahoma
Oklahoma takes pride in, and embraces, most of its nearly 400 miles of Route 66. There are more driveable portions of the old Mother Road in Oklahoma than in any other state, and plenty of reasons to stop the car along the way.
The duo drove a 1960 Corvette in the pilot only. That initial episode was filmed in February of 1960 and aired in October that same year. In following seasons, they appeared in new 1961 and '62 Corvettes.What is the longest road in the world? ›
Pan American Highway
The longest road in the world is the Pan American Highway which begins in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, and stretches all the way down to Ushuaia, Argentina. All in all, the road covers 30,000 km (19,000 miles).
During this time, it also became one of the key routes for moving military equipment across the country. Due to the efforts of the U.S. Highway 66 Association, Route 66 became the first highway to be completely paved in 1938. In the 1950s, Route 66 became the main highway for vacationers heading to Los Angeles.What 21 cities will have the giant statue? ›
The sculpture is designed to sing, speak, and move its arms and head. The Giant Company hopes to display the statue in 21 cities in 2021. Selected cities have reportedly included Phoenix, Arizona. Others which have expressed interest include Belfast, Berlin, Dubai, Dublin, Las Vegas, London, New York, and Singapore.Where are there giant stone heads? ›
The Easter Island heads are known as Moai by the Rapa Nui people who carved the figures in the tropical South Pacific directly west of Chile. The Moai monoliths, carved from stone found on the island, are between 1,100 and 1,500 CE.What is the largest moving statue? ›
“The Giant” is the largest moving statue in the world. Picture: Supplied. A new statue, “The Giant”, will be displayed in 21 cities across the globe.
What state has the most Paul Bunyan statues? ›
Since then, it has become a rite of passage for Minnesotans and visitors alike to snap their photo with the iconic lumberjack. Discover his most popular likenesses across the state and take your picture with the legend himself.Where is Paul Bunyan buried? ›
The gravesite is located in Kelliher, a town named after a lumber businessman and just outside Pine Island State Forest, the largest state forest in Minnesota.How tall was Paul Bunyan real? ›
Bunyan was a powerful giant, 7 feet tall and with a stride of 7 feet. He was famous throughout the lumbering districts for his great physical strength.Where are the muffler men on Route 66? ›
The bridge predates Route 66 by three years, and was chosen to become part of its alignment when the Mother Road was created in 1926 as a safe way across the tracks. At the foot of the bridge, on the western side of the road (to your right if you are coming from Missouri), is the "Muffler Man".How many muffler men are there on Route 66? ›
At least four remain on U.S. Route 66, including Chicken Boy and Gemini Giant. Muffler Men have made appearances as characters in the comic strip "Zippy the Pinhead" by Bill Griffith, often in conversation with Zippy.How were the giant statues moved from the quarry to the coast? ›
With one rope around the head of the statue and another around the base, they "walked" the moai replica forward by swiveling and rocking it from side to side. Using this method, Pavel Pavel estimated that an experienced crew could move a statue approximately 650 feet each day.Do mufflers still exist? ›
Mufflers' Effect on Performance
However, it is required by law to have a muffler within your vehicle, so some high-octane drivers will have to live with driving a vehicle with a muffler. However, plenty of muffler designs are out there, so you should have no problem finding one that suits your lifestyle.
The single exhaust system has one muffler, which is what you see on most vehicles. Most automobiles do not need a second exhaust system, therefore, no need for a second muffler. Dual exhausts have two mufflers and are normally used for high-performance cars. The muffler is an important part of your exhaust system.Do men wear mufflers? ›
It is always considered to be a women's accessory but did you know it was first worn by men. When 100s of years ago open cockpits were a standard, pilots would wear silk scarves to keep warm and prevent chaffing. The most effortless and coolest way you can style your muffler is to just drape it over your shoulder.Who are the Muffler Men in Illinois? ›
The“three gentle giants of Illinois” are the three most famous of the Illinois Route 66 Muffler Men (and perhaps the most famous muffler men on all of the Mother Road): the Gemini Giant spaceman, thePaul Bunyon Muffler Man Holding a Hot Dog, and the American flag waving Lauterbach Giant.
How can I make my exhaust louder? ›
Use A Cold Air Intake to Help Make Exhausts Louder
While some OEM air intakes are now designed to bring air into the vehicle from the outside, aftermarket cold air intakes reroute how your car sucks in air, pulling it from outside the compartment.
The Toxic Exhaust
The possibility of toxic exhaust fumes leaking into your car's ventilation system represents the largest reason for not driving with a broken or damaged muffler. You put yourself and others in serious - and potentially fatal - danger if this occurs while you drive.
EXHAUST SYSTEMS AT A GLANCE-Your exhaust system lasts longer because they are now aluminised. Previously most exhausts were made from mild steel, which would only last about eighteen months, if that. These were produced by small niche companies who made replacement exhaust pipes from mild steel.Which is better MagnaFlow or Flowmaster? ›
In short, relative to a straight pipe and no muffler, the Magnaflow-style mufflers (the ones you could see through from end to end) fared the best, the turbo mufflers fared the worst, and the chambered Flowmaster-style mufflers did only slightly better than turbo mufflers. Cherry Bomb's Salute Magnaflow-copy muffler.Is it better to have 2 mufflers or 1? ›
If you have dual exhaust tips to a single exhaust, your vehicle will look great, but it's not doing anything to increase power. Dual exhaust will give you a significant power increase because of the engine's ability to breathe better. Thus, if you are trying to increase horsepower, dual exhaust may be worth the cost.What type of exhaust sounds the best? ›
These are full exhaust systems from the catalytic converter to the exhaust pipe at the back of the car. As well as the muffler and tail pipe, you'll also get the mid and intermediate pipes. These are the best sounding exhausts that will also give you some power gains.
Ans. The red colour is the best for mufflers and scarves for men.What is the best muffler fabric? ›
Many raw materials are needed for the incorporation of a muffler. Out of the various materials, wool is the most preferred one. After all they are the best materials to conserve heat as well.What is a male scarf called? ›
What is a men's neckerchief, and how does a man wear it? Simply put, a neckerchief is a large bandana, a square scarf that can be styled in many ways. These neck scarves are made for both men and women. They can be made from a variety of fabrics, silk and cotton being the most common.Whats a good price for a muffler? ›
According to repairpal.com, you can expect to pay between $800-$834 if you take your vehicle to a professional place of work. This price doesn't include taxes and fees that might come with the repair. It would help if you had a quality muffler to quiet exhaust noise.
Why are Muffler Men called Muffler Men? ›
Roadside America: A tribe of titans, made of fiberglass and 14 to 25 feet tall, stands watch along the vibrant roadside landscape. They include lumberjacks, cowboys, and Indians, but the first statues we spotted held big car mufflers, so we named them "Muffler Men."How much does it cost to muffler? ›
A superior quality, performance muffler costs between $75 and $300. The cost varies depending on the choice of steel metal, quality, and thickness. Dig in for further insights into the cost of replacing the muffler and keep your car running smoothly and quietly.